Saturday, January 24, 2004

Weekend getaway in Hooterville

I got my copy of the Green Acres: The Complete First Season DVD in the mail a couple of days ago, and fortunately for me, I also have this weekend off. So I plan to take the WABAC machine to 1965 and enjoy some episodes from one of TV's all-time classic--and downright bizarrely surreal--situation comedies.

Green Acres is often called a spin-off of Petticoat Junction, and technically that is true, since the main characters originally appeared on that program. But Green Acres (you knew this was coming sooner or later) actually has roots in the Golden Age of Radio--a sitcom called Granby's Green Acres had a brief summer run over CBS Radio in 1950. The stars were Gale Gordon and Bea Benaderet, who (although they had different character names) were essentially playing Rudolph and Iris Atterbury from Lucille Ball's hit series My Favorite Husband. The plot remained the same--a couple from the big city decide to chuck it all and pursue a life of self-sufficiency on a recently purchased farm. There are about half-a-dozen shows in circulation, and although it only ran as a summer replacement the show's creator, Jay Sommers, later brought the idea to producer Paul Henning (creator of the successful corn-coms The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction) and the show became a hugh smash for CBS-TV from 1965-71.

Two more small items to tie this show into OTR: Sommers co-wrote many of Green Acres' episodes with Dick Chevillat, a veteran comedy scribe who, with partner Ray Singer, supplied many radio scripts to such shows as The Sealtest Village Store (with Joan Davis & Jack Haley) and the classic Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show. The other is something that I never thought about until I read it in a book I recently bought called TV Land to Go; author Tom Hill observes that Green Acres was sort of a doppelganger to The Burns & Allen Show. On Burns & Allen, you had the "illogical logic" of Gracie vs. the logic of George, and George usually won out--but on Green Acres, it was Lisa Douglas' nonsense that usually edged out the common sense of her husband Oliver. I should also point out that producer Paul Henning wrote for George & Gracie on radio/TV for about ten years. I'll stop before all this coincidence makes your head explode.

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