When I think Screwball comedies, one of the first that comes to mind is Green Acres. It was a show I watched as a kid but really did not come to appreciate until I was an adult. The writing on this show was absolutely brilliant. Poor Eddie Albert as Oliver Wendell Douglas was just a NY lawyer who wanted to live out his dream of running a simple country farm. Too bad he chose Hooterville, a town populated by some of the greatest screwballs of 1960′s television. From shyster Mr. Haney who sold them the rundown farm, to dimwitted Hank Kimball of the Dept. of Agriculture, Hillbilly neighbors the Ziffels and their pet pig Arnold…Oliver never had a chance!
The rapidfire jokes and sight gags predate by some ten years the style of the Zucker Brothers who would give us movies like Airplane and Naked Gun. Never a show to deal with sentimentality, this was pure wacky fun. A show that made the Nielsen top 20 ratings in four of its six seasons on CBS. It’s great to have these out on DVD and at such a bargain price compared to many new shows.
This set features the thirty episodes of the second season which would be their highest rated season as they finished #6 in the ratings. Here are a few of my favorite episodes:
“I Didn’t raise My Pig to be a Soldier” – The Ziffels go on a second honeymoon, so Oliver and Lisa babysit Arnold. During this time, Arnold gets drafted. Oliver tries to explain the mess to the draft board, but soon the FBI get involved. Mr Douglas, “the noted Hooterville Pig Attorney,” is able to clear up the situation and everyone is happy, except for Ralph, who finds out that she has been drafted.
“You Ought to be in Pictures” – Jim Stewart of the Department of Agriculture decides to make a film entitled “The Pitfalls of Farming,” starring Oliver. A mixed up phone call is placed, and the town mistakenly assumes that actor Jimmy Stewart is coming to town to put them all in the movies.
“A Square is Not Round” – Oliver has a chicken that is laying square eggs, but they don’t know which one. Mr. Moody the chicken breeder is willing to pay $1000.00, and 1/4 cent per chick hatched for the bird, so Oliver let’s him have them all. Lisa is upset, but not as upset as Mr. Moody who returns all of the chickens, since none of them seem to lay anything other than normal shaped eggs. The show ends with Oliver awaking the next morning to find it was all a dream…or was it?
“The Ugly Duckling” – Oliver refuses to pay his phone bill until the phone is taken off the pole and put into the kitchen. Ralph moves in with the Douglas’s while Lisa attempts to make her beautiful. Lisa tries to make Mr. Kimball jealous by making it look like Ralph has another suiter…Tom Blackwell, the telephone installer. Needless to say, at the end of the episode, Ralph has scared off both Mr. Kimball and the telephone installer, and the Douglas’s are left with no indoor phone.
This was just such a marvelous show and my appreciation grows for it with repeated viewings. It’s wonderful to have great old shows like this on DVD!
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“Green Acres: Season One” was a little disappointing. Not because of the quality of the DVDs or anything like that. No, it’s just that the first season of the sitcom wasn’t very funny–or at least not in the sense that later seasons were funny.
The first season was heavily restricted to the sitcom’s original premise: a reverse of “The Beverly Hillbillies” (created by Green Acres executive producer Paul Henning and also aired on CBS). The humor was supposed to be generated by the fish-out-of-water city-slicker who lands in Hooterville with delusions about his agricultural aptitude. Comedy was to accrue from the city slickers’ attempts to fit into their bucolic setting.
Initially, eccentric Oliver Douglas was supposed to be the comic, and Lisa, his sophisticated wife, the “straight man” reacting to his abberant behavior and farcical farming. Oh, sure, it quickly became evident that she was a terrible cook whose gastronomic repertoir was limited to those horrible “hotscakes.” But she had a one-joke routine: she made poor pancakes. (It wasn’t until later that she concocted amusing variations on the theme, such as “hotscakes hash”).
Gradually, the premise began to change–and the show became a lot funnier. The new humor derived from the surreal goings-on in Hooterville, to which Lisa adopted and Oliver did not, resulting in complete role reversal: Oliver was the straight man, not only for his wife but for the entire psychotic populace of Hooterville. His big stupid grin (seen almost nonstop in the pilot) was replaced by screaming, scowling and sputtering as he struggled with situations that seemed like something right out of the Twilight Zone.
The change evolved through the first season–and was complete by the second season. So the second season DVD set is VERY funny.
Consider the following contents of the Season Two DVD set:
*Lisa nonchalantly observes that one of the chickens is laying cube-shaped eggs–and it’s total insanity from that point on as Oliver tries to come to grips with the square-egg phenomenon.
*Arnold the pig is drafted. No one in Hooterville seems to recognize that the porker is ineligible, and no one in the military bureaucracy seems capable of conceiving that the draftee is really a pig. “Noted pig lawyer” Oliver Douglas is the only voice of reason in the sea of ensuing insanity.
So if you were even modestly disappointed by “Green Acres: Season One,” you really must own “Green Acres: Season Two.”
Hooterville Corn Crop Threatened by the dreaded Bing bug.
Hank Kimble: Quiet. Quiet please, quiet. As you all know, I’m your County Kimble Hank Agent. I believe I am. I’m Hank Kimble, your County Agent. I guess that sounds better. Well not better. As you know, we have a serious problem on our hands; well not on our hands, but on our corn.
Oliver: Could you put crop dusting equipment on that?
Mr. Haney: Certainly.
Oliver: How much would it cost?
Mr. Haney: Mr. Douglas, the farmers of the valley are in trouble ain’t they?
Oliver: Yes they are.
Mr. Haney: When my friends are standing there with their hand out askin’ for help, I’m there…
Lisa: With your hand out.
Mr. Haney: Ooh that stung, like a cheap aftershave lotion on a nicked chin.