Oliver, Lisa and Arnold on DVD cover
|Created by||Jay Sommers|
|Written by||Jay Sommers
|Directed by||Richard L. Bare|
Arnold the Pig
|Theme music composer||Vic Mizzy|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||170 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Paul Henning|
|Running time||25 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Filmways TV Productions|
|Distributor||Orion Television (1983-1998)
MGM Television (1998-present)
|Original run||September 15, 1965– April 27, 1971|
|Related shows||The Beverly Hillbillies
Green Acres is an American sitcom starring Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor as a couple who move from New York City to a rural country farm. Produced by Filmways as a sister show to Petticoat Junction, the series was first broadcast on CBS, from September 15, 1965 to April 27, 1971.
Receiving solid ratings during its six-year run, Green Acres was cancelled in 1971 as part of the "rural purge" by CBS. The sitcom has been in syndication and is available in DVD and VHS releases and is archived on YouTube. In 1997, the two-part episode "A Star Named Arnold is Born" was ranked #59 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.
Following the success of The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction, CBS offered producer Paul Henning another half-hour on the schedule — with no pilot required (which was very unusual). Henning encouraged colleague Jay Sommers to create a series for the time slot. Sommers created the show based on his 1950 radio series, Granby's Green Acres. The radio series, which lasted 13 episodes, had starred Gale Gordon and Bea Benaderet as a big-city family who move to the country.
In pre-production, proposed titles were Country Cousins and The Eddie Albert Show.
Green Acres is about Oliver Wendell Douglas (Eddie Albert), an erudite New York City attorney, acting on his dream to be a farmer, and Lisa Douglas (Eva Gabor), his glamorous Hungarian wife, dragged unwillingly from an upscale New York condo and the city life she adores to a ramshackle farm. The theme tune, as with those of the show's rural cousins, explains the basic premise of the show. At the end of the opening sequence, Albert and Gabor strike a pose in parody of Grant Wood's painting American Gothic. The debut episode was a mockumentary about the decision to move to a rural area, anchored by former ABC newscaster (and then-current host of the CBS game show What's My Line) John Charles Daly. A few weeks after the show's debut, Albert and Gabor returned the favor by appearing on What's My Line as that episode's Mystery Guests, and publicly thanked Daly for helping to launch their series.
After the first episodes the series developed an absurdist world. Though there were still many episodes that were standard 1960s sitcom fare, the show became notable for its surrealism and satire. The show appealed to children through its slapstick, silliness, and shtick, but adults were able to appreciate it on a different level.
The show is set in the same universe as Henning's other rural television comedy, Petticoat Junction, featuring such picturesque towns as Hooterville, Pixley, Crabwell Corners, and Stankwell Falls. As such, at times it shares some of the popular characters from Petticoat Junction, including Joe Carson, Fred and Doris Ziffel, Newt Kiley, and Floyd Smoot.
Much of the humor derives from the Quixotic, yet short-fused Oliver, who strives to make sense of his oddball surroundings. There seems to be a dual perspective of reality: Oliver versus everyone else. The latter encompasses the Hootervillians, Oliver's high-maintenance wife Lisa, and his affluent mother (Eleanor Audley), who lampoons him for his agricultural pipe-dreams. Such dual realism is at its best when everyone but Oliver can see the TV screen credits, when he corrects Lisa's mangled mispronunciations only to find that he is the only one in town with the correct usage, when all but Oliver can translate Arnold the pig's grunts and snorts into English, etc. Among Oliver's ongoing irritants are his makeshift, low-output electric power system, his outdoor telephone which was installed atop a pole, and the Monroe brothers' countless botched remodeling projects (bedroom track doors, outdoor shower stall, unattached doorknobs, weak floorboards, etc.) which are rarely completed.
Conversely, Oliver himself is subject to ribbing by the townfolk when he performs farming chores dressed in a three-piece suit, and when he launches into wide-eyed monologues about "the American farmer" – replete with a fife playing "Yankee Doodle" in the background. (As an example of the series occasionally breaking the fourth wall, every on-screen character except Oliver can hear the fife playing.)
The dishonest, oily salesman Mr. Haney (Pat Buttram), who sold Oliver the Green Acres farm (previously the Old Haney Place) continues to con his easy "mark" in most episodes. Oliver's naivete allows Haney to shamelessly exploit him financially (selling him grain seeds which become poison ivy, renting him a rooster to awaken him, etc.). Haney, along with young, glib farmhand Eb Dawson (Tom Lester), scatterbrained county agent Hank Kimball (Alvy Moore), and general store owner Sam Drucker (Frank Cady) make up the main supporting cast. Eb habitually addresses the Douglases as "Dad" and "Mom", much to Oliver's objection.
Recurring characters included the Douglases' childless elderly neighbors, Fred and Doris Ziffel, who "adopted" a pig named Arnold as their "son". Arnold understands English, lives indoors, and is pampered. He is an avid TV watcher and a Western fan, who attends the local grade school (carrying his book pack in his mouth). Only Oliver seems cognizant that Arnold is just livestock, although he frequently slips and begins treating him as a boy. Arnold makes regular appearances throughout the series, often visiting the Douglas home to watch their TV.
Another pair of recurring characters are two quarrelsome carpenters called the Monroe Brothers, Alf (Sid Melton) and his "brother" Ralph (Mary Grace Canfield). In the episode that introduced them, Alf confessed that Ralph was actually his sister, and explained they would not get jobs if people knew that she was a woman. The Monroes rarely finish projects (such as the sliding door on the Douglases' bedroom closet always falling down, securing the door knob to the front door, etc.), and those they do complete are disasters. In one episode, after accidentally sawing Sam Drucker's telephone line at the General Store, they splice it back together, although backwards, causing Drucker to listen at the mouthpiece and talk into the receiver. Melton left in 1970 (season four) to do Make Room For Granddaddy, so the writers developed an occasional subplot that involved sister Ralph's attempts to win the affections of "Hanky" Kimball or some other hapless Hooterville bachelor. Alf later returned for Ralph's failed wedding to Kimball.
Sam Drucker was a regular on both Petticoat Junction and Green Acres. The first bar of the Petticoat Junction theme song is usually played during the establishing shot of his store, which also appears on Petticoat Junction, indicating that Petticoat Junction's "Shady Rest" Hotel is very close to Hooterville. While Drucker is a provincial everyman in Petticoat Junction, his character is a bit bent, here (keeping plastic pickles in a barrel to appease "city folk") and backward as well: his telephone dates from the 1920s. Drucker also serves as a newspaper editor and printer, volunteer fireman with the Volunteer Fire Department, constable, justice of the peace, and Postmaster. As editor of the Hooterville World Guardian, his headlines are often decades old. He is slow as postmaster, having belatedly delivered a lost 1917 "draft" notice to Fred Ziffel after 51 years, which surpassed the 26-year delivery record of a lost 1942 WPA letter to Haney for stealing a shovel. As justice of the peace, Drucker once lets his license lapse, unwittingly sending Ralph Monroe and Kimball to their premature honeymoon. Drucker is often the only character inspired by Oliver's rural patriotism, filtering Oliver's idealism to the townsfolk and the plebeian, backwoods notions of the community back to Douglas. In one episode (Season 5, Episode 21, "The Case of the Hooterville Refund Fraud"), the menfolk believed they could get a tax refund without ever having paid taxes. To Oliver's surprise, they did, but when the Internal Revenue Service threatened to send everyone to jail, the IRS settled for becoming business partners with the farmers in one of Mr. Haney's many outlandish schemes (a monkey racing track, named in honor of Mr. Douglas) to recoup their money.
In a slap to government bureaucrats and civil service employees, Alvy Moore plays spacey agricultural agent Kimball, who draws folks into inane conversations, digresses and loses his train of thought, and then exits the scene. The series was reportedly one of the first to use cue cards extensively during filming, and Moore later recounted that he found this invaluable when performing Kimball's rambling, rapid-fire dialogue.
Lisa's skewed world view and domestic ignorance provides fertile ground for recurring gags. Much of her early life was lived in Hungary where she grew up as a diva of her time which explains her lack of education and her ignorance of normal household chores and everyday living. She and Oliver are both veterans of WWII, Oliver as a USAAF flier and Lisa as a member of the Hungarian underground. Her waterless "coffee" oozes from the pot in a thick, tar-like sludge. Her "hotcakes" (pronounced "hotscake") are inedible, so tough that Oliver makes head gaskets for his truck and tractor using the recipe. In one episode, hotcake batter is used as fireplace mortar; in another, hotcakes are used to reshingle a roof. Her sandwiches include such epicurean delights as liverwurst and jelly. Instead of washing dishes, Lisa sometimes tosses them out the kitchen window. In one episode, Oliver finds Lisa mending holes in his socks with a stapler. As he begins to comment on it, a visiting Fred Ziffel says, "I see you're mending socks! Darn if you don't do it better than Doris does!" In the episode "Alf and Ralph Break Up", Lisa admits that she has no cooking abilities and says her only talent is her Zsa Zsa Gabor imitation (the real life sisters were often mistaken for one another).
Though Oliver and Lisa are both depicted as fish out of water, the concept provides an ironic twist. While Oliver instigated the move from Manhattan to Hooterville over Lisa's objections, it is Lisa who more naturally fits into the illogic of their neighbors while quickly assimilating to their quirky, offbeat surroundings. Oliver, while eager to fit in, is often at a loss to grasp the surreal Hootervillians.
Many of the Shady Rest Hotel folks from Petticoat Junction appear, including three of the four Bradleys, and Joe Carson. Uncle Joe is sometimes playing checkers, loafing, or mooching fruit at the General Store with Newt Kiley or Floyd Smoot. Betty Jo Bradley appears in one episode as Eb Dawson's date. Bobbi Jo appears in the same episode. Kate Bradley appeared in a few of the early episodes trying to help Lisa adapt to country living, most notably giving her the recipe for her infamous "hotscakes". Western film actor Smiley Burnette guested several times as railway engineer Charley Pratt during the 1965 and 1966 seasons, but Burnette's ill health ended the role. Burnette and Pat Buttram were both comic sidekicks of singing cowboy Gene Autry in his '50's Westerns. Rufe Davis was seen as train conductor Floyd.
"Rural purge" cancellation
During its sixth season during the 1970–71 television season, Green Acres placed 34th out of 96 shows. Despite the respectable ratings and winning its timeslot, the series was cancelled in the spring of 1971 after six seasons and 170 episodes. At the time CBS was under pressure from sponsors to have more urban-themed shows on their schedules. To make room for the newer shows, nearly all of the rural themed shows were cancelled. This part of television has become known as the "rural purge". Pat Buttram stated of the purge: "CBS cancelled everything with a tree – including Lassie."
In the 1990 reunion TV movie Return to Green Acres, made and set two decades after the series, Oliver and Lisa have moved back to New York, but are miserable there. They are implored by the Hootervillians to return and save the town from a scheme to destroy it, cooked up between Mr. Haney and a wealthy, underhanded developer (Henry Gibson). The Monroe Brothers still have not finished the Douglases' bedroom while a twenty-something Arnold survived his "parents", and subsequently bunks with his "cousin", the Ziffels' comely niece. With a nod to the times, Haney's latest product is a Russian miracle fertilizer called "Gorby Grow".
- Oliver Wendell Douglas: Eddie Albert (170 episodes)
- Lisa Douglas: Eva Gabor (170 episodes)
- Eb Dawson: Tom Lester (148 episodes)
- Sam Drucker: Frank Cady (142 episodes)
- Mr. Eustace Haney: Pat Buttram (84 episodes)
- Hank Kimball: Alvy Moore (79 episodes)
- Fred Ziffel: Hank Patterson (50 episodes)
- Doris Ziffel: Barbara Pepper (1965–1968) (30 episodes)/Fran Ryan (1969–71) (7 episodes, 5 as Doris Ziffel)
- Arnold Ziffel: (Original pig came from the town of Union Star, Missouri)
- Ralph Monroe: Mary Grace Canfield (41 episodes)
- Alf Monroe: Sid Melton (1965–1969) (26 episodes)
- Newt Kiley: Kay E. Kuter (1965–1970) (24 episodes)
- Mother Eunice Douglas: Eleanor Audley (1965–1969) (15 episodes)
- Roy Trendell: Robert Foulk (1966–1968) (15 episodes)
- Ben Miller: Tom Fadden (1965)
- Horace Colby: Hal Smith
In addition, there were crossovers from Petticoat Junction cast members, most frequently:
- Uncle Joe Carson: Edgar Buchanan (1965–1969) (17 episodes)
- Floyd Smoot: Rufe Davis (1965–1967) (10 episodes)
- Charley Pratt: Smiley Burnette (1965–1967) (7 episodes)
- Kate Bradley: Bea Benaderet (1965–1966) (6 episodes)
Of the above cast, Tom Lester is the only surviving member.
During its six season run, many familiar actors guest-starred on the show, along with other lesser-known performers who later achieved stardom, among them: John Charles Daly, Elaine Joyce, Gary Dubin, Herbert Anderson, June Foray, Robert Cummings, Sam Edwards, Jerry Van Dyke, J. Pat O'Malley, Johnny Whitaker, Jesse White, Al Lewis, Gordon Jump, Bernie Kopell, Len Lesser, Bob Hastings, Don Keefer, Don Porter, Alan Hale Jr., Melody Patterson, Rusty Hamer, Regis Toomey, Heather North, Allan Melvin, Parley Baer, Jack Bannon, Rick Lenz, Karen Valentine plus many others.
|1||32||September 15, 1965||June 1, 1966||Wednesday at 9:00-9:30 pm (EST)|
|2||30||September 14, 1966||April 26, 1967|
|3||30||September 6, 1967||April 10, 1968|
|4||26||September 25, 1968||April 2, 1969||Wednesday at 9:30-10:00 pm (EST)|
|5||26||September 27, 1969||April 11, 1970||Saturday at 9:00-9:30 pm (EST)|
|6||26||September 15, 1970||April 27, 1971||Tuesday at 8:00-8:30 pm (EST)|
The surviving members of the cast were reunited for a TV movie titled Return to Green Acres. It aired on CBS on May 18, 1990. Except for Eleanor Audley, who had retired from acting twenty years earlier.
Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor recreated their Green Acres characters for the 1993 CBS special The Legend of the Beverly Hillbillies.
Variety announced on July 22, 2012 that a Broadway-aimed musical was in development, with an initial draft of the book written by Richard L. Bare. There is no composer, lyricist or director attached.
MGM Home Entertainment released the first three seasons of Green Acres on Region 1 DVD. No release of the remaining three seasons is announced.
|DVD name||Episodes||Release date|
|The Complete First Season||32||January 13, 2004|
|The Complete Second Season||30||March 8, 2005|
|The Complete Third Season||30||December 6, 2005|
Granby's Green Acres
The Granby's Green Acres radio show aired from July 3 to August 21, 1950. The show was produced, directed and written by Jay Sommers, who wrote and produced a third of the Green Acres episodes. In both, a businessman knowing little about farming moves to an impoverished farm. The characters are more conventionally odd, the wife stereotypically talkative and dim, the "Sam Drucker" character is the absent-minded and befuddled feed store owner Mr. Kimball, while hired hand Eb (Parley Baer, who guest starred in several episodes of the television series) is elderly and stoic about incompetent management.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (August 2012)|
|3) 1967–1968||#15||22.8 (tie)|
|5) 1969–1970||Not in the Top 30||?|
Film & Broadway adaptation
Bare is working on a film version of the TV series, and he's teaming up with Phillip Goldfine and his Hollywood Media Bridge to produced the film and a broadway version is also in development.
A popular slot machine, based on the Green Acres television show, was introduced in 2006. The gambling game features two progressive jackpots that are won if enough "haystacks" are shown among the 25 individual reels (in a 5x5 configuration.) The bonus rounds include the "Hotcake Bonus" and "Arnold's Wild Bonus". (Some banks of Green Acres machines are linked with The Harlem Globetrotters and The Dukes of Hazzard slots.)
- Cox, Stephen (1993). The Hooterville Handbook : A Viewer's Guide To Green Acres. St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 0-312-08811-6.
- "The 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time". members.aol.com. Archived from the original on 2007-10-28.
- "Granby's Green Acres (6 Episodes)". Audio Archive > Radio Programs > Old Time Radio. Internet Archive. Retrieved 2012-08-03.
- Weiner, Ed; Editors of TV Guide (1992). The TV Guide TV Book: 40 Years of the All-Time Greatest Television Facts, Fads, Hits, and History. New York: Harper Collins. p. 174. ISBN 0-06-096914-8.
- What's My Line? excerpt, YouTube
- Ken Berry—Enjoys Taking Astaire Way to Mayberry and Beyond!, attributing quote to Pat Buttram], at KenBerry.com. Accessed March 23, 2009.
- Quotation taken from amazon.com preview of book accessed March 23, 2009. Harkins, Anthony (2005). Hillbilly: A Cultural History of an American Icon. Oxford University Press US. p. 203. ISBN 0-19-518950-7., attributing quote to Pat Buttram
- Return to Green Acres at the Internet Movie Database
- Green Acres: Original Series Director Wants to Continue Classic Sitcom, TV Series Finale, November 19, 2007
- Cox, Gordon (July 22, 2012). "'Green Acres' heading to stage". Variety. Retrieved July 23, 2012.
- "‘Green Acres’ Moving From Hooterville To Hollywood: Feature Film, Broadway Play In The Works". Deadline. May 2, 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-02.
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