Beverly Hillbillies: Season 3
For the most part television sit-coms are a light and fluffy form of family entertainment. During the seventies there were some attempts to make cutting edge and socially relevant shows like ‘All in the Family’ but the general rule of thumb stands that this type of TV programming is silly fun. Sometimes even a show like this can achieve a level of fame that makes it a household name and the proverbial must see television. In 1962 one such series got its start; ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’. It would become an instant hit and result in several spin off series. At the time critics initially panned the show calling it puerile and foolish but the producers laughed all the way to the bank as the show constantly top the all important ratings. Okay, the show was silly. Even a die hard fan would have to admit this fact. The point is back at that time it was the perfect diversion from what was going on in the world. Vietnam was on the rise and starting to divide the country. There was the aftermath of the McCarthy era and communism was a major concern along with the growing proliferation of nuclear weapons. The last thing the American audience wanted during those couple of hours of prime time was something that required thought. The Hillbillies offered solace from the turbulent world and people gathered around to watch them week after week. There was also the idea that even the poorest among us could strike it rich. This series was the embodiment of the American dream. When the episodes of the start of the series’ run were about to go into public domain CBS overlooked renewing them. As a result there have been some DVD releases of the early seasons and after seeing a few of them the quality is simply not there. They look like they were made from some old video tapes. Actually some old 16mm prints used by small stations for syndication were the source material for many of these unauthorized releases. Thanks to a few mergers and some shifting in distribution rights CBS Paramount is able to release the ‘Official’ season sets. Last year they started off with the ‘Official Second Season’ followed no by the third. There still seems to be some residual issues with the first season since I haven’t seen that one out on CBS Paramount yet. All 34 episodes are included here and they have not been cut for syndication. This is what many of us remember watching with our parents every week.
The series was created by Paul Henning who was one of the most successful men in the early years of television and maintained his record for hits throughout the sixties. He not only wrote the treatment for the series and many of the episodes he penned the still famous theme song. He goes back to the golden age of television with his work n such successful shows like ‘Burns and Allen’, ‘Dennis Day’ and ‘The Real McCoys’. If are of the age that you don’t remember a time without computers ask your parents or perhaps your grandparents about these shows; they were the staples of our television viewing for many years. Henning would also create the two spin offs of ‘Hillbillies’; ‘Green Acres’ and ‘Petticoat Junction’. At one time CSB was considered the rural television network because of Henning’s hit shows. There would later be some backlash for this public perception but during this third season the Hillbillies’ were at the height of their popularity. There was something special about the shows that Henning provided to us. They were about simple people untouched by the hectic modern world; unassuming folk that we all could relate to. We all knew that we would never be a private detective, cowboy, lawyer or doctor, the subject of other TV shows, but we could feel a kinship to the simple folk shown in this series.
If you don’t know the premise of the show then you have been in a coma or forty five years or born very recently. Don’t worry, the synopsis of the plot is repeated in the theme song each week sung by bluegrass legends Jerry Scoggins and Flatt and Scruggs. Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen) was a man living in the Ozark Mountains eking out a meager living for his family. When an oil company discovers a rich deposit of oil under his property Jed abd his kin were suddenly extremely rich. They move to the upscale Beverly Hills but you can take the family out of the mountains but you can’t take the mountains out of the family. Despite the pressure to act in a way contusive to their new found wealth the Clampetts remain true to their simple nature. Coming along to the city with Jed is his daughter Elly May (Donna Douglas), Cousin Jethro Bodine (Max Baer Jr.) and the always ornery Granny (Irene Ryan). Elly May loves animals and much the consternation of the neighbors has turned the Clampett mansion into a game preserve with a large number of ‘Critters’. Jethro sees this move as a means to put his sixth grade education to good use a doctor, movie star or any profession that happens to capture his fancy that moment. Granny just wants to continue brewing her home made medicines and her copper still prepared highly potent moonshine. Jed may be able to buy and sell anyone in the neighborhood but he kept his down home country wisdom. Living next to the Campletts is his banker, Milburn Drysdale (Raymond Bailey) who is usually trailed by his super efficient secretary Jane Hathaway (Nancy Kulp).
In the first episode of the season Jed is bored. He has been whittling all day and the family hound dog Duke is asleep at his feet covered in shavings. Miss Jane tells Granny and Jed that he now owns a movie studio. In their typical fashion they have to see what they own so off to the studio they go. Jed likes the studio head for speaking his mind but when an actor shows up in full horror makeup they think that is how he actually looks. There is a thought to get the beautiful Elly May into the movies but her tom boy ways and over aggression scares off the star. The movie studio gets to set the scene for several more episodes. At one point most of the clan winds up in a remake of Cleopatra with disastrous results. Elly May is supposed to be thrown to the lions but she befriends them all and in her presence become tame kittens. In another episode Jed donates a lot of money to a college and gets an honorary degree. Granny is upset since always thought of herself as an country doctor, albeit without a degree. This is how most episodes go; a fish out of water story where the county bumpkin proves to be better off than the city slicker.
The episodes have held up very well over the many years. There are some signs of age but overall the picture quality is very good. The black and white picture is clear with excellent contrast. The audio also does well. You can watch the episodes alone or select an option to include made for the series commercials. Often they are included as an extra verse to the theme song. These are a real blast form the past for those of us who watched the series the first time around. This is great fun and should not be missed.