Petticoat Junction: Season 2
As a member of the much lamented ‘Baby Boomer’ generation I grew up watching television. We may have been the first generation that could make such a claim but where certainly not the last. We were, however, the only generation that also watched television itself, grow up. Viewers of this new age of technological need to understand this before judging the series we loved as kids. By current standards most of these shows were corny and held to a predicable formula. Still, this is what shaped our young minds and began a lifetime of viewing. In the mid sixties the world was deeply problematic. Only a short time before the cold war almost erupted into an all out nuclear war and the President of the United States was murdered. Brutal images of an unpopular war dominated the evening news and the youth of the nation were protesting. What many Americans wanted after dinner was some mindless relief from the woes that surrounded them so they turned to the television sit-com for relief. While members of today’s more sophisticated and technologically advanced generation mat scoff at such faire it elicits a warm, comfortable nostalgic feeling for those of us that remember the first airings of these shows. One of the greatest uses for DVDs is how the studios are able to release these cherished childhood memories. One such series that has become part of the ever expanding release set from CBS Paramount is ‘Petticoat Junction’. Sure it was silly and predicable but like a pint of ice cream after a hard day at work it was much needed comfort food.
During this time period another time honored TV tradition was firmly in place; the spin off. When a series becomes a hit there is no reason to come up with s whole new idea. Just slightly alter the basic premise and loosely tie them together. In this case the progenitor of ‘bumpkin’ television series was ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ followed rapidly by ‘Green Acres’ and then this show. All are set in the fictional small rural town of ‘Hooterville’. Considering the number of buxomly home grown young women around it was on target and certain to garner male viewers. All the series where created by the then current golden boy of sit-coms ‘Paul Henning’. He was one of the first to hold that unofficial title. This rural slant dominated the public eye for several years. The premise was exceptionally simple which was par for the sit-com course back then. Just outside the sleepy hamlet of ‘Hootervile is a cozy little hotel, the Shady Rest. Now never mind the fact that there is only one way to get there, an all but abandon spur of a country railroad, normal economics doesn’t seem to be in effect here. The old ‘Cannonball Express’ ferries just enough people to keep the business alive. The little hotel is owned and operated by Kate Bradley (Bea Benaderet) a widow raising her three daughters; boy crazy blonde Billie Jo (Jeannine Riley), intellectual brunette intellectual Bobbie Jo (Pat Woodell) and redhead tomboy Betty Joe (Linda Kaye). Helping Kate raise her brood was Uncle Joe (Edgar Buchanan) who had less motivation than a narcoleptic three toed sloth. Running the little train were engineer Charley Pratt (Smiley Burnette) and the conductor Floyd Smoot (Rufe Davis) who only had three stops; Hooterville, the hotel and Pixley buy still had problems keeping to any semblance of a schedule. If the fishing was good or someone needed a favor the train would get there when it gets there. As a distraction from a fast paced world this series fit the bill perfectly.
In this second season DVD set the cast receives a slight addition; I perky little dog. It appears that a trio of pretty girls and some quirky old men wasn’t enough and there is nothing; like a frisky little pouch to add a mischief factor. The dog in question shows up on the second season opener following Betty Jo. Naturally mom is initially against him staying but Betty Jo and her sisters manage to get there way. ‘Dog’ as he is called gets center stage in several subsequent episodes including one where he becomes a finalist for a dog food commercial. The other story lines typically follow the down home, rural motifs mandated by the premise. Kate becomes upset when Betty Jo gets her first job. It turns out that it is as a secretary of an author whose books are banned in ‘Hooterville’. Other long standing rural themes round out the season with stories including setting up a mobile library in the baggage car of the ‘Cannonball’ the ‘Hooterville’ volunteer fire department and several instance of long standing interpersonal feuds. There is also the return of the recurring nemesis, Homer Bedloe (Charles Lane), an executive for the Cannonball’s owner, the C&FW Railroad. He has been trying unsuccessfully to shut down the unprofitable spur for over a year but only managed to humiliate himself.
This DVD release from CBS Paramount is called the ‘official’ second season. Many early episodes slipped out of copyright into the public domain resulting in numerous unsanctioned releases. Most were made from old video tape or some other substandard source giving horrible results. The episodes here show some signs of age but for the most part are crisp and clear with very good audio. There are also new cast interviews an introduction to help get you back to the sixties. This show remain gentle wholesome family entertainment well worth having.