Green Acres (1965–1971)
User ReviewsReview this title
Eddie Albert was great as the lawyer turned gentleman farmer who seems to be the only one not affected by whatever was in the water in that strange place called Hooterville. A wonderful actor, the veteran of dozens of movies he played the straight man in a company of wacky characters that could have come from the mind of Rod Serling. Probably the only show on American television with this particular kind of absurdist humor, landing in Hooterville was like going through a tunnel and coming out in TOONTOWN where people understand pigs, can leave a written egg order for a hen and predict the weather with a coo coo clock.
The beautiful Eva Gab or was perfect as the Hungarian airhead who for a city girl had no trouble communicating with chickens, cows, pigs and all the off the wall locals. She made a name for herself in movies as the two timing, suicide prone mistress Liane d'Exelmans in the multiple Oscar winning GiGi. She was a good sport about all the humor involving her accent. I remember an interview where the reporter asked her why she still had such a heavy accent after living in the United States for so long and she replied without a seconds thought, "what are you trying to do, blow my act?" She was a class act all the way and although this show took place late in her career she was never more beautiful. Who can forget the situation where Lisa was determined to ruin the Governor's deer hunting party by flying over in a crop dusting plane shouting from a megaphone "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES, THE HUNTERS ARE GOING TO SHOOST YOU!"
For all the other fans out there who "get it" it's good to know we can get our Green Acres every day thanks to cable television. I predict that this show along with THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, and I LOVE LUCY will still be on the air and people will still be laughing in the year 2050.
This show was a lot of fun, and thank God it never took itself seriously. It was also one of the first to really break the "fourth wall", making self-referential remarks, such as the characters pointing to the credits as they rolled, or having the characters refer to background music being played--I don't think any sitcom had ever done that before! Anyway, Eddie Albert did a great job as perennial straight man to the lunacy around him, with everyone else in on the strangeness. I watched this show as a kid and never really appreciated Oliver's predicament, but now, as a middle-aged man, I know exactly how he feels.
Forty years after its heyday, the show holds up very well. Give it a look.
Though Oliver Wendell Douglas (Albert) is happy to make the transition to farm life, his wife Lisa (Gabor) is less enthusiastic, though she adapts the best as she can. One of the running gags throughout the series involves her inability to prepare anything other than "hotcakes," and even those leave much to be desired. Another running gag centers around the frequent visits by Douglas's mother (Eleanor Audley) who sides with her daughter-in-law in regards to her own son's desire to live the simple live. Audley is best known for her vocal work as the wicked stepmother in Disney's "Cinderella," as well as Malificent in the studio's "Sleeping Beauty". Her occasional appearances on "Green Acres" show the comedic side of the actress.
By having the series set in the same locale as Henning's "Petticoat Junction" allowed frequent crossover appearances by Edgar Buchanan ("Uncle Joe") and Frank Cady ("Sam Drucker") who would become a regular on "Green Acres".
The other cast members were a mixed bag of crazies unlike anything else on television at the time. Farmhand Eb (Tom Lester) was like "The Beverly Hillbillies" Jethro, a doofus without the muscles. The Monroe "Brothers" (Sid Melton and an androgynous Mary Beth Canfield) were the carpenters from hell, forever starting construction on the Douglas's farmhouse but never quite finishing a project. Traveling salesman Mr. Haney (veteran cowboy sidekick Pat Butram) was forever plying his wares at a significant and unreasonable price.
And who can forget Fred and Doris Ziffel's "son," Arnold the pig. The porcine star had his own fan base the perhaps accounted for much of the show's success during its six-year run.
Though Eddie Albert's character was the most "serious" of the bunch, there were bits of lunacy centered around him, also. One ongoing bit involved his frequent monologues on the greatness of the American farm, while a patriotic fife plays in the background, for no apparent reason to the audience, as well as the listeners to his speeches.
Another inspired bit was during the opening credits of one installment. As Lisa was gathering eggs from the hen house, she discovered writing on the eggs: the names of the episode's writer, creator, and director.
One could best describe "Green Acres" as being the flip-side of "The Beverly Hillbillies" or "The Andy Griffith Show" on acid.
By the way, if you have watched Petticoat Junction, do not assume this spin-off is similar at all. I never particularly liked Petticoat Junction, as it lacked the humor and silliness of Green Acres. Comparing the two is almost like comparing The Andy Griffith Show (great show) with Mayberry RFD (duller than watching paint dry).
Oliver Wendell Douglas is the button-downed, successful New York lawyer who longs to be a farmer (he even grows corn on the balcony of his Park Avenue apartment). So off he goes to Hooterville with his glamorous Hungarian wife where they begin to farm Green Acres and live a house so ramshakle that even the Joad family in "The Grapes of Wrath" probably wouldn't live in.
Oliver tends the farm every day in suit and tie and Lisa wears elegant gowns while cooking the only meal that she knows how to make---"hots cakes" which possess extraordinary qualities---some are like granite, others bubble like sulfur mud baths, and others are stickier than any adhesive known to science. The house itself is hilarious---the bedroom closet sliding door which flys off its runners each and every time Oliver touches it, the phone which is at the top of the telephone pole, the "pore-key" hole for the house which makes it impossible to paint the place. And occasionally Arnold the Pig, perhaps the smartest inhabitant of Hooterville, regularly comes in to watch television which is always showing the same show--a wild Western gunfight between cowboys and Indians.
That's just the house. The townspeople are an assortment of extreme oddballs. Hank Kimball, the memory-gapped county agent, Ed and Doris Ziffel who are the parents of Arnold, and Mr. Haney who is the biggest flim-flam man since P.T. Barnum (he sold Oliver the house in the first place) and who has a seemingly unlimited assortment of things to peddle to Oliver. Meanwhile, the Monroe Brothers, Alf and Ralph, are perpetually trying to repair Oliver's house. Ralph is a woman and probably the first female tradesman in the history of American television, decades before women were welcomed into the construction industry. Oliver's hired hand, Eb, lives in the barn. Even Eb gets surreal---one great episode has him trying to win a radio "name that tune" call-in show. Every song snippet that is played is exactly the same as the previous one but Eb always comes up with some bizarre new title which turns out to be right.
The entire world around Oliver is insane but he gamely struggles along, erupting on occasion but absolutely determined not to give up farming and regularly trying to inspire his neighbors with stirring speeches about the nobility of the American farmer---the backbone of the economy, while his neighbors keep wondering where the patriotic music-- which always accompanies Oliver's speeches--comes from.
I am a fan of the British absurdist tradition, as exemplified both by university humour, like "Monty Python" and "Fawlty Towers", with its basis in the antics of the Goons (and Alfred Jarry), and by John Lennon's disassociated imagery, with its basis, probably, in Edward Lear (and Hilaire Belloc), but I personally happen to believe that this particular show belongs to a distinct comedy continuum, one that's entirely American. But I do agree completely that where these two styles are concerned, fans of one are bound to appreciate the other.
Tom Lester is Ebb, the twenty-something farmhand who seems almost intentionally obtuse. He insists on calling Oliver & Lisa "Mom & Dad" in spite of the fact that they are not his parents. This infuriates Oliver who frequently reminds the boy that they are not related. Ebb is a gangly innocent, so lanky that he can get a laugh just by standing up straight. His Adam's apple is constantly in the act of escaping his neck, and will one day surely succeed.
Alvy Moore is Hank Kimball. Well, he's not REALLY Hank Kimball- he just plays him on TV. Well, not ON the TV... more like IN the TV box. Well, not really IN the box...
Pat Buttram is Mr. Haney, the king of charlatan salesmen, always ready to sell Oliver a completely unnecessary item at a reasonably outrageous price. He takes a pride in gouging Mr. Douglas that borders on perverse.
Arnold Ziffel is the TV-loving pig with human parents who had a brief career as an actor in Hollywood. Long-story...
And don't forget Eva Gabor as Lisa Douglas, a Hungarian princess who never met a word she couldn't shlaughter...
This show is painfully funny... listen for the fife and drums every time Oliver gives his "American Farmer" speech. Enjoy the brilliant sight gags and the sweet pride that Fred & Doris have for their pig-son. Watch Eddie Albert go six seasons without ever finishing a sentence... the delirious insanity of "Green Acres" paved the way for future TV towns like The Simpsons' Springfield.
If you haven't seen "Green Acres" it is worth seeking out. I suggest watching at least 2-3 episodes at a time... it's funnier that way. But when it starts making sense it's time to take a break.
While there were times the series got too hung up on Arnold, & Ebb Dawson's love life, the characters of Hooterville always made for great comedy. There were times that Paul Henning was winking & smiling as he made fun of Lawyers, American Farmers, Mobsters, Hollywood, & many other targets during the shows run.
The characters he created were amazing. The physical comedy in this along with the great verbal comedy blended together into as fine a 1960's sitcom as could be produced.
Eddie Albert was kind of old for his role, but brought it off with an amazing energy. Ava Gabor was given a character where she could put herself into it, & this series turned out to the best role of her life. Pat Buttrum & the rest of the cast were great in support with special credos to Alvy Moore as Mr. Kimble who created one of the more amazing county agents ever portrayed.
All of this, higher pay, full benefits, & a years supply of cracked crab. It just don't get any better than that.
I always loved Mr. Haney, and when Mr. Douglas begins some story about "The American Farmer", and the patriotic music begins playing in the background. On one episode, the other actors begin looking for where the music is coming from. Priceless gag.
I am looking forward to the DVD of this series. I hope that they are cleaned up, as what we see on TV now are fairly faded prints of the show.
I spent a lot of time as a kid in the late sixties and early seventies in Southern Illinois and Missouri. Everything I see on Green Acres whether placed there by the producers by accident or by design -- from the opening credits aerial shots -- to the Douglas homeplace with its rusting farm machinery in the yard remind me of that part of the country.
Rod Serling once introduced an episode of the Twilight Zone (The Last Rites Of Jeff Myrtlebank) by describing the setting as "the Midwest...... the southern most part of the Midwest." It's a very intelligent distinction to be made. Once you cross I-70 in Southern Illinois you have crossed a border of sorts. You are still in the Midwest to be sure, but in this region the accents stretch out just a bit. When you hear Tom Lester's (Eb) Missisippi accent or Pat Buttram's (Mr Haney)twangy patter on the show you are hearing a voice not that far off from what you would find in any small town off the road in Southern Illinois or Missouri. But it's still the Midwest and not the "real" South. Make no mistake about that.
Green Acres, as I remember it, was a big hit among my Southern Illinois relatives back in the late sixties. They loved the show--but the question is why? My Uncle Richard and Aunt Rosalie were not great connoisseurs of absurdist, self referential humour. If you pointed out to them that this was one of the first shows on TV to "break down the 4th wall" they would have slapped themselves silly trying to figure out what you were talking about. They loved this show simply because the it bore some resemblance to the world that they lived in. Nothing else on TV then or even up till now offers such a view of that part of rural America.
Bing wasn't half as determined as Oliver Wendell Douglas played by Eddie Albert who was a Wall Street lawyer, but who also wanted to get to a simple life on the farm. But his time on the farm lasted for seven seasons and was still going when Green Acres went off the air. Albert was the fictional reincarnation of Wendell Wilkie who Harold Ickes once characterized as the "simple barefoot prairie lawyer from Wall Street" who also had a farm background in rural Indiana.
But Douglas never saw a farm he only imagined what it was like. Well no one in our society works harder than farmers, even those who don't work for themselves, but might work for some agri-business outfit like Archer Daniels Midland. It's 24/7 for those folks with no vacations and the women work as hard as the men. Crops don't grow by themselves with a decent yield and livestock has to be tended and fed to multiply.
None of this did Albert realize when he bought a farm in fictional Hooterville, also known as the home of the Shady Rest Motel in Petticoat Junction. The same show regulars did double duty in both shows, making them the hardest working cast in television during the Sixties.
The comedy came from two sources on Green Acres both equally funny. The first was Eddie Albert, Wall Street lawyer and a curious combination of eager apprentice farmer and lawyer used to dealing with powerful folks. As often as not the rustics of Green Acres got the better of him.
Secondly though there was Eva Gabor. She'd have much preferred to stay living on Park Avenue as the theme said every week, but she dutifully followed her husband to Hooterville. They invented the word 'chic' for Eva Gabor, but she too was at a loss dealing with her environment and by the rural folks who just didn't quite get her as she didn't get them. Of course it helped to have the best hooters in Hooterville, beating even Bea Benaderet's three daughters from Petticoat Junction.
The interchangeable regulars were a trip though. My favorites were Alvy Moore as the brain dead county agent and Pat Buttram the ever scheming Mr. Haney who even got the best of Wall Street lawyer Albert from time to time.
Eddie Albert was one of the most versatile players that the big and small screen ever knew. That man could play everything from gentle hero to some of the slimiest villains the screen ever saw. But he will forever be known for this show as his career part where his comic side was given its best opportunity.
Green Acres was an integral part of CBS network's rural lineup that included Andy Griffith, Gomer Pyle, Petticoat Junction and the Beverly Hillbillies. All those shows were sacrificed in the eternal quest for younger demographics. I doubt if a show as gentle, but as absolutely hysterical as Green Acres could ever be duplicated again.
The situations depicted in the series were often surreal. Oliver Douglas always insisted on wearing suits while doing his farm chores. The Douglases had to climb out of a bedroom window and up a telephone pole to answer their telephone. A neighboring farm couple adopted a pig and raised it as if it were their own child. Although Oliver Douglas had to persuade his reluctant wife, Lisa, to move to the community with him; Lisa was the one who was eccentric enough to fit in with the rural community far better than Oliver himself did.
This series is easily one of the best-remembered sitcoms from the late 1960's and early 1970's. The show is connected to two other sitcoms, "Petticoat Junction" and "The Beverley Hillbillies." The series is fondly remembered by people who lived through the period when it was first aired. The show's characters are still easily recognized by the public decades after the series ended. Modern audiences will still find the show's zany situations entertaining. The sitcom is highly recommended.
I don't care what anyone says, if you watch this show with an open mind, or even a closed one that can grasp pure satire and NOT laugh your ass off, you need some serious counseling. Small, rural town life satired to the point of absurdity while also skewering uptight, big city snobs is just too funny to every dismiss as anything but brilliant. I've used that word a lot, and I mean it.
The episodes were quite whimsical but the comedy was tastefully done. Just New York City attorney Oliver Wendell Douglas (Eddie Albert) trying to make his wife Lisa (Eva Gabor) forgo the city life to attempt to live as happy farmers in the boondocks was hilarious, and serves as a story-line for many funny misadventures. And of course, the catchy theme song in the opening scene and Lisa's constant "Oliver!" call will resonate in your mind long after you hear them.
The television version that it was based on was also created and produced by Jay Sommers and Paul Henning(who served as executive producer) the series lasted six seasons and 170 color episodes until April 27,1971. The overall premise was built around a big city lawyer Oliver Douglass(Eddie Albert),and his fashionable wife Lisa(Eva Gabor)that abandon their upscale Manhattan Park Avenue penthouse and affluent and hectic lifestyle for the rustic and more "civil" world of farming in the fictional Midwestern town of Hooterville. Though Oliver is happy to make the transition to farm life,his upscale wife Lisa is less enthusiatic,though she adapts the best she can in spite of her thick Hungarian accent. Of all the running gags that this series had involves her inability to prepare anything other than "Hotcakes", and even those leave much to be desired. The other running gag centers around the frequent visits by Oliver's mother(Eleanor Audley) who begs with Oliver to go back to Manhattan to the law business but in turn sides with her daughter-in-law in regards to her son's desire to live the simple life.
Having the series set in the same locate as Henning's "Petticoat Junction"(which there were several crossover episodes)that allowed frequent appearances by Edgar Buchanan, Frank Cady, and others. Frank Cady did double duty on "Petticoat Junction",and was a guest star on "The Beverly Hillbillies" before he became a series regular on "Green Acres". Oliver's assistant and Farmhand Eb(Tom Lester)was "The Beverly Hillbillies" version of Jethro, a doofus who was shorthanded on brains and no muscles. The other mixed bag of weirdoes were The Monroe Brothers(Sid Melton and Mary Beth Canfield)were the carpenters from hell,forever causing chaos wherever they had a project to do but would never quite finished it. Then there was the biggest scam artist of them all,the slimy and unpredictable Mr. Haney(played by veteran cowboy sidekick Pat Buttram who was a regular of the Gene Autry movies of the 1940's and 1950's) who was forever pulling a fast one or con scam out of Mr. Douglass who was forever plying his oily wares at unreasonable prices. Other characters were the County Extension Agent Hank Kimball(played by veteran actor Alvy Moore)who was always giving Oliver Douglass fits when it came agricultural things which the agent had no experience about.
Another inspired bit that was also part of a running gag of jokes was the opening credits of one installment and this went on in several episodes where the names of the episode's writer, producer, creator, and director were listed. One of the directors,veteran Richard L. Bare was part of this. Bare,who was a director of "B" movie 1950's standard fare and his work on several television shows,directed more than 166 episodes of "Green Acres" that aired between 1965-1971. The writing and production of Jay Sommers(170 episodes) and Dick Chevillat(152 episodes) were also listed on the opening credits as well. Other directors that contribute to "Green Acres" episodes were Ralph Levy, Bruce Bilson,and Vincent Sherman. Comedical writing came from Al Schwartz, John L. Greene, Elroy Schwartz, Phil Leslie, Joel Kane, Bob Marcus, Dan Beaumont, Lou Huston, Buddy Atkinson, Joel Rapp, Larry Scott Anderson, along with Stan Dreben and Bobby Bell just to name a few.
Big name guest stars appeared on "Green Acres" too. From Al Lewis, to Parley Baer, Bea Benederet, Melody Patterson, Lyle Talbot, Anthony Caruso, Regis Toomey, Peter Whitney, Johnny Whitaker, Ketty Lester, Doris Packer, Ray Kellogg, Virginia Sale, John Stephenson, Henry Corden, Ray Teal, Bernie Kopell, J. Carroll Naish, Alan Hale, Jr., Francine York, Rusty Hamer, Allan Melvin, Pat Morita, Rich Little and Don Porter. Even theme composer musician Vic Mizzy had a guest starring role in one episode.
The best episodes from the series I will start with the premiere episode "Oliver Buys A Farm"(Season 1,Episode 1),and "Lisa's First Day On The Farm"(Season 1,Episode 2),and "The Decorator"(Season 1,Episode 3). The other episodes included "The Case Of The Hooterville Refund Fraud" (Season 5,Episode 21); "I Didn't Raise My Pig to Be A Soldier"(Season 2,Episode 3);"My Husband,The Rooster Renter"(Season 1,Episode 5),and "An Old Fashioned Christmas"(Season 2,Episode 13); "The Beverly Hillbillies" (Season 2,Episode 23);just to name a few.
"Green Acres" for the first four seasons had solid ratings where it was placed between "The Beverly Hillbillies" on CBS' Wednesday night schedule from 1965-1969. By the 1969-1970 the network moved the series from Wednesday nights to Saturday nights in an earlier time slot opposite "Adam-12" and the long-running "The Lawrence Welk Show". And in it's sixth and final season for the 1970-1971 season saw the show moved again from Saturday nights to Tuesday nights where it was opposite "Julia", "The Don Knotts Show",and "The Mod Squad" where it was clobbered in the ratings. The series that replaced "Green Acres" for the 1971-1972 season was "The Glen Campbell Show" aka "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Country Hour",and "The John Byner Comedy Show". "Green Acres" when it was abruptly canceled in the Spring of 1971 was the victim of CBS' "rural purge" of shows that also included "Hee Haw"(2 seasons), "The Beverly Hillbillies"(9 seasons); "Petticoat Junction"(7 seasons), "Lassie"(17 seasons); "The Ed Sullivan Show"(23 seasons); "Mayberry RFD"(3 seasons); "Hogan's Heroes"(6 seasons); "Family Affair" (5 seasons),"The Jackie Gleason Show"(19 seasons), and "The Red Skelton Show"(18 seasons). The shows that were canceled by the network were replaced with shows to attracted an urban audience.
I'm not sure it's the best television series either, but it certainly my favorite, and the best thing about it is that it was funny when I was four years old, still funny when I was a teenager, and even funnier now that I'm in my late 30's and can sit and watch the show with my young sons.
Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor should have won multiple emmy's. The writers stand alone as some of the funniest sitcom writers of all time. Jay Somers and Paul Henning are geniuses. The amazing thing about this show is at a time when most shows were star driven, this show gives all of the actors great lines and showcases for their talent.
Of course, Oliver and Lisa are my favorite denizens of Hooterville, but I have a lot of fondness for Eb (who is endlessly funny), Mr. Haney (who my kids think is the funniest person ever!) and Mr. Kimble (who ALWAYS cracks me up!).
"Green Acres" really is the place to be. It's funny, it's family friendly and it is one of the best shows of all time!
The DVD is great too, but I would have loved some extra commentaries from some of the surviving cast members!
David Cox Independence Missouri
First, all 32 episodes are written on only two double-sided discs. A personal pet-peave, true, but having two grade-school-aged boys that get into everything, I don't mind having one side for any potential "unwanted abuse". Further, since this leaves no room for labels, there ends up being no way to identify what side of what discs has the first episode, ect.... You must either guess or use the 'trial and error' method.
Next, perhaps one of the reasons for the lower price tag than most other TV-Show-DVDs, is that it looks as though little or even no time was spent on restoring the quality of the video. Each episode was plagued with dirt spots, dust, scratches and other poor quality film elements, even an occasional hair popping up on the screen from 'projecter lint'! In episode 22 "The Day of Decision" for instance, is very grainy-looking as if it was taken from a poor quality 16mm film print. The focus and audio isn't quite as sharp and clear as say, even older TV-Show-DVDs like 'I Love Lucy" or 'Dick Van Dyke'.
A surprising oddity; we couldn't use our computer mouse to click on any of the 'menu' or 'episode' selections. We could use our keyboard at least. We've never encountered such a situation on any other of our DVDs. Hopefully they'll fix that on future releases.
Lastly, no 'Bonus features' - Biographies, Trivia, Behind-The-Scenes, Audio Commentaries or anything atall like that!
"Green Acres 1st Season" DVD is still a good package for the price and a real treat for any 'Green Acres' fan. Hopefully the following seasons will be out soon. Although I wouldn't mind waiting a little longer or maybe paying a little more for the many potential improvements these discs could use. After all, that is why we have gone to DVDs in the first place.