Petticoat Junction was a situation comedy that was
produced by Filmways, Inc. and originally aired on the CBS network from
1963 to 1970.
The "petticoats" of the title referred to the many women of
the Shady Rest Hotel; in the opening sequence, it was implied that Kate
Bradley's three daughters swam nude in a water tower, as their petticoats
were placed over the side. The "junction" in the title refers to
the fact it was situated on a train line in the country.
Set in the rural town of Hooterville, the show followed the goings-on
at the Shady Rest Hotel, of which Kate Bradley (Bea Benaderet) was the
proprietor. Her lazy brother Joe (Edgar Buchanan) helped her in the
day-to-day running of the business, while she served as a mediator in the
various minor crises that befell her daughters: Betty Jo, Bobbie Jo, and
Billie Jo. The actresses portraying Billie Jo and Bobbie Jo varied over
the years; Betty Jo was consistently portrayed by Linda Kaye (Henning),
daughter of series creator Paul Henning.
The most unique "character" in the Petticoat Junction cast
was the Hooterville Cannonball, an abbreviated steam-driven train
(serviced by the above-mentioned water tower) run more like a taxi service
by its engineer, Charley Pratt (Smiley Burnette) and conductor, Floyd
Smoot (Rufe Davis). It was not uncommon for the men of the Cannonball to
make an unscheduled stop in order to go fishing or pick fruit for Kate
Bradley's menu at the Shady Rest Hotel. Occasionally, Betty Jo Bradley
could be found with her hand on the Cannonball's throttle, as driving the
train home from trips into town was one of her favorite pastimes. Even the
show's theme song was suggestive of a train running.
Another important nonhuman character was the unnamed canine companion
of the sisters, referred to simply as "the dog". It was
portrayed by "Higgins", who later went on to even greater fame
later as Benji.
(In the series it was implied that the dog was female as it had its own
petticoat in the opening water tower scene.)
J. Homer Bedloe, played by actor Charles Lane, was vice president of
the C&FW Railroad. Bedloe was a mean-spirited, yet somehow also
gentle, railroad executive who visited the Shady Rest Hotel periodically
attempting to find justification for ending the train service of the
Hooterville Cannonball (and never succeeding).
The show benefited greatly in its first four seasons from the very
strong lead-in of The Red Skelton
Show, which immediately preceded it on Tuesday nights on CBS. In its
first season it even exceeded Skelton's ratings, finishing at #4 overall
for the season. The rest of its time on Tuesday nights, it remained in the
Nielsen top 25.
In 1968, Bea Benaderet died of lung cancer, and in the story, Joe
became the proprietor of the Shady Rest. A new role was created of an
female doctor in Hooterville, and June Lockhart joined the cast in the
role of Janet Craig to serve as a replacement of sorts for Benaderet. The
ratings began to fall (it had also been moved to Saturday night,
traditionally American television's lowest-rated night, the previous year)
and the show was canceled in 1970.
The show was set in the same fictional universe as the rural television
comedies Green Acres,
also set in Hooterville, and The
Beverly Hillbillies. The shows even shared characters, and
sometimes "crossed over" into each other's episodes, especially
so during the shows' earlier years.