One of the most underrated sitcoms of all-time, "The Beverly
Hillbillies" is second only to "I Love Lucy" in its
endearing popularity. No other series in television history climbed to the
top the ratings so fast. From 1962 - 1964 it was the most watched series
on television, boasting an average viewing audience of 60 million viewers.
Several episodes of the series hold the title for being among the most
watched single episodes in television history. And of course, "The
Ballad of Jed Clampett" remains one of the most recognizable TV
As with most sitcoms, the first few seasons of the
"Hillbillies" were by far the best (the black and white
episodes). When the Clampetts went to London, Silver Dollar City and
Washington, D.C., it was obvious series producer and creator Paul Henning
was running out of storylines for the show. Although the series ran nine
years, from 1962 - 1971, if you had stopped watching after the fifth
season (1966-67), you probably didn't miss much.
The stand out characters in the series were Granny (played by talented
Irene Ryan), Miss Jane Hathaway (Nancy Kulp) and Mrs. Drysdale (Harriet
MacGibbon). These were three outstanding characters actresses who
contributions to the series helped to make it a hit. Buddy Ebsen was often
too stoic in his characterization of Jed Clampett. Max Baer gave one of
the most painful-to-watch, over-the-top performances in the history of
television. Yeah, we know Jethro is stupid, but come on, Max. Tone it
down. Donna Douglas is pretty as Elly May, but her ability to look good
does not extend to acting. She was but merely a prop. Raymond Bailey's
bungling, greedy Mr. Drysdale had its moments, but few memories.
Most critics today still don't get this show. And, with good reason. No
other series in history got away with making such a buffoon out of the
sophisticated crowd. The success of this series has more to do not with
the "rural" humor, but the fact that dirt poor people could be
wealthy overnight. Just like the morbid infatuation we have with
lotteries, the ability to become millionaires and daydream about what we
do with all that money. If we can't win it, then we like to watch other
people win it. Just like "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire",
audiences will continue to fall in love with shows about people who win
big money, or discover oil. That is really the true success behind why the
Clampetts are as popular as ever.
One reason for the shows continued popularity among TV stations is that
the copyright for the series was not properly re-registered when the time
came. This means that you can find very cheap collections of these
episodes on DVD. Be forewarned, however, than many are of poor quality.
Check the reviews at Amazon.com before purchasing one.
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