Stream On: From the ridiculous to the sublime, part 1, with ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’

By on March 9, 2023

Before Dick Wolf and his “Law & Order” TV franchise, there was Paul Henning. In 1962 he created The Beverly Hillbillies, an outlandish sitcom about a hillbilly family that discovered oil on their land, became millionaires and moved into a mansion in Beverly Hills. It was as broad as a barn door—and as funny as a barrel of critters, becoming one of the most popular shows on TV. In 1963 he created its wholesome spinoff, Petticoat Junction, placed in the same fictional universe with, in 1965, Green Acres (about which I wrote in 2022), a sophisticated exercise in surrealism that reversed the fish-out-of-water premise of The Beverly Hillbillies.


/Amazon /Streaming /Trailer /⭐4.7/5 /1962-1971 /TVG

Gilbert Seldes wrote, in the December 15, 1962 of TV Guide: “The whole notion on which The Beverly Hillbillies is founded is an encouragement to ignorance … but it is funny. What can I do?”

In spite of scathing reviews from the professional self-appointed arbiters of taste on TV, the show shot to the top of the Nielsen ratings shortly after its premiere and stayed there for several seasons. During its first two seasons, it was the number-one program in the U.S; during its second season, it earned some of the highest ratings ever recorded for a half-hour sitcom.

Combining burlesque, farce, hyperbole, misunderstandings and satire, delivered with plenty of irony, The Beverly Hillbillies is a show that’s deceptive in its apparent stupidity—it’s much smarter than it looks, and the cumulative effect of a few episodes (watched in private if you’re insecure about your own public image) is that of a tonic for whatever ails you.

Written mostly by Paul Henning with occasional help, The Beverly Hillbillies is slicker than lard on a crystal doorknob, and the acting too is up to snuff. Buddy Ebsen (The Andy Griffith Show, Gunsmoke, The Twilight Zone, etc.) played hillbilly patriarch Jed Clampett with a straight face as an ignorant but sturdy mountaineer dealing with his new life in posh Beverly Hills. Vaudeville and radio veteran Irene Ryan played his mother-in-law, Granny, as feisty as Jed was wise. (Here’s “Irene Noblette” with then-husband Tim Ryan in The Wacky Family in 1936.) Donna Douglas played Elly May Clampett, Jed’s beautiful but innocent daughter, and Max Baer Jr. completed the Clampett clan as her cousin, scatter-brained but ox-strong Jethro Bodine. (Donna Douglas’ beauty was a major plot point in “Eye of the Beholder,” The Twilight Zone, episode 6, season 2.)

Hard-working character actor Raymond Bailey (Burns and Allen, Dobie Gillis) played Milburn Drysdale, the miserly banker who convinced the Clampett clan to buy the mansion next to his so he could keep an eye on them and their money, and Nancy Kulp (I Love Lucy, The Twilight Zone) was his loyal but harried executive secretary, Jane Hathaway. As Drysdale worked to contain the Clampetts’ nuttier tendencies, Jane worked as hard to rein in Drysdale, who could give the Clampetts a run for their money in nuttiness.

Two great features of the show, which apply also to Petticoat Junction, are the myriad animals from baby owls to bears (trained by Frank Inn, about whom I’ll soon write) and the excellent music. The Beverly Hillbillies theme song, “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” by Paul Henning, was played by Flatt and Scruggs, and the music director, who oversaw the great incidental music, was Curt Massey.

In the second episode, as the Clampetts settle into their new home in Beverly Hills, they have to adjust to things such as refrigerators, ovens and the “cement pond” (their swimming pool). Jethro encounters a flamingo that he thinks is a chicken (which causes Jed to suspect he has been sneaking drinks of moonshine). Meanwhile, Miss Hathaway mistakes the Clampetts for domestic help, and every situation is milked for maximum laughs.

The first three seasons are in black and white. When I was a teenager I thought the show stupid; the adults around me loved it, and as with age I gained experience if not wisdom, I now see their point.

Next week: Petticoat Junction.

(Pete Hummers is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to earn fees by linking Amazon.com and affiliate sites. This adds nothing to Amazon’s prices.)

Click here for more Stream On: What to watch on TV columns by Pete Hummers.





Notice of Public Auction

The public will take notice that the Dare County Tourism Board, at its meeting of October 20, 2022, adopted Resolution 2022-5 authorizing the sale of surplus personal property by public auction.

Saturday, April 1, 2023.

6708 S. Croatan Highway

Nags Head, NC 27959

10am: Back of the House Auction – Complete Commercial Kitchen

Partial List: True refrigerators and coolers, Hatco drawer warmers, Hobart mixer, Vulcan, 6 & 10 burner gas ovens/stoves, Vulcan 2 basket gas fryer, Vulcan 2-door oven, stainless prep tables, DCS 6 burner LPAS range & oven, Hobart dishwasher, pots & pans & more.

2pm: Front of the House Auction – Selling Everything in the Building + Architectural Salvage by room

Partial List: Antique ships wheel chandelier, Nautical & pirate decor, sword & pistol displays, polyword tables & chairs, ship models, nautical lanterns, art, commercial bar equipment, tables and chairs, NC decoys, fish mounts, signal cannon, architectural salvage, Several bars, pirate bar & more.

Preview 3/31: 11 AM – 5 PM & Auction Day starting @ 9am
Online Absentee Bidding Catalog Closes: 3/31 @ 8pm
Catalog + Thousands of photos @ SSAOBX.HIBID.COM
Island Auction Co. (252)489-5513 – Jason P. Humphries, Auctioneer NCAL #8423
Visa / MC / Cash / Good Check – NC Sales Tax, 15% Buyers Premium

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