DVD review: Beverly Hillbillies’ third season has a true TV time warp

It’s truly weird when a 1993 TV special feels more dated than the 1960s TV series on which it dotes. That’s certainly true for Legend of the Beverly Hillbillies, a one-hour TV special (46 minutes, sans commercials) which aired on CBS in ’93 and now arises as an extra for The Beverly Hillbillies: The Official Third Season, new on DVD today from CBS/Paramount.

First, the special is hosted by Mac Davis, a country-flavored warbler from my home state of Texas who wrote In the Ghetto for Elvis and had some acting success (North Dallas Forty) but never was a big star, and certainly for many people today, he’s a “whodat?”

Then there’s the guests in this collection of BH footage, most of whom set up the clips with the fantasy that the Clampetts were real people whom they knew. Seeing country stars Roy Clark or Reba McEntire talk about country folk is one thing, along with seeing Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor do their Hooterville bit. But then Watergate break-in figure G. Gordon Liddy pops up (it seems Jethro was in on the plot), as does former Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter. And Ray Charles seems a stretch, too.

Finally the TV special gets around to the real deal: Interviews — in costume! — with Jed (Buddy Ebsen), Jethro (Max Baer Jr.) and Ellie Mae (Donna Douglas), all looking much older, of course. (Ebsen was 85.) They play out some sweet bits, with Ebsen even dancing, and he speaks of missing Granny (Irene Ryan, who died in ’73), saying, “I still carry her in my heart.”

Such elements make this a fun special to relive. It just seems weirdly rooted in 1993 when it’s really more about 1963. But on the upside, it also supplies the first DVD looks at future BH seasons, including those in color, thanks to many color clips in this array.

Until they appear, we have this third full season of culture-shock Beverly Hillbillies episodes in glorious black and white. Now there’s just six more seasons to go! That’s a lot of “Welllllll, doggies!,” but I’ll take ’em.

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