‘Green Acres: The Complete Series’ DVD Review: The Place To Be


GreenAcres

If you’re pondering buying the first-ever release of Green Acres‘ six seasons in a DVD boxed set, you probably don’t need to be sold on the show.

You don’t need to be told that the 1965-71 series starring Eddie Albert as a big-city lawyer turned farmer and Eva Gabor as his flamboyant, ditzy wife was a huge hit among producer Paul Henning’s rural rube sitcoms, which also included The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction.

Instead, you need knowledge of the many extras on Green Acres: The Complete Series, the 24-disc, 170-episode set coming to DVD Oct. 17 from Shout! Factory.

First, simply having the last three seasons on DVD is an extra in itself. Only the first three seasons had been issued previously — individually, back in 2004 and 2005.

But as far as this set’s formal bonus features go, you’re also in luck. They’re almost all on the final disc (which merited a guiding notation on the box that they didn’t get), so let’s take a look:

Getting its title from the show’s catchy theme song, Green Acres is the Place To Be is a strong 38-minute featurette ably narrated on- and off-screen by Stephen Cox, author of The Hooterville Handbook.

In fact, this documentary’s company-town insights and revealing thoroughness are comparable to the splendid job Ballyhoo does for Mystery Science Theater 3000’s DVD bonus features, also from Shout.

Cox describes how Henning handed off Green Acres to producer Jay Sommers, so it was really more his baby. Sommers created it by reviving the premise from a 1950 radio show he’d produced, Granby’s Green Acres, and welding it to the setting of Petticoat Junction, near middle American (with no state indicated) Hooterville. Indeed, the shows shared many crossover appearances.

Showing many vintage on- and off-set photos, Cox assesses the fine cast members and their other claims to fame, including popular pig Arnold, played by several different porkers. Speaking of which, critter credit goes to animal trainer Frank Inn, whose Higgins was the dog on Petticoat Junction before the pooch gained fame in the ’70s as the big screen’s Benji.

Cox describes Green Acres‘ production on Hollywood soundstages as being a then-rare closed set, per Gabor’s insistence, since she wanted no visitors to see her sans makeup. She also wore much of her own costly jewelry — provided a guard was on hand.

Albert was ideally cast, being a true ecologist and naturalist, for whose birthday the date was given to Earth Day.

But despite sustained ratings punch, Green Acres was cancelled in ’71 as part of the major networks’ “rural purge,” ditching old-fashioned shows with country settings in favor of edgier modern and urban fare such as All in the Family.

Even so, Green Acres had some sly edginess of its own. Cox notes that the show had more sexual humor than many series and that it inspired The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, who’d been a big fan as a kid.

Also on the final disc are six episodes (there were 13 in all) of the aforementioned Granby’s Green Acres, written by Sommers, with the radio show’s audio played over a title card.

First is the pilot to set things up, and it’s much like the TV series to come, except the city-to-rural couple also have a daughter. Gale Gordon is banker Granby (who later became Albert’s Oliver Wendell Douglas, a lawyer), and look who plays the wife’s role: Bea Benaderet, later the matriarch of Petticoat Junction.

I’ve listened to the 36-minute pilot so far, and it’s quite good in its own right. The writing is loaded with one-liners (“What about Hoover Dam? And vice versa?”), Gordon is an affably put-upon treat as the naively enthusiastic newbie farmer, and the loud in-studio laughter is largely merited for the show’s agreeable hamminess.

The DVD set also has a two-minute Photo Gallery slide show with stills from the set, an Inside the Box podcast played over the final episode (focusing on the “rural purge”) and pilot episode commentary by pop culture historian Russell Dyball.

But most interesting beyond Cox’s featurette is a 33-minute chunk of a 1966 Merv Griffin Show, a late-night, New York-based, black-and-white TV talk show on which Albert and Gabor appeared.

She sits on Griffin’s couch first, and he immediately leers, interrupts her and forces her to push his smoky ashtray away. Yes, it was the times. But still, what a jerk. Gabor stands up to him though, and Albert then arrives to calm the scene with his mellow vibe.

Things get testy again, though, when TV critic Cleveland Amory joins the group. They slip into arms-crosssed defensiveness as Albert complains about Amory’s bad review of Green Acres (“I never forget a bad review”) and Amory retorts with valid criticisms of the TV industry as a whole.

The entire segment is revealing in itself — of the vast difference in late-night talk shows then and now. Then, people actually had conversations and time to ruminate. Now, brief “interviews” with the host are largely laugh-driven silliness peppered with hype for their projects.

No, TV isn’t what it used to be — which in many, many ways is a good thing. But not in every way, as innocent wonders like Green Acres make clear. Indeed, even now, it remains “the place to be.”

— Bruce Westbrook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Response to “‘Green Acres: The Complete Series’ DVD Review: The Place To Be”

  1. lavendermarilsa Says:

    Great review. I appreciate the details on the extras. I’m looking forward to owning this set.

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