Archive for the ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Category

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

February 17, 2009

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.

Bridges shines then — ‘My Three Sons’ — and now — ‘Desperate Housewives’

January 19, 2009

The more things change, the more they stay the same. And with Beau Bridges, that’s a good thing.

The veteran actor appeared twice in my home Sunday night: first in an  episode of My Three Sons which my wife and I happened to be watching via the Season One Volume Two DVD set from CBS/Paramount, due out Tuesday. (OK — so I’ve got connections.) And right afterward, there Beau was again — almost 50 years older — playing perhaps the strongest guest role ever on ABC’s Desperate Housewives, a once tediously negative show that’s hit its stride this season with richer characterizations and stronger stories.

Bridges’ one-shot was as Eli Scruggs, beloved handyman of Wisteria Lane. Via flashbacks, we saw how Eli greatly impacted the lives of the series’ principal women, often in warm and meaningful ways.

For too long, “warm” and “meaningful” weren’t terms you could use in the same breath with Desperate Housewives, but the show is now a far better balance of the darkly desperate and the spiritually hopeful.

As an actor, Bridges, too, has been affecting people since he first ventured into telly, around the time dad Lloyd Bridges starred on his Sea Hunt series. When Beau began emerging as an actor circa 1960, he was a natural to play clean-cut youths on shows such as My Three Sons, where he appeared three times, or Mr. Novak. It was only later that he segued to adult roles for the big screen (The Landlord being a strong early example).

I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Beau several times in Houston, where he worked on shoots for a TV movie (Without Warning: The James Brady Story) and a theatrical film (Sidekicks). He was always a down-the-earth gentleman who seemed to enjoy the process. Brother Jeff Bridges, coincidentally, also was in Houston on a movie shoot, for Arlington Road, when their father passed away.

If you missed it, Housewives’ superb 100th episode, in which Beau guest starred, won’t be on DVD until next year. But in the meantime, beyond his many more recent movie and TV roles, you catch his work on the aforementioned My Three Sons, where he’s forever young — about 19 — while playing a young fellow, in sharp contrast to so many productions since then which have high school kids played by actors in their mid-20s. (Take 1978’s Grease.) Bottom line: Wherever you find Beau, you’ll find a fine actor who’s still enriching our lives as he eases into retirement age — and thank goodness he isn’t retiring.

Back to My Three Sons: Is there any more distinctive vintage sitcom? And I’m not talking about its then-new element of having a single parent (Fred MacMurray) raising offspring, a setup that’s since then become cliche. I’m talking about the show’s widely varied stabs at storytelling in terms of style, tone and narrative elements. While comedic and amusingly chaotic on the surface, My Three Sons also often involves mystery, romance, strongly dramatic plots and then-topical themes. The show’s creators didn’t settle for a set narrative form. They experimented.

With most sitcoms, you know exactly what you’re going to get: Jed and his country bumpkin family will experience — and spur — more culture shock on The Beverly Hillbillies. McHale and his misfit crew will indulge in more shennanigans on McHale’s Navy. Randy New York young adults will lie about something — over and over — thus sparking comic complications on Friends.

But in My Three Sons, you never know what’s going to happen, which makes the show more surprising and even challenging than TV series’ usual easy-to-swallow version of comfort food. And in a medium known for so much galling repetition, that, in itself, is a blessing.

‘Beverly Hillbillies,’ ‘Smothers Brothers’ erratic but welcome on DVD

October 6, 2008

I suppose vintage TV fans should be grateful for whatever they can get, especially since so many older shows aren’t available anywhere on cable. But I must admit I’m confused.

First, we find The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour: The Best of Season 3. Only trouble is, there’s no Season 1 or Season 2 DVD release. Reportedly Time Life still plans to release such sets for the first two seasons, just not in sequence. Presumably there were problems clearing music rights or some other snag.

But for now, it’s fantastic having 11 episodes from the third and final season of this cheeky, challenging and magnificent show. I just wish there were more of the brothers’ recorded output on CD. So far I’ve only found a Rhino collection which just scratches the surface.

Back to DVD, this week brings another numbering oddity with Paramount’s release of The Beverly Hillbillies: The Official Second Season. But there’s been no such release of the first season. In fact, the closest we’ve come so far have been MPI’s releases of The Beverly Hillbillies Ultimate Collection, Volumes 1 and 2. In those sets, season one spilled over into Volume 2, which then added 18 episodes from season two, along with a number of worthwhile extra features. So Paramount’s new release has many episodes that are new to DVD. (Note: The show’s name is misspelled on the spine of the DVD box. Ouch!)

While it’s good to see this “official” release of a beloved show in full-season form, one does wonder when or if the entire first season will be sold in such a way, not to mention seasons after the second one. Not that continuity is a big problem in the world of the oil-rich bumpkins.

Again, we take what we can get, and for now I’m happy to hunker down by the cement pond and watch Buddy Ebsen’s Jed and family make a mess out of a perfectly nice So Cal neighborhood with their backwoods ways.

While so many folksy rural shows of the ’60s (Green Acres, Petticoat Junction) were about the quaintness of the sticks, The Beverly Hillbillies was about hicks from the sticks being in the city which, for me, is much preferable. I’m a city boy at heart and have spent much time in Beverly Hills, and I can just imagine how wealthy hillbillies would impact that community. It’s a great premise with a great cast, and it gets more mileage from its comic culture shock than shows where it’s the city folks who go country. The Beverly Hillbillies even had the authenticity of actually being shot in So Cal.

So pull up a rocking chair and sit a spell. And as Tom Servo would say in Granny drag on Mystery Science Theater 3000, “Jeddddd!”