Archive for the ‘Petticoat Junction’ Category

DVD review: Petticoat Junction Season Two howls happily with Higgins

July 7, 2009

For a show that ran seven seasons, Petticoat Junction was understandably predictable yet reliably comforting. As shown on its new second season DVD, lazy yet scheming Uncle Joe (Edgar Buchanan) would always stir up trouble, while rural innkeeper Kate (Bea Benaderet) would ride herd over him and her three grown daughters (Jeannine Riley, Pat Woodell and Linda Henning) not far down the Cannonball train line from the Anystate, USA town of Hooterville — whose denizens also appeared on Green Acres. It’s all good, clean, innocent fun in the well-worn mold of ’60s sitcoms hinging on small-town if not hicks-in-sticks values.

But one thing does change at the start of Petticoat’s season two, and that’s the cast. A new entry arrives, and he’s more furry than funny. He’s Higgins, a smart little mixed-breed dog who’d been adopted by superb animal trainer Frank Inn from a Burbank, CA shelter. Higgins then became a TV star as the resident pooch at Kate’s Shady Rest Hotel.

Oddly, Higgins’ impish character never seemed to gain a name on Petticoat Junction — he was just “our dog” — but he often had more than barking cameos. He even starred in a couple of early season two episodes with plots of his own (one involving a canine commercial). Yet even in small doses, his cuteness added much to an equation which already had begun aging in season two. You want an audience to love your show and keep coming back? Add a dog.

This season and the first also are desirable among fans because, as black and white years, they weren’t part of a later syndicated package. So seasons one and two have largely gone unseen since the series’ 1963-on run.

Higgins would later star in his own movie, 1974’s Benji, a sleeper family hit from Dallas writer-director Joe Camp, who shot it in North Texas. Though the film would spawn sequels, the original was Higgins’ final role. He died the next year at age 15. In fact, Junction co-star Buchanan also was in Benji, and it was his final film, too. Even more, Benji was the final film of Francis Bavier, aka Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show, another icon of ’60s rural innocence.

But enough talk of demise and the end of the trail. Hop aboard the Cannonball and chug along to the Junction, where Higgins, in his eternal youth, awaits us with ears, eyes and paws that are well worth our awwwws.

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DVD review: Full first season of ‘Petticoat Junction’ comes to disc at last

December 14, 2008

In the ’60s, when small-town or better yet rural Americana ruled sitcoms from The Andy Griffith Show to Green Acres, Petticoat Junction was a “crossover” show which was tied to the latter as well as to  The Beverly Hillbillies. Characters from Junction often appeared on Green Acres, which was set in the same neck of the woods, and star Bea Benaderet had been a semi-regular on early Hillbillies, albeit in a different role. All three shows were created by Paul Henning, who also wrote and produced the late ’50s Bob Cummings Show, aka Love That Bob, one of the zaniest and even bawdiest sitcoms of its era.

Though Junction was a popular series which ran for seven seasons (1963-70), it faded a bit in syndication, unlike so many shows which gain new life. That’s largely because the series’ fine first two seasons in black and white weren’t included in the syndicated package.

Now fans finally get a chance to see them again via CBS/Paramount’s release of Petticoat Junction: The Official First Season, which has all 38 episodes of that year, unlike MPI’s previous Petticoat Junction Ultimate Collection, which had just 20 of them. The new full first season is available starting Tuesday.

It features the quaint denizens of the Shady Rest Hotel, just off the Hootervile Cannonball’s train line. Owner Kate (Benaderet) had three pretty– and pretty innocent — daughters (including Henning’s daughter Linda) and a roguish Uncle Joe (Edgar Buchanan). As visitors slipped in and out, gentle comic mayhem ensued.

First season guest stars included Adam West as a young doctor and Dennis Hopper as an annoying beatnik/poet wannabe with delusions of profundity. He, of course, turns out to be no more rebellious than a picnic, but in just a few more years Hopper would play the epitome of ’60s rebelliousness as a biker in Easy Rider — and now he’s doing TV ads talking about comfortable retirement. How times change — but at least he survived.

Petticoat Junction, too, survives thanks to this full first season, which includes many extras, among them intros by Linda Kaye Henning and TV sister Pat Woodell — who also do interviews — and original sponsor spots. Call it corny or call it quaint, but for troubled times, Petticoat Junction is a breath of fresh air.