Wednesday 15 March 2023

How Green Acres Survived

Television critics in the 1960s tended to lump together shows where characters spoke with country-fied accents. But they generally didn’t really have anything in common. No one would mistake Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. for The Beverly Hillbillies.

Even the three Filmways “rural” shows on CBS—Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres—were dissimilar. Despite an attempt to locate them together geographically, which always struck me as an attempt to import Hillbillies’ huge audience, only one was set on a farm.

And Green Acres’ atmosphere was entirely different. It was filled with odd denizens and surreal, unexplainable situations that were treated as normal life by everyone but the confused Oliver Wendell Douglas. Grocery store owner, and reality anchor, Mr. Drucker never questioned it. Even Oliver’s sophisticated, Park Avenue-loving wife Lisa settled in and developed her own brand of illogic that meshed with the Hooter(s)ville folk. Only the setting made it rural. The tone could have come from one of those “Behind the Eight Ball” shorts that Richard Bare directed at Warner Bros. before his time behind the cameras on Green Acres.

Here’s a bit of background behind the show. This appeared in papers from October 22, 1966 onward, when Green Acres was into its second season.

Don’t Under Estimate Corn
AP Movie-Television Writer
HOLLYWOOD (AP) –Some observers of the television scene drew this lesson from the first Neilsen ratings of the 1965-66 season: Never underestimate the value of corn.
This is the attitude of certain sophisticates who sniff at the fact that among the top 10 shows in audience ratings were such offerings as “Green Acres," “Gomer Pyle,” "The Andy Griffith Show" and “Beverly Hillbillies.”
The most impressive showing among series in the ratings was made by "Green Acres," which captured the No. 3 position below the blockbusting Sunday night movie, "The Bridge on the River Kwai.” Do they grow corn on those "Green Acres”?
"I don’t think so," says Jay Sommers, who created, co-writes and produces the series. "I think it’s a fairly sophisticated show."
Sommers, a rotund, owlish veteran of the gag-writing jungle doesn’t really care what the smart crowd thinks of "Green Acres.” It’s his baby, and as long as the public buys it, that’s all that matters.
The inspiration for the show came from Sommers' boyhood, of which two years were spent on a farm in Greenvale, N.Y. His stepfather went broke trying to earn a living from the soil and the experiences remained with the boy. He capitalized on them with a 1950 radio show, "Granby’s Green Acres,” which starred Gale Gordon and Bea Benaderet, the latter now star of "Green Acres", sister show of “Petticoat Junction.”
When “Green Acres’ went on CBS last season, the original plan was to exchange performers with "Petticoat Junction.”
"We’re getting away from that concept now,” said Sommers. "It’s awfully hard to schedule when the actors will be available, and they are busy enough with their own shows. Besides, I think “Green Acres” should stand on its own feet.”
The series is doing a good job of it. Credit is due Sommers who spends a 12-hour day at General Service Studios, overseeing everything from script to cutting. Despite the rural nature of the show, it is filmed almost entirely on the lot. "The people are important, not the settings," explained Sommers.
The secret of "Green Acres' " success?
"I think it appeals to a basic human urge; everyone would like to buy a farm," Sommers theorized. "And we came up with a brilliant combination in Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor. They work together like a dream.”

A thick Hungarian accent didn’t stop Eva Gabor from giving interviews about her series. Indeed, columnist Hal Humphrey talked to her about it in 1965 and 1968. Read them in this post. He also talked to her in 1966. This story appeared on Sept. 5, 1966.

Eva Gabor Spoils Image
Los Angeles Times Service
HOLLYWOOD, Sept. 5—Eva Gabor, of the Hungarian Gabors, has a particular reason for being happy that her and Eddie Albert's TV show, Green Acres, survived its first season.
“It gives me a chance to spoil my image. Everyone always thinks I am the temperamental actress. I remember the very first time I did a TV show, the producer had a girl standing by to take over. They thought I either wouldn’t show up or would walk out after the first act.”
A similar type of storm signal went up when Eva was signed to play Lisa Douglas in the comfed “Green Acres” series. Besides insisting on the town’s most expensive makeup man and her own hairdresser, Eva held out for the chic Jean Louis to do her wardrobe.
“But you see? It worked, didn’t it? With Gene Hibbs doing my makeup and Peggy Shannon my hair, I really saved the producer money, because I am always ready. And I don't like to take too much credit, because Jay Sommers and Dick Chevillat write marvelous scrips, but I established this character when I wore a chiffon negligee to chase a chicken across the barnyard.
The scene just described by Eva was in an early episode at the beginning of the season with Lisa trying to adjust to living on the farm her husband, Oliver (Eddie Albert), had just purchased. Instead of the ordinary robe prescribed originally, Eva persuaded the director that if Lisa ever chased chickens at all, it would be in a Jean Louis negligee.
“I know this character,” Eva maintains, "because she is like me. When Lisa wears jeans, I make sure they have diamonds for me to wear with them, and I mean real diamonds. If I know they are real diamonds, then the viewers believe it, too.”
When Eva digs in adamantly for such conditions, she does not consider it temperament but a striving for a standard of quality that will benefit everyone concerned. She knew she was running the risk of blowing the whole deal by insisting on Jean Louis gowns, diamonds, etc., and Eva wanted this break of co-starring in her own series. “But, darling,” as she says, “what is a break, if it is not done right?”
And, of course, she is right. In one “Green Acres” episode the past season Eva wore a Jean Louis she had worn few weeks earlier. Within two days she had letters from fans demanding to know, “What happened? Can’t you afford a new dress?”
The only temporary setback Eva encountered in her battle for quality was over a proper dressing room. Her first one was a portable job which even the chickens in “Green Acres” might have declined to roost in.
“Ah, but after the first Nielsen rating came in, you should see my dressing room. It has everything! But why not? This lunch you and I are having is the first time I've been out of my house or the studio since June. I don’t go to parties. I have to train like an athlete. But I don’t mind. I adore acting. That is why I am 10 minutes early on the set every morning. Also, what these Hollywood people don't realize, I come from the stage and I have discipline.
“I believe there is such a thing as ‘the show must go on.’ Just yesterday I get word that Jolie, my mother, has fallen getting out of her swimming pool and broken her kneecap in three places, a horrible thing. And on the same day my little dog has a stroke, so I am very worried, but I am on the set working anyway.”
Eva’s morale has risen since her husband left his stockbroker's job in New York and moved to Hollywood (he waited for the third Nielsen rating on “Green Acres”). Soon after arriving, he became a vice-president for Filmways, the corporation that produces “Green Acres.”
Only two things have not worked out for Eva according to plan. She dare not wear in private life any of the 160 Jean Louis dresses accumulated from the show, because everyone has already seem them on TV. Second, the hillbilly slang on “Green Acres” is spoiling her not-too-recent mastering of the American idiom. When someone on the set mentioned sex the other day, Eva said, “Don’t kick it.” It took a few seconds for the assembled group to figure out she meant “Don't knock it.”

The second season carried on bizarreness (Lisa’s hen lays square eggs) and sly satire (Arnold the Pig gets a draft notice) and continued to get renewed until 1971 when CBS wiped the show off the schedule after 170 episodes.


  1. Like a lot of great situational comedies, not only did it included sharp writing, but it also boasted great actors who really anchored everything together.

  2. "The second season carried on bizarreness (Lisa’s hen lays square eggs) and sly satire (Arnold the Pig gets a draft notice) and continued to get renewed until 1971 when CBS wiped the show off the schedule after 170 episodes."

    Part of the Rural Purge.

  3. The best of the three Paul Henning shows, IMO - silly yet surreal & side-splittingly hilarious - would love to watch it sans laugh track.

  4. I loved how they just pulled out all the stops. Lisa would be hanging the laundry, and it would have all the writing and producing credits written on them. I also love how " Oliver " was in one would all alone, and the rest, with the exception of Mr. Drucker from time to time, would be in theirs. Pat Buttram used to joke ; " Poor Eddie would rarely speak a full sentence before being cut off. ". " Oh that is ridi......." " That's the dumbest thing I........" " I outta..".. and on and on. I still laugh out loud at it to this day.

  5. A really sharp comedy quite different from either HILLBILLIES or PETTICOAT. Absurdist humor has more in common with modern shows like SCHITT'S CREEK.

  6. Richard Bare's experience on the "Joe McDoakes" shorts, and Dick Chevillat's stint on the Phil Harris-Alice Faye radio show, certainly helped "Green Acres" shape its own vibe.

  7. Both GA and The Monkees helped usher in the "meta TV" concept to American prime-time audiences.

  8. Loved GA, but no mention of Pat Buttram, aka "MR.HANEY">?

    1. OK, I see the quote by Errol above.I stand corrected, y'all, and this has been a FILMWAYS PRESENTATION, dahlinl!(as Eva Gabor would say!)

  9. Funny show. Prefer Andy Griffith, The Real McCoys, and The Beverly Hillbillies.

  10. Hans Christian Brando15 March 2023 at 18:40

    The last gasp of CBS' infamous "hayseed" era, which officially ended when "The Beverly Hillbillies" went off the air in 1972. At least the shows then didn't pretend to be more than they were, as today's programs do.

  11. BTW Filmways was Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's TV arm!