While intense dramas and fantasy series are all the rage right now, the good old TV sitcom is still firmly established in our entertainment culture. Many of us remember watching a clean, family-friendly sitcom growing up, with the characters and episodes becoming an inseparable part of our lives. We would wait all week for a new episode, and might still enjoy reruns of our favorite shows from time to time.
The current young generations might appreciate sitcoms from the 80s and 90s, but we also have to stay aware of the early days of this genre. Without the success of the earliest known sitcoms, we might not have the hours of fun that we have at our disposal now. While we might be familiar with shows like “I Love Lucy” at least by name, the Beverly Hillbillies is a lesser known show for current generations. However, it’s still quite pivotal for television history in general. Let’s take a look at why this is so.
About the Beverly Hillbillies
The Beverly Hillbillies is a hilarious 1960s television sitcom that aired for no less than nine seasons. This is quite a feat, especially when we consider the relative newness of the sitcom back then.
This show first premiered on CBS on September 26, 1962, and ran until March 23, 1971. The Beverly Hillbillies stars include Buddy Ebsen as Jed Clampett, Irene Ryan as Granny, Donna Douglas as Elly May Clampett, and Max Baer, Jr. as JethroBodine.
Other cast regulars include Jane Hathaway played by Nancy Kulp, the Drysdale family, played by Raymond Bailey as Milburn, Harriet E. MacGibbon as Margeret, and Louis Nye as their son Sonny. The character Pearl Bodine played by Bea Benaderet, Dash Riprock played by Larry Pennell and JethrineBodine portrayed by Max Baer, Jr. but voiced by Linda Kaye Henning, were some of the show’s other semi-regular cast members.
The Show’s Plot
The Beverly Hillbillies revolves around a hillbilly family who lives in a small town in Tennessee called Bug Tussle. In the first episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, Jed Clampett, the head of his family, strikes oil and becomes a billionaire. He then decides to move to Beverly Hills, California, with his daughter, grandma, and nephew.
The Clampett family moves into an enormous mansion next door to the Drysdale family. Milburn Drysdale is not only Jed Clampett’s neighbor but also his banker. Many of the series’ episodes are about the Clampetts trying to get back home, and Mr. Drysdale trying to convince them to stay and keep their money in his bank. The show’s plot also surrounds the Clampett family adjusting to “city-living.”
The Success and Popularity of “The Beverly Hillbillies”
This television show became so popular that it was ranked as the number one television series of the year twice. It was also ranked as being among the top most watched television programs for eight whole seasons. This show also has the honor of having several episodes that still remain among the most-viewed television episodes in history.
In fact, the episode “Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood” became so popular, that is was named #62 on TV Guide’s “100 Greatest Episodes of All Time” in 1997. TV Guide was and still is one of the most influential and accurate publications on the subject of popular TV shows, so an inclusion like this is a pretty big deal. The Beverly Hillbillies also won seven Emmy nominations during its time on air, which is no mean feat in itself.
The Show’s Equally Hit Theme Song “The Ballad of Jed Clampett”
The hilarious episodes in The Beverly Hillbillies were not the only popular aspect of the show. The show’s theme song, called, “The Ballad of Jed Clampett”, grew to be very popular. It was written by Paul Henning and performed by Flatt and Scruggs along with Jerry Scoggins. A single of the song was released by Colombia records and was ranked as #44 on Billboard Hot 100 pop music chart. It was also ranked as #1 on the Billboard Hot Country chart.
The Show’s Impact and Legacy for Future Sitcoms
The Beverly Hillbillies was one of the first television shows about culture conflict. The name itself is quite eye-catching, as the words “Beverly” and ‘hillbilly’ hardly go together.
When “Beverly Hillbillies” was broadcasted, it paved the way for the production of several other shows about culture-conflict such as McCloud, The Jeffersons, The Nanny, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air among many others. The culture-conflict and its truly hilarious episodes are two reasons why The Beverly Hillbillies will always be remembered.
Furthermore, this show gave rise to its own merchandise as well as several spin-offs. A spin-off is a whole new show that’s based on a current, often highly popular show. It’s still quite common to have spin-off even today in order to keep the momentum of the original show and give something new to the audience. A remake is the next usual step in re-establishing interest in a TV show, and that’s exactly what happened in the ’90s with The Beverly Hillbillies.
If this show was to launch today, it probably wouldn’t go down well with the politically correct masses. Back then, however, it was an important player in igniting cultural debates, the rural-urban divide in America, and several other issues. Still, the main deal behind its popularity was that it made its viewers laugh, which is what one is usually looking for in a sitcom.
Interesting Facts About The Beverly Hillbillies
A show of this stature understandable has several fascinating facts that will interest fans and potential viewers today. If you remember this show or are interested in learning more about it, here are a few facts that might be helpful:
- It wasn’t a success with the critics: The critics during that time weren’t too fond of this show, though the public obviously loved it enough to make it a success. According to The New York Times of that era, this show was ‘strained’ and ‘unfunny’. According to Variety, even viewing it was ‘painful’. While it was apparent that the elitists didn’t like the idea too much, the masses were clearly delighted. Unfortunately, Rotten Tomatoes currently has a very low rating for this show at the moment.
- The rating game: the ratings of the show, on the other hand, were quite amazing. Within just six weeks, The Beverly Hillbillies was in top place among television programs. It averaged about 57 million views during its nine-year run. At certain points, it’s estimated that about 44 percent of American televisions were tuned into this show.
- The mansion is real: The mansion featured in this show is actually a real location, and was used in several other productions as well. Examples include the movies ‘Cinderfella”, ‘Over the Top’, and ‘Disorderlies’.
- The cancellation: Interestingly, this show’s cancellation wasn’t due to low ratings at the end. It was still going quite strong in that aspect, but the executives figured that there were too many rural-based programs running at that time. This fact alone is a testament to the popularity of the show, as most series go downhill by their later seasons even if they do stay on the air for that long.
Most of the younger generations these days might not be familiar with “The Beverly Hillbillies”. With the great success of this show and its role in television history, we might be missing out on something great. Of course, there will be episodes that haven’t aged well, so we’d have to take them with a pinch of salt. The early days of television were instrumental in shaping what we’re viewing today, so it’s worth knowing more about them.
Most of the episodes for this show are now easily available online. We can catch up on them the next time we feel like having a binge session, or if we’re simply cravings something simple and nostalgic. There’s a lot to learn from this show, so you might want to give it a try sooner or later.