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Our review of Christmas With The Beverly Hillbillies, published March 30th, 2005, is also available.
"Head For The Hills!"
Ha Ha; it is to laugh.
And laugh you will—out loud and often—provided that you've got the essentials: a pulse, and The Beverly Hillbillies: The Official Fourth Season, featuring the Clampetts in color for the first time, and thirty-one times after that!
Facts of the Case
Set the way-back machine for those halcyon days of TV, when a "high concept" sitcom came with its own instruction manual—all tucked into a hummable tune!
Case in point: You want a crash course in this legendary laugh-getter? Just acquaint yourself with the lyrics to "The Ballad Of Jed Clampett," which opens each of the thirty-two episodes herein:
Come and listen to my story about a man named Jed,
Hills, that is.
The Beverly Hillbillies!
How do you like that? Back story, and a narrative arc that drops you right at the doorstep of the mansion where the action inevitably takes place!
Come on in and meet the folks: Technically speaking, of the foursome commonly referred to as the "Clampett Clan," only two actually bear the name. Widower Jed (Buddy Ebsen, Barnaby Jones) and his lovely daughter, Elly May (Donna Douglas, Frankie And Johnny). Along for the ride is Jed's nephew, Jethro Bodine (Max Baer, Jr. Macon County Line) and Jed's mother-in-law, Daisy Moses, better known to all as "Granny" (Irene Ryan, Don't Worry, We'll Think Of A Title). Attending to the family's every need is Milburn Drysdale (Raymond Bailey, Picnic), crafty and avaricious president of the Commerce Bank (where Clampett's millions reside), and coincidentally, the family's next door neighbor—much to his snooty wife Margaret's (Harriet E. MacGibbon, Dragnet) disdain. Forced to do Drysdale's bidding is his long-suffering aide-de-camp, Miss Jane Hathaway (Nancy Kulp, The Two Little Bears).
Full disclosure: After much deliberation, I've come to the realization that I can't explain the artistic success of The Beverly Hillbillies. The idea of the country mouse coming to the big city already had whiskers on it when this sitcom premiered in September 1962. Since then, most of its comic set-ups rely on mistaken impressions and misunderstandings: Jed mistakes an admiral's uniform for cruise wear and a Navy destroyer for the yacht Mr. Drysdale wants him to consider buying. Granny mistakes astrology for voodoo, and confuses Mrs. Drysdale with a nattering black Mynah bird. Chaos reigns, hilarity ensues, et al.
What's more, the show rolled along like a Velcro ball, picking up jokes and sticking with them—Yup, Jethro's back to being a "Double-naught Spy;" Granny's bringing out her medicine jug with the three X's on it, again; Elly's got her critters over to the "cee-ment pond;" and Jed's still wearing the same clothes he had on when left his hometown of Bugtussle! There are return visits from Hollywood matinee idol Dash Riprock (Larry Pennell, The Outer Limits), shifty scion Sonny Drysdale (Louis Nye, Curb Your Enthusiasm), and there's an encore appearance from Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, the guitarist and banjoist, respectively, who pick out that famous theme song every week.
Footnote: during season four, actress/model Sharon Tate (Valley Of The Dolls) made the last two of her sixteen appearances on the series, playing bank secretary Janet Trego. The relatively minor role required Tate (a stunningly photogenic honey-blonde) to don a black wig, perhaps in an effort to tone down her sex appeal. It didn't work. Tragically, on Aug. 9, 1969, Tate (then married to Roman Polanski, and nine months pregnant) was murdered in her home by members of the Charles Manson "family." She was twenty-six years old.
But I digress. Kudos to Paramount for turning out a beautiful set of transfers, bursting with color, and amazingly light on grain and debris. The mono sound is clear, but English SDH subtitles are available, in case they're needed.
The Beverly Hillbillies: The Official Fourth Season is presently available through a partnering of Paramount/CBS DVD and Wal-Mart stores. There are no bonus features, but the set is extremely reasonably priced, and I can't recommend it enough, unless you're allergic to enjoyment.
"Familiarity breeds contempt," the old saying goes, but not here—somehow, The Beverly Hillbillies manages to, if not improve with age, not suffer from it at all, either.
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