Our review of Green Acres: The Complete Second Season, published August 10th, 2005, is also available.
"Green Acres? You mean Yuck Manor."
Welcome to Hootersville, dahling. It's a surreal place to live, filled with a multitude of eccentric yet extremely friendly folks. The extremely little bump in the road, "close" to Chicago, represents the lifeblood of the American economy: farming. Without men who toil in the dirt, raising crops, the economy would falter. They're the lifeblood of the country, good salt of the earth people, and the envy of Oliver Wendell Douglas.
Facts of the Case
Originally aired in 1965, Green Acres is the simple story of a man with a dream. All his life, Oliver Wendell Douglas (Eddie Albert, Dreamscape) has wanted to be a farmer; that's all he has ever known, ever since he was a little boy. But that's not what his father envisioned for his son. No. Young Oliver was to become a lawyer, and that's what Oliver became. But still the desire to dig his hands into the soil, to till the earth, to harvest a crop was always in his mind. Even as a successful lawyer living on Park Avenue in New York City, Oliver wanted his farm. In the big city, there were just too many people, too much noise, and too much pollution. The city was not where Oliver wanted to spend the rest of his life. Not even his small "farm" on his penthouse balcony was enough to satiate his lifelong desire for a real farm.
Finally, Oliver decides it is time to fulfill that dream. While on a business trip to Chicago, Oliver makes a "little side trip" to the "nearby" town of Hooterville and buys the infamous Haney Farm. Oliver sees it as a prized piece of real estate that will be perfect to complete his dream. Unfortunately, it turns out that the Haney Farm is a lemon and will not be easily farmed. The locals know this and are surprised when the Douglases move to town.
Coming along with very strong reservations is Lisa Douglas (Eva Gabor), Oliver's loving wife. She adores the city life and doesn't want to move to "Hootersville," but she grudgingly agrees to give her husband six months on the farm. If it doesn't work out in that time, they'll go back to the city.
Over the 32 episodes of the first season, we follow the challenges faced by the Douglases in moving to the Old Haney Farm: everything from getting furniture, to getting utilities, to learning how to farm. It's the ultimate fish-out-of-water experience as Oliver and Lisa learn to live in the odd, rural town of Hooterville.
I have many fond memories of watching this show when I was in high school. Wait. Let me clarify that: I enjoyed watching reruns of the show while I was in high school in the mid-1980s. I used to come home somewhere around three in the afternoon, sit down, put on the TV, and watch Green Acres. It's one of my favorite classic television shows from the 1960s (right up there with Star Trek and Hogan's Heroes). So, when I heard this show was coming to DVD, I didn't have a moment's hesitation in knowing I would own the series. It would be a wonderful remembrance of the simpler, more innocent times.
And that is what Green Acres is: innocent television. Not once will you hear someone swearing. Not once will someone be scantily dressed. Not once will there be anything sexually suggestive. Not once will you feel uncomfortable because of mature themes. Television didn't use to rely on such things. Television used to be about shows that would appeal to a broad audience. Shows were populated with charming characters telling whimsical stories about their surroundings and working to entertain you without any hidden subtexts. They don't make television like that anymore. Everything written today has a hidden agenda. So, unless Green Acres was a subliminal advertisement from the 4-H Club urging Americans to go rural, it really was just a show about a man overcoming the odds to fulfill his deepest dream.
But I do have to say that when watching these episodes today, they didn't completely foster the same feelings from my youth. While the show is still humorous in its own very odd way, Green Acres didn't spark as much enjoyment as I had thought it would. Not only is the humor a bit light and fluffy, but some of the characters just rub me the wrong way. Actually, just one really annoys me now: Mr. Haney (Pat Buttram, Back to the Future Part III). The small-town huckster, Mr. Haney takes advantage of the Douglases at every opportunity. He is constantly conning them out of their money in exchange for dilapidated goods. I used to think his shenanigans were cute and harmless; today, I find him somewhat despicable and loathsome. I kept waiting for Mr. Douglas to use his legal training and sue Mr. Haney for his actions. But, that wouldn't keep in tune with the whimsical nature of the show. Though it's all meant in good fun, it now rubs me the wrong way to see someone so greedily manipulate someone else.
Still, there's plenty to enjoy about the show. First is the awesome theme song. Sung by Eddie and Eva, it exquisitely sets the premise for the show, so that even if it's the first episode you're ever watching, you're going to know exactly what's going on. And, if nothing else, it's a cute song with lyrics that are easily remembered. Next up is the casting of Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor, which is perfect. Eddie Albert is Oliver Wendell Douglas, a man with a passion and zeal for life. He's an honest man (quite surprising, as he's a lawyer!) whom you easily empathize with. Even as one thing after another goes wrong, he's still a lovable goof who loses his temper but never lets it get the best of him. He'll get rattled and exasperated, but he's still a gentle and caring man who only wants to do the right thing (as he sees it). And dragged along is Eva Gabor as the pampered Lisa Douglas. Her rich Hungarian accent is the perfect centerpiece of her character: a woman who really doesn't want anything to do with this harebrained scheme of her husband's but tolerates it out of affection for him. She loves society. She loves the city. She loves the highlife, and going to a small town in the middle of nowhere is not what she had bargained for. Eva captures that frustration, but she never crosses the line and turns bitter. She's a frustrated woman doing her best in a rather bad situation. Lisa doesn't like what's going on, but she gave her word and she's going to keep it. She's even willing to learn how to make hotcakes. And, last, are the rest of the characters that inhabit this really peculiar town. We've already talked about Mr. Haney, but there's also Mr. Drucker, Eb, Mr. Kimball, the Ziffels (including Arnold the pig), and the Monroe "brothers." Though many of these characters are never fully fleshed out, they all deliciously serve their purpose in frustrating Oliver and making Hooterville the quirky center of the American heartland.
MGM has not done a very good job in porting this series to DVD. There are many problems with this two disc set:
• The full frame video transfers are very rough. Easily seen
throughout every episode are washed-out colors, weak blacks, tons of
dirt/flecks/scratches, and poor sharpness and details. It's a very bad
presentation. This isn't a problem with the DVD but with the source material of
the series itself. Every frame shows you the 40 years of age from the series,
and MGM made no effort in cleaning it up.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
When you think about it, if you're buying this set, you know you're not buying it for the transfers; you're buying it for the show itself. And the show is very charming and enjoyable in its own unique way, and rarely will you see so many different and unconventional characters put together in one place. Green Acres is a simple show from a simpler time: one that you and your whole family can enjoy. (And that's saying a lot coming from me: Mr. Anti-Family Entertainment.)
Green Acres is an acquired taste. Make sure you've flipped over to TV-Land and checked out a rerun or two before blindly buying this set. I had originally thought I would be buying all seven seasons of this Petticoat Junction spin off, but now I'm not so sure if I'll be doing that. I had sweet memories of this show, and now they've been somewhat dashed. If you find yourself in the same boat, you might be better off keeping your distance from the discs and keeping your memories intact. Things change over time, and while Green Acres is a quaint and pleasant show, you may find it isn't as funny as you recall. But the show does still have its charms, and it is fun to watch an episode from time to time. I just don't see myself watching the entire seven-year run of the show any time in the near future. Catch a rerun on TV and save your money for other DVDs.
Green Acres is hereby found not guilty on all charges. All parties are released to return to their farms and strengthen the United States economy.
MGM is hereby found guilty for releasing such a poorly conceived package with lackluster transfers. They are fined to apprentice under Mr. Haney for 32 days.
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Scales of Justice
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