Judge Brett Cullum assures you that Hooterville is not where the Hooters franchise began.
Come ride the little train that is rolling down the track to the junction.
On the outskirts of the fictional town of Hooterville, widow Kate Bradley (Bea Benaderet, the voice of Betty Rubble from The Flintstones) runs a quaint hotel called "The Shady Rest." She's helped by her three daughters—Billie Jo (Jeannine Riley, Strike Me Deadly), Bobbie Jo (Pat Woodell, The Commies Are Coming, The Commies are Coming), and Betty Jo (Linda Kaye, Sliders), and her brother Joe Carson (Edgar Buchanan, The Rifleman). Sam Drucker (Frank Cady, the only man in television history to appear on three sitcoms at the same time—this one, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Green Acres—as the same recurring character) owns the general store. Charlie Pratt (Smiley Burnette, Last of the Pony Riders) and Floyd Smoot (Rufe Davis, Westward Ho) operate a train called The Cannonball, which brings visitors into town. The show is set in the same town as Green Acres, and often crossed over with The Beverly Hillbillies. Broadcast on CBS starting in 1963, Petticoat Junction was created by Paul Henning, whose wife told him stories of growing up near a train station in Missouri.
Petticoat Junction is slightly lesser-known than its sister shows—The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres. Syndication of the show hasn't been as lucrative or common, but don't think that means the show is any less charming. As a sitcom it never broke any new ground, but it offered a half hour devoted to likable people in silly situations that made people smile. It's total escapism of the best variety. Kate and her daughters were always a pleasing diversion from the real world. It operated on a simple formula which rarely changed. A stranger comes to Hooterville, and poses either a threat to the town's way of life or seeks to change them with progress and new technology. After staying at the Shady Rest and experiencing the hospitality of the proprietress, they end up deciding they love old, backwards Hooterville. It's amazing the small town's population never exploded with all the people Kate and her daughters charmed over the years, but it remained an oasis where nothing ever changed (except the occasional cast member when their contract came up).
If you enjoy sweet, old fashioned sitcoms from television's golden age, then Petticoat Junction—Ultimate Collection is just the ticket you've been looking to punch. These twenty episodes are from the first season of the show, and have never been in syndication. The first two seasons of Petticoat Junction were shot in black and white, and syndication packages only included the color episodes when the shows were sold for rebroadcast in the early '70s. In many cases it's the first time one has been able to see them since they aired. It begins with the pilot episode (which has only been aired a couple of times—mainly on TV Land—since its filming) and moves in chronological order from there. The transfers are what you would expect from an old black-and-white television show from the '60s. They have scratches and grain here and there, but what MPI has done is nothing short of miraculous in making them as clear as they are. Sound is mono, and true to the original source. All the episodes are introduced by actress Linda Kay Henning, who played Betty Jo, She gives two to three minutes of trivia and explanations of what it was like to work on Petticoat Junction before each show. The intros are as charming as the show itself, and are well-written, informative fun. MPI has made this package with loving care, and fans should lap everything up. The only episodes missing from the first season are the Christmas-themed episodes, which will appear in a separate collection that also includes holiday shows from The Beverly Hillbillies. Guest stars in this first season include a lot of familiar faces. Adam West (Batman), Dennis Hopper (Blue Velvet), Roy Roberts (Chinatown), Don Washbrook (Lonelyhearts), Elvia Alman (Breakfast at Tiffany's), Hank Patterson (Attack of the Puppet People), and Charles Lane (It's a Wonderful Life) all pop up here.
Keeping your eyes peeled for a whole slew of famous character actors and surprise cameos throughout the season is half the fun of Petticoat Junction—Ultimate Collection), but there are two non-human stars who bear special mention. First, the train, which was central to every plot since The Cannonball brought people to Kate's hotel. Railroad enthusiasts tuned in each week to see their favorite cast member, but few realized it was a product of television illusion. Most of the time you see The Cannonball, it's actually a plastic replica of a real train originally made for the feature film A Ticket To Tomahawk. They only had two wheels, which they had to move around whenever they were needed in a shot. Stock footage of an operating wood-burning engine was used in some shots. Meanwhile, the pet dog on the show was a famous animal actor who had a long career in Hollywood. On the show his name was Higgins, but animal lovers probably know him best for his final starring role—the lead in 1974's Benji. He doesn't show up in the first season, but it's great to see him when he does finally make his debut in the second season.
Also included on the disc are several extras that should excite fans and educate new viewers. The documentary about the show examines its origins, and imparts a lot of lore about the program. There are original promo spots the actors did for sponsors of the series. Also included are cast interviews, which are culled from current sessions as well as archival footage. There are a lot of special segments which feature film clips you won't see anywhere else. MPI has graced Petticoat Junction—Ultimate Collection with a strong sense of history and context. It puts recent releases like the Bewitched season collections to shame, and sets a high standard for how television shows should be documented.
Petticoat Junction is a wonderful piece of nostalgia that stands proudly beside The Andy Griffith Show as a loving ode to rural small town Americana. They don't make them like this anymore, and Petticoat Junction—Ultimate Collection is a three-disc set fans shouldn't pass up. The show has an innocence that could never be recreated without irony today. Each episode is a good-natured romp that will always leave you smiling, and you have to love the show for that reason alone. MPI continues its tradition of offering the best packages for classic television with the set. It's a gold mine of relaxing adventures, with a train, a trio of sweet sisters, and their widowed mother in a place time has lost. For a long time it seemed television had lost this first season as well, but thankfully MPI has rectified that, and we can all catch the first glimpse of Hooterville from the very start.
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Scales of Justice
• Episode Introductions with Actress Linda Kaye Henning
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