Billie Jo, Bobbie Joe, or Betty Jo...don't ask Judge P.S. Colbert to choose.
Our review of Petticoat Junction: Ultimate Collection, published October 19th, 2005, is also available.
"Next Stop…The Shady Rest!"
"Come ride the little train
Strap-hangers, hold on tight—Petticoat Junction: The Official Third Season makes thirty four whistle stops:
• "Dear Minerva"
Year three was a transformative one for the little sitcom that put Hooterville on the map.
Note: if you're unfamiliar with the particulars, please redirect yourself first to Verdict's review of Petticoat Junction: Ultimate Collection, where my esteemed colleague Judge Brett Cullum does a superlative job of setting up the premise and contextualizing the series. Would that I could improve upon my friend's work here, but better for you, dear reader, to come back once you've been properly schooled—No trouble; I'll wait.
Everybody up to date? O.K., get out your scorecards, it's time to make some changes to the roster. First and foremost, the roles of Billie Jo and Bobbie Jo Bradley are now being played by Gunilla Hutton and Lori Saunders, respectively. Though Ms. Saunders would remain for the duration of the series (which ran seven years in all), Ms. Hutton exited at the end of the season, going on to display her ample charms during a twelve year tenure as a Hee Haw regular.
The population of Hooterville grew slightly but mightily with the addition of former big city lawyer Oliver Wendall Douglas (Eddie Albert, The Two Little Bears) and his socialite wife Lisa (Eva Gabor, The Aristocats). Of course, Mr. and Mrs. Douglas were the principal characters of Green Acres, which was making its debut this same season, and the good folks at the Shady Rest were on hand to make the comedic carpet-baggers feel welcome. Characters from both series would routinely cross back and forth during subsequent seasons, but Douglases set a record here, making thirteen guest shots, together or separately, including appearances in seven consecutive episodes, begging the question: how can you spin-off someone that won't let go?
The second major switch here was from black and white to color. The 1965-66 season was the last to feature prime time series from the big three networks in black and white, and many long-running shows of the day struggled with the decision of whether or not to start producing (costlier) color episodes. In the final analysis, it could be argued that the change made little or no difference either way, and in some cases, switching to color seemed to dilute, if not destroy the magic spell of certain vehicles. Or are you honestly telling me that you don't get a sinking feeling when you catch a color rerun of Gunsmoke, My Three Sons, or The Andy Griffith Show?
On the other hand, how could a program that showcases three gorgeous daughters, one blonde (Billie Jo), one brunet (Bobbie Jo) and one redhead (Betty Jo, played by Linda Kaye—daughter of series creator Paul Henning), not benefit?!
Fortunately, these benefits have been passed onto consumers, courtesy of Paramount's stunning audio and visual restorations. There are English SDH subtitles available, but no extras included in this no-frills package, sold exclusively through Walmart.
Perhaps you noticed that I've not really commented on the plotlines of the episodes? There's not much to tell on that score, as befitting a series set in a quiet little community where everybody knows everybody else, and nothing's new but the same old thing. Quaint, amiable incidental music (played almost entirely on accordion) provides the perfect accompaniment for these gently humorous tales, many of which seem to blur into each other.
For example, there's "Bobbie Jo's Sorority," which finds the middle Bradley girl struggling in vain to catch the eye of Stonewall Jackson, Hooterville High's star athlete, while "Only Boy In The Class" details Bobbie Jo's labors to win the heart of her crush; a big, strong and handsome letterman named Walter Thorp. Sound familiar? I'll go you one better: both hulky heartthrobs are played by the same actor! By the way, that actor is none other than Bobby "Boris" Pickett, performer of that perennial Halloween favorite, "The Monster Mash."
All right, so Petticoat Junction isn't the funniest show to come down the pike. That's not to say this collection won't cause you to do a heck lot of smiling, as your mind fills with questions like: Will the girls be wearing blouses and blue jeans, rolled up at the cuffs, or pretty dresses with high heels and matching hair ribbons? Or is this episode the one where they're all parading around in nurse outfits? Ahh…good times.
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