Much more than most shows, Green Acres changed hardly at all during its run, and especially during its first half-decade. Oliver Wendell Douglas (Eddie Albert), the New York lawyer turned mediocre farmer and exasperated Hooterville resident continues to be driven to distraction by the Twilight Zone-esque world around him. His glamorous Hungarian wife, Lisa (Eva Gabor), continues to make inedible hotcakes and undrinkable coffee, all while speaking in bizarre malapropisms. Lisa, however, is much more in tune with Hooterville's eccentric citizens, from shady wheeler-and-dealer Mr. Haney (Pat Buttram, in a performance allegedly based on "Colonel" Tom Parker) to double-talking county agent Hank Kimball (Alvy Moore), and Fred and Doris Ziffel (Hank Peterson and Barbara Pepper), neighbors who live with their TV-addicted "son," a pig named Arnold (Arnold).
In its third (1967-68) season, Green Acres is just as funny as before, and the changes from the previous season are basically imperceptible, except perhaps that Arnold is suddenly larger and hairier. There are no obvious shifts in tone and characterization, cast changes, and no sense of desperation for new material, the kind of changes obvious in other iconically '60s shows like Gilligan's Island, Lost in Space, and Bewitched. And despite its high ratings, Green Acres continues to look rather cheap, what with its shabby sets, often very badly lit, seeming more threadbare than is perhaps necessary.
Unlike most comedies, dramas, and even sci-fi / fantasy programs of the era, Green Acres wasn't besieged with visiting hippies, Beatles wannabes, and James Bondian spy spoofs. Creators Jay Sommers and Dick Chevillat had created their own, very specific universe loopy enough on its own terms, one with no compulsion to reference current events or change with the outside world.
As in the past and somewhat unusual for a '60s sitcom, Sommers and Chevillat create numerous story arcs that run for 4-5 episodes, and make references to earlier shows stretching back to the original pilot, and like The Dick Van Dyke Show, it continues to build on the Douglas' back-story. This season introduces a troubled romance akin to the Montagues and the Capulets between Arnold and Mr. Haney's basset hound, Cynthia. There's a long story arc involving Eb's apparent elopement, and the season ends with Arnold pegged for Hollywood stardom.
Guests this season include Robert Foulk, June Foray, Gordon Jump, Percy Helton, Thomas Browne Henry, Alan Reed and Henry Corden (putting the two voices of Fred Flintstone together in the same show, with Corden playing a character named Barney), Roland Winters, Foster Brooks, Oscar Beregi, Pamelyn Ferdin, and Christopher Shea.
Video & Audio
Sony/MGM's transfers of Green Acres continue to look better, with this third season set generally free of the often dirty, grainy episodes that plagued the first two season sets. Similarly, the sometimes weak sound is mostly fine here as well. This reviewer didn't look at every episode, but a random sampling revealed no video/audio issues. As usual, the episodes are uncut and not time-compressed. Menu screens have been changed, and unfortunately no longer offer the mini-plot synopses that helped viewers wade through the material. (Unlike Universal's DVDs of TV shows, these weren't spoiler-filled and were actually quite helpful.) The 30 episodes are presented on four single-sided DVDs, with eight shows on the first three discs, six on Disc Four. There are no subtitle or alternate audio options and no Extra Features.
One of the best sitcoms of the 1960s, Green Acres somehow maintained its high standard of comedy through Year Three, with no signs of slowing.
Stuart Galbraith IV is a Los Angeles and Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes The Emperor and the Wolf -- The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune. His new book, Cinema Nippon will be published by Taschen in 2005.