Friday, November 2, 2012

Classic TV: Petticoat Junction (1963)

The success of The Beverly Hillbillies led CBS to commission another rural sitcom from writer-producer-creator Paul Henning. The end result was the launch of Petticoat Junction in 1963.

Petticoat was set at the Shady Rest Hotel, situated on a railroad line between Hooterville & Pixley. What you may not know is that there really is a town of Pixley, but it's in California, a long ways away from its fictional counterpart. The Shady Rest is owned & operated by Kate Bradley (Bea Benaderet, The Flintstones, ex-The Burns & Allen Show), aided by Uncle Joe Carson (Edgar Buchanan, ex-Judge Roy Bean). Uncle Joe wasn't exactly the sharpest tool in the drawer, but he was a father figure to Kate's three daughters, Billie Jo, Betty Jo, & Bobbie Jo, who used the water tower as a swimming pool, as you would see in the open.

Currently, the series airs on Me-TV, weekday mornings, but if you're looking for the early black & white episodes, forget it. Me-TV only has the color seasons (seasons 4-7). Bea Benaderet left The Flintstones to commit full time to Petticoat, but I am not sure if it was at the start of the series (Flintstones began its 4th season in 1963). Subsequently, Petticoat begat a spinoff series, Green Acres, which amazingly has become a more popular show in reruns, probably because it was available in a lot more markets in syndication.

Here is the series premiere, "Spur Run to Shady Rest".

The last two seasons saw Uncle Joe take charge of the hotel, as Kate had gone on a long vacation. In truth, Bea Benaderet was in ill health, and left the series. She passed away in April 1969, just before the end of season 6. Ultimately, June Lockhart, fresh from Lost In Space, was brought on as Dr. Janet Craig to fill the void. Petticoat Junction was the first series to fall victim to what ultimately became the infamous "Rural Purge", ending in 1970, its timeslot filled with another TV classic, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Musical director Curt Massey co-wrote and sings the theme song, in case you wonder.

Rating: B.


magicdog said...

I've caught a few eps here and there but it's just too slow for me.

I'd always enjoyed Green Acres more, mostly due to it's inherent silliness. I'd heard that despite being in the same universe, PJ and GA are different tones. Almost mirror opposites. I'd found a discussion on both shows which posited the theory that PJ was written from the POV of the residents (rural folk) while GA was written from Oliver's POV (the city bred outsider). This could account for why the shows have differnt approaches to humor.

I think it was a mistake to not allow Kate to have "died" on PJ. It wasn't as if the public at large didn't know Bea Benaderet passed away and it seemeed insulting to have had the character merely "visiting" relatives for the final season. It made sense when Bea's health was going back and forth (making appearances on the show when she had the fortitude), but once the actress' death was announced, I think the mature thing to do was to have had a polite memorial for Kate and for the girls to continue the family legacy at the hotel, or perhaps end the show then and there.

Personally, I think the "rural purge" came at the right time for PJ. They were running out of ideas anyway and there was also a focus on music/singing by then too.

hobbyfan said...

I have to see if, due to the emphasis on music in its final years, if there was a crossover of PJ cast on Hee Haw, which is where Gunilla Hutton landed after she left PJ.