Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What I've Been Watching on DVD: Green Acres - The Complete Second Season

When it comes to comedy, especially that on television, we're currently experiencing a dark, desolate era. Folks, there ain't nothing funny on Network TV! Well, occasionally I can still get a chuckle out of The Simpsons and Family Guy can still squeeze out a laugh or two, but that's about it. (and please, don't throw NBC's The Office at me, it's nothing but a pale imitation of the far superior ORIGINAL BBC The Office.)

Even late night, which at one time was the place for cutting edge humor has nothing. Saturday Night Live has been nothing but a pre-packaged 90 minute snooze-fest for decades, and Letterman should have stayed on at 12:30 when he was actually funny.

No, these are desperate times to find laughs.

Thank goodness we have DVD sets. At least there we can watch something that, even though we've seen it before, perhaps dozens of times, it's still better than watching the "new" episodes of The Class.

So I just finished watching the last disk on the Second Season DVD of Green Acres. Now I can go on and on lauding this show as one of the funniest and craziest TV sitcoms of all time. But I'm afraid it would fall on deaf ears.

Those of us who've watched the show know how funny it can be, but to many who've never seen an episode, it's nothing more than an old sitcom about a talking pig. (which isn't true, but then what would they know, they've never seen the show!)

Instead, I'll just tell you why you should either buy or Netflix this set.

By 1965, in it's second season, Green Acres was beginning to evolve into what would become one of the zaniest of all time. Even in Season One, which established the fish-out-of-water premise, signs of this change was evident. But by Season two, they were in full swing.

In Season Two, Arnold Ziffel, the TV watching pig hadn't yet become the shows "break-out star", that wouldn't happen until Season Three. No, this year we continued to watch the growth of just how weird Hooterville was becoming. While re-watching these 41 year old episodes, it dawned on me perhaps why these shows still held up. They seemed to have their feet in both the past and future of comedy.

A somewhat typical episode of Green Acres would allow for each oddball character to confront the show's reality foundation, Eddie Albert's Oliver Wendell Douglas, and do their comedy bit. Kind of like an old vaudeville sketch. Whether it was Mr. Haney suddenly appearing to sell him a piece of junk (which Mr. Douglas just happens to need) or his wife Lisa having a fractured Hungarian-to-English conversation with her husband or my personal favorite character, County Agent Hank Kimbel appearing in his corn field talking, but making no sense. Some 20 years later Bob Newhart would do something similar with all his odd supporting characters on Newhart .

Along with these callbacks to old comedy standards, what helped set Green Acres
apart from the shows at it's time was it's, for want of a better word, bizarreness. From breaking the fourth wall, to actually seeing it's credits appear in front of them, to Arnold the pig signing legible autographs, the odd zaniness of this show hasn't been topped by network comedies. (though shows like Nightcourt for instance has tried, they haven't come close.)

Some highlights from this disk set:

"I Didn't raise My Pig to be a Soldier" - Arnold gets drafted into the army. Only Oliver Douglas, noted pig lawyer, can save him.

"A Square is Not Round" - Oliver has a hen that lays square eggs. The ending is a bit of a cop out, but it still works.

"You Ought to be in Pictures" - The Department of Agriculture wants to film a movie in Hooterville of how NOT to farm. This of course leads the towns folks to think that Hollywood is coming to town, especially when the man making the film is named Jim Stewart.

"The Beverly Hilbillies" - The town is performing a play based on one of the scripts from an episode of "The Beverly Hilbillies" . It's worth it just to watch Eva Gabor portraying Granny with an Hungarian accent and Eddie Albert playing Jethro Bodine.

and finally, if I needed one episode on these disks to show someone who's never seen Green Acres a sample of what they'd missed, it might be Never Start Talking Unless your voice comes out . An episode that begins with incorrect credits and characters having to bang their heads until their voice matched their lips.

Now that's something you never saw on Friends!
(though I would have liked to bang some of their heads around...)

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