Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas At Green Acres! and enjoy.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

1.23: A Pig In A Poke

"Don't worry. My husband will get you son the pig out of trouble in no time at all."

A whole lotta Arnold!

The Ziffels state, unequivocally, that Arnold is their son. Well, they say that if they had had a son...he would have been Arnold. Close enough. The World of Hooterville has now fully absorbed Lisa. Oliver will never quite get in. The fact that Arnold is so smart and that he can turn on the TV will always confuse Mr. Douglas. The love the Ziffels have for the pig and the affection everyone else has for Arnold will always elude him.

But, when Mr. Haney sells a sofa to the Ziffels and it turns out to be junk and Haney attaches Arnold in lieu of payment, Oliver talks to Haney about it. Although, he thinks the Pig Love is madness, he will fight for the people that Haney has bilked.

It all becomes quite goof-filled after a while. Arnold hides out at the Douglas place. Oliver gets trapped under the bedroom floor. He gets his pants pulled off. He gets sprayed with water. All kinds of very funny stuff happens. And, in the end, when Oliver and Lisa go to NYC for a Harvard Alumni Society Meeting, Arnold has stowed away and joins them at the dinner. The whole episode, in fact, is a story told by Oliver to the Alumni Society to demonstrate some points of country law.

Oliver, yeah, he gets flustered. Lisa, however, is perfectly in sync with this world now. All of her malapropisms and confusions work for Hooterville now. Oliver keeps his composure through a lot of eye rolling and some wisecracking. He also tries to stick by the law to keep him sane. Unfortunately, the law gets as goofy as Hooterville.

It's a lovely episode. Possibly a good one to show someone if you can only show them one. Everybody gets a bit. There are some laughs and it actually has a plot. Not that it needs a plot but it can work against you to show an episode where nothing really happens. I love 'em meandering and goofy but some folks like plots.

That place I kept saying that we were working towards...that Mythical Green Acres Super-Cool spot is, pretty much, here. The house is, more or less, as good as it's going to get. Lisa is here to stay. Oliver is farming as good as he will get. The elements of the world are all here now. It's a good world. Immerse me.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

01.22: The Day of Decision

"Darlin', I love ya...but give me Park Avenue."

I know...What is a quote from the theme doing in the spot where a quote from the episode goes? Well, it'll make sense in the end. A little harbinger of "Things To Come" for the series involves this quote. But, we'll talk about that at the end. Other things are of importance now...

Today, Lisa decided if she stays in Hooterville or goes back to New York. The 6 months are up. Oliver is nervous. The whole town of Hooterville, including Uncle Joe, are on tenterhooks waiting for her answer. And, for a show that has had such endearingly slim plotlines, this one is the slimmest. The whole episode hinges around one woman making one decision....and it's a good one.

A good episode, I mean. Lisa's choice is her own.

(Although, the slimness of the plotline does seem to get to the writer's slightly. The episode has several flashback scenes, mainly to the first two episodes. Either they were having trouble filling up the episode or they were reminding viewers (and cluing those who hadn't watched in) of what occurred several months before. I believe it is the latter.)

A little viewer's context:

GA - A Day of Decision aired on February 23, 1966. The show itself premiered on September 15, 1965.

That week:

Batman - That same day (2/23/66) the 13th episode aired - The Thirteenth Hat. The first appearance of the Mad Hatter. The one that ends with Batman getting covered in Super Fast Hardening Plaster.

The Beverly Hillbillies - Same Day - The Great Jethro - Episode 23 of Season 4. Jethro wants to be a magician with hilarious consequences.

Petticoat Junction - The day before (the 22nd) - The Invisible Mr. Dobble Episode 23 of Season Three

Get Smart - Later that week, 2/26/66, the 23rd episode aired - I'm Only Human The one where Fang's bark (I believe) will trigger a KAOS bomb.

And, across an ocean...2/26/66, Bell of Doom, the 25th episode of the 3rd Season of Doctor Who. The Doctor and Steven in Paris. The year is 1572...and another adventure is reaching its conclusion.

That's all the stuff I have handy right now but it gives you a feel for Pop Culture on TV at that moment.

It's a beautiful episode, The Day of Decision. From the opening scene, where Eb tells Elinor what day it is through to all the townsfolk and their worrying to the lovely decision scene to the closing moments...that echo the closing moments from Episode works. The sign of good writing is knowing when to complicate things and when not to. Extra plotlines can be fun but they can also get in the way. When you have a large cast, if you keep the focus on one man (a la The Great Gildersleeve) then you can focus on one plotline. If you have a show like The Simpsons and everyone needs something to do, you split the focus and can lose sight of the main story. Doesn't happen here and it is stellar.

Olive spends his time rambling around. Meanwhile, off camera, Lisa sits and dwells upon her choice. As she says, if they go back to NYC, she's happy but Oliver isn't. If they know. And, she does think about it and it wracks her mind...The joke about the noises in Lisa's head is a funny one and the follow-up is funnier but the great thing is that the jokes aren't the important element here...even the laugh track seems to know it. There are things that other shows would have tagged as a "Big Gag!" but GA, here, downplays it...especially during the Decision scene. The laugh track lies low and a very good choice that was.

We see how much the townspeople like The Douglases in this episode. Mr. Kimball's scene with them, in particular, is very affecting. And, during the final moments, we see how much Lisa has been changed by the farm, although she wouldn't admit it. And, after Lisa has made her decision, we see how much being on the farm hasn't really changed Oliver. (He's still rather uptight.)


OK, well, obviously, they stay. If they left, the show would have been very different. "A NYC couple leave their Park Avenue penthouse and move to a farm. Halfway through Season One, they move back to the city and never return to the farm." Doesn't quite grab ya in the same way...unless they moved in with Jimmie "J.J." Walker.

But, the wonder of the show is that you don't quite know what the Decision will be until it is made...Once Lisa asks Oliver to sit with her in the bedroom, you know the decision is made and you know they are going back to NYC. Eva Gabor's finest moment? Possibly. She plays the scene so lovely. She even has a malapropism that fits perfectly. I will say that this scene always waters up my eyes a bit. I always believe that Oliver's Dream is over and they're heading back.

Yeah, the Final Act reverses that but it does so in a completely believable manner. Lisa decides to stay another 6 months because Alice and Elinor will get killed and eaten if they go. 6 months before, NYC Lisa wouldn't have changed her life for a chicken and a cow. Now, Hooterville Lisa does and it feels like the dramatic punchline for a bit that has been building for 22 episodes.

Lisa now belongs in Hooterville. That's why, in 6 months, we don't have another episode like this. She belongs. Oliver, well, that's another story.

And, the opening quote? As Eb strolls to the barn with the milk pail, he "do do do" 's the Green Acres theme and, when he reaches the opening quote, he turns to the camera and sings the line...just like fact, it is Lisa. And, it is very odd and it is where the show shall bend shortly...

A beautiful episode. Let the show continue...

Monday, September 6, 2010

1.21: What's In A Name?

"You hit me and I'll tell Ma and you'll get it!"

And, we are one episode away from the big day of decision...

Ralph wants to marry Mr. Kimball. He won't go out with a woman named Ralph. Oliver agrees to represent Ralph in court to get her name changed. Oliver, anxious to practice some law again, has to take the Hooterville bar exam. And, it's wonderful.

The opening sequence, with the Monroe Brothers hammering a sign into the bedroom wall, is hilarity incarnate...literally. A very funny mix of Mr. Douglas's exasperation, Lisa saying weird things, the Monroe Brothers being themselves and just joy. I don't know. I was thinking about why I'm not so terribly thrilled on most of today's TV shows. I believe it has something to do with all the "anti-heroes" and people living in awful worlds with little bursts of hope.

I like my heroes. And, if I can't get a hero, I'll take a world filled with whack jobs, like Green Acres. Mr. Douglas just wants to farm. And, in this episode, he wouldn't mind a little lawyering, too. We already know he still has lawyer thoughts (Lisa Bakes A Cake) so he's trying to get the best of both worlds. (Of course, what happens to Lisa's needs but...that's a whole 'nother write-up). There is so much great nonsense. And, there's never evil here. It's all fun.

And, when it's not fun, it's at least very charming. Look at that guy who runs the bar exams. The "Harvard, where's that?" scene is superb. Who knew that there was a Harvard School of Hypnotism? And, watch the (erroneous) info about Oliver being disbarred for hitting a judge spread like wildfire.

The plot is thin. Well, there really isn't one...just sort of a suggestion for a series of incidents and they're great incidents. Once again, the show feels like a 30's or 40's radio show. Doing its own thing and making us laugh.

I don't know. My favorite shows are Doctor Who and Green Acres. My heroes and my non-lethal goofballs. That's what I love.

I am, however, a little worried about or next episode: The Day of Decision. Will the shoe end here or continue on for, say, another 148 episodes? Tune in to find out!

Friday, August 6, 2010

1.20: The Price of Apples

Well, I finished watching this episode and realized that I've been misleading myself and everyone reading and enjoying this blog. I keep saying that by this point in the show it is (pretty much) the crazy, strange show we all know and love.

It isn't. Not yet. But, it's still something very rare in the pantheon of odd 60's sitcoms.

A little plot...

The apples are ready to go to market. Oliver's first crop...although, technically, they were all on the land they purchased a few episodes ago. Oliver has the local kids pick them all. He buys Mr. Ziffel's crop and Newt Kiley's and, possibly, Ben Miller's. He gets on a truck with Lisa and they drive to the State Capital to sell the bushels and bushels of apples. But, of course, it doesn't go quite right.

And, of course, the plot synopsis doesn't go quite right either. The show has the same meander along that the past episodes have had. Oliver walks right into the kitchen with an apple in the first few minutes so that is the sort of "plot theme" of the episode. Lisa is cooking hotcakes in a very odd manner that, satisfyingly, saves the day. Mr. Douglas has a chat with Mr. Kimball, goes to Drucker's store, almost gets flim-flammed by Haney (although that sequence does seem a trifle rote) and drives along with Lisa. Even when the apple prices are dropping, there's no real urgency. And, in the end, Lisa helps fix the truck and they are on their way to the State Capital...and the episode ends. Just a charming series of adventures for our pals.

Charming and funny...There's the thing.

Green Acres is funny. While most shows of this era (stand up Munsters and Bewitched!) were charming and fun to watch, they were rarely, if ever, funny. They relied on their characters strangeness and the weird situations. But, Green Acres is put together by two funny men with a strong director and a funny cast. All this meandering is fine because it is funny. The point of the episode is not the race to get the apples to's the goofball things that happen en route.

The show is in no way "surreal" or crazy...Yes, the characters are beginning to make jokes about each other (Lisa talking like Mr. Kimball, Mr. Ziffel asking if Mr. Douglas is going to make one of his speeches) but it's all in the standard sitcom framework. The true crazy twist hasn't happened yet. What has happened is that it's gone from being a fun sitcom to being a funny sitcom...and that will make all the difference when the change comes.

Knowing how the show goes so strange, these early episodes are a heck of a lot of fun. Like early albums by The Beach Boys or The Rolling Stones before they really got their music under control and made the brilliant stuff...Ah, GA...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

1.19: Sprained Ankle, Country Style

"You don't like my cooking!"
"No, I love your cooking. It's the eating that..."

This week's movie: Mary Poppins Meets Frankenstein...starring Dame Mae Fishman

From the title of the episode and from any write-ups you may have seen, this episode would seem to promise a wacky series of gags with Oliver in bed, sprained ankle keeping him there, and the townsfolk bothering him. But, that's the last act. First off: The bedroom is finished! Hooray!

The Monroe brothers put a ribbon in front of the door. Ralph blows her bugle. And, the bedroom looks kind of strange and it never, ever looks better...The first of the closet door jokes is here. For some reason, the bedroom being in place moves the show closer to The Spot. I know I keep saying that but GA didn't become masterful all at once...bits fell into place gradually. But, I mean every word I say and the bits are falling closer and closer.

"Oliver, you didn't let Ralph blow her bugle."
"I don't care if she blows her brains out."

Oliver gets really mad because the bedroom, frankly, isn't finished. And, divine retribution hits him as he falls through the roof...He is laid up in bed and tries to watch the movie mentioned above. But, everyone, including Bobbie Jo, join him and eat all his food and hurt his ankle and, in the end, he hides in the barn.

Classic sitcom stuff, which is all a little bit funnier than the regular sitcom's approach. Lisa has really begun to take off on the goofiness. "Hunky Dinky" "A hypocondriac needle" She has become one of the Hooterville folks, although she clearly wants to head back to NYC.

When the townsfolk begin to flood into the bedroom, Oliver may be going through Hell but it's funny. Lisa bring Oliver a tray with a flower and nothing else. No food. Everyone brings food and then they scarf it down themselves as Oliver tried to grab stuff from them...and the banter around all of this is very good. I'm watching it now and it works out like this:

Act 1: Unveiling the Bedroom
Act 2: Spraining the Ankle
Act 3: The Visitors

It almost feels like The Simpsons. The way you can't figure out what the heck is going to happen in the first act. But then it feels like nothing but GA when everyone thinks the test pattern on the TV is Ed Sullivan. Bobbie Jo is very cute and she looks normal when she enters the bedroom but she becomes nutty, too. I wonder what the PJ folks really thought about getting this close to their strange neighbors.

This is a great episode. Full of laughs. The show is in its niche and carving away. It's not particularly Green Acres-strange but it's proving that it's genuinely funny before it veers off the road. And, as a kid, I really wanted to see Mary Poppins Meets Frankenstein.

Monday, July 12, 2010

1.18: Lisa Bakes A Cake

"You want us to build you a lawyer stand?"
"What's that?"
"It's like a fruit stand but you sell law."

The show is inching forward. Lisa is in the Sweet Spot this episode. Oliver is stuck in a bit of Average Sitcom antics. But, even then, Jay & Dick raise it up.

Two plots:
1) Oliver is listed (thanks to Lisa) as Attorney-At-Law in the new Hooterville Phone Book. Now, he believes, everyone will be calling him and he'll never get any farming done.
2) Lisa bakes a cake.

Oliver does a lot of "Is that the phone?" shtick as he waits for people to call. He doesn't want them to call but he does and he goes a little too sitcomy here-and-there for my tastes. But, this is leavened with some very funny Alf & Ralph stuff (lawyer stands) and Mr. Kimball's appearance. He seems almost too rambling in this episode but he gets a funny bit where Newt Kiley calls for him at the Douglas place...and it seems like Hank is doing legal work.

Oh, Hank.

If Oliver gets a standard plot, Lisa gets her first real chance to shine and be nutty. Every time we cut to her, she is in the kitchen making what might be the world's worst cake. How she can get it so consistently and gloriously wrong I don't know? But, the writers thought so much of this subplot that they named the episode after it.

Another slight step back...Floyd Smoot reading the phone book. He doesn't understand Directory Style Listings and it's as eye-rolling as you might expect. So, maybe I was wrong last time: They haven't completely absorbed Petticoat Junction. Maybe they never will.

They take two standard sitcom plots and put just enough of the Green Acres-twist into them to bring joy. I've said it a lot but...with each episode, we are closer and closer to the Pure GA...the Classic stuff. Going one by one, it really is fun to see it shift and change.

And, I do love the way everyone crams themselves through the bedroom door because it's right up against the bed...when three walls are missing and you can just walk in there. Great stuff.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

1.17: I Didn't Raise My Husband To Be A Fireman

"Isn't that ridiculous?! Wouldn't let me ride to the fire with them!"
"You don't belong to the fire department."
"They would have let you ride with them."
"I'm sexier than you are."
"...that's not the point!"

And so, the shift begins.

The Monroe brothers go nutty.
The Volunteer Fire Department is made up of crazy people.
Oliver is now in a land of madness, rather than a land of rural people that he doesn't understand.

But, Lisa is not there yet. The quote up top is from her. The Pure "Green Acres" Lisa would never have said that. The early Lisa is not quite there yet.

"You insulted my hotcakes."
" I didn't mean too."
"You don't like them!"
"Yes, I do."
"How many do you want for breakfast?"
"Why 3?"
"To prove that you like them."
"Couldn't I just eat one and applaud?"

And...the show begins to go from being a well-written, charming 60's sitcom into the glorious surreal insanity that would make the show so joyous. And yes, Lisa tries oatmeal instead of hotcakes. It doesn't work. She makes "fried oatmeal". Eb loves it.

Oh, and everyone keeps asking if Oliver is hungover.

Lisa still seems bemused by everything. That keeps in the way of it. She needs to take that step. She needs to become a true Citizen of Hooterville. Until then, she giggles and has a good time.

So, Oliver joins the Volunteer Fire Department. And, he has a scene where he has to st and watch for the "Fire Rocket" to go off. And, it's such a charming, human scene that it endears one to the show that much more.

This is a show firing on all barrels. unlike shows like The Munsters and F Troop, which never really take off, Green Acres has used its first batch of episodes to warm it's kicking ass. And, Ralph and Alf are sawing pickles in half with saws and rockets are going off and the band is playing...If you've watched the show from the beginning, it's astounding. The show can do no wrong.

Jay & Dick have taken a bit of time to get into place. Now, they're almost there and we will not go wrong for some time.

Petticoat Junction is now fully absorbed. Uncle Joe and Sam's scene reading the article about the latest fire is lovely. It's sharper that Petticoat Junction and's good. "Guess who wants to join the volunteer Fire Department?" Oliver does.

So many shows of this time never developed. Green Acres now has begun its big shift. It will become superb now...."What instrument do you play?" How do you get in the Volunteer fire Department? You play an instrument in the marching band. Oliver plays guitar. He gets in.

But, it is the charm of the scene where Lisa tries to seduce Oliver away from the Sky Watch Duty that makes the show human. (Actually, it's two scenes. But, I always make it into one in my mind.) If it didn't have that element, it wouldn't be worth more than a few laughs. "No, it was a shoosting star."

And, yes, Oliver gives a speech and the fife plays...and no one mentions it yet but it has begun.

"A little more arpeggio, Ralph!"

Oh, watching the Department march around the Shady Rest is very, very funny.

Now, we're cooking with "A Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight."

"If a man ever needed nuzzling, he needs it now."

An Apology

I apologize for the large gap in between posts. When I started the site, I was actually halfway through Season Three. I decided to doubleback and I was confusing myself. Well, I finished watching the show all the way through a few weeks ago. Now, I am back up to where I need to be...the reviews will continue again.

Fuzzy dice...bongos in the back.