Thursday, December 15, 2011

1.27: Send a Boy To College

"He been suffering from lassitudinessness?"
"He's been lastiduinising all over the place."

Hooray! We get a Whole Lot Of Eb in this episode and it is very, very cool. Eb turns out to be very good at treating sick animals. So, the Douglases (mainly with pushing from Lisa) send him to the local college to become a vet. Of course, he comes right back in the end without a degree but I don't want to ruin everything. The "Sending" is the important part of this episode.

And, it is one of the funniest. (That's saying something in a show like this.) I always forget how funny it is until I sit down and watch it. But, starting with the "Shneaking" around the house to get away from Lisa's new breakfast recipe to the closing scene in the barn (with Lisa's charming laugh over the closing shot of the barn itself), this episode has a very high Funny Factor to it. In fact, it was tough to pick one quote. New ones kept popping up every couple of minutes. Everyone shows up and does their thing and everyone is funny.

The scene with Mr. Drucker is a great example. ("He should go to college so he can become a vegetarian."). Lisa is on a Super Roll. She's becoming very insistent that Eb must go to college and her varying English is steamrolling across the conversation. One of my favorite things that the show will do is underplay the laughs on the laugh track. She says some very funny things. And, Oliver's reactions are wonderfully dry but they never overdo the laughs. Restraint on a sitcom? Who would have guessed?

As always, the Douglases are good people. And, the people of Hooterville are nice & a little loopy. The show now seems to be right in the spot where it needs to be. It isn't entirely crazy yet but it's getting there. Bits like Mr. Kimball preparing his coffee in a test tube ("It makes it more scientific.") could have seemed like standard silly sitcom behavior but the writing here is sharper and the actors are game. When something is actually funny (as opposed to forcing it), it's funny. The comedy just flows.

That's the Green Acres that I love. An energetic, silly, funny show filled with a lot of heart and characters who make me want to visit their town. This is a great episode. I would say that it's perfect for a first viewing but I always get those things wrong. Make it your third viewing of the show after the first two episodes... enjoy.

Friday, September 23, 2011

1.26: Double Drick

"Number 7? Does anybody have Number 7?...Number 8?"

I think the kids at the County Seat may have been walking of with some numbers.

Sweet, sweet Double Drick. I believe I've mentioned this before but: When I first started watching GA, I began with a run on CBN (5PM EST, M-F) that was at the second half of Season Six. I loved the wit, the charm, the characters, the love between Oliver & Lisa and the weirdness. When the show started over, it was very different. I watched (and loved) the episodes you've read about here. But, it was this episode that well & truly made me sit up and say "Ahhh! Here's the that weird show I've been watching."

And, DD does it in a GA-standard plotline. After 7 months of struggling without electricity and Haney's degenerator (always in 7's), Oliver goes to Drucker's to find out what the hold up might be... and it turns out Sam forgot to mail the application. So, the episode is about Oliver finally getting electricity (more or less) for the house. That's it. It's not a new bedroom or livestock or land... they just want electricity on their farm in early-1966 America. It's a fantastic episode.

Why? We finally say good-bye to the generator. Just at the point when the 7's might be bordering on repetitive, we wish it farewell. We get to go to the Hooterville Power, Water & Gas Company. (That may not be in the right order.) They do have a Pick A Number system. And, the scene of Oliver sitting in the empty waiting room as the man at the counter says "Number 4...Number 4...Sir, do you have number 4?" "I have 22!" is a scene that never fails to make me laugh.

After seeming a little off in The Deputy, Mr. Kimball comes back large. Lisa acts like Hank, briefly, which is awesome. And then, they have a wonderful rambling conversation... Lisa is now matching Hank and these are two very funny characters running in tandem. To hear them both reference hooking up the"electrical" is smile-causing. Haney gets a great scene. Even after all this, he has one more zing up his sleeve. Oliver loses one more time. But, this time, it's not so bad because of the impending power.

Lawlor the Installer is here. But, we never do get to meet Peter Greeder the Meter Reader. Sight gags, wordplay, witty lines and insanity: this episode is filled with all of it. I will admit that I watched this episode last night and laughed out loud more times than I could count. I adore the show up to this point. This is the episode that makes me love it. And, retroactively, makes me love the previous episodes.

And, I didn't mention my two favorite bits as a child: First, there is a Batman parody and it is awesome. (I'll let this gag surprise you.) Second, the gag about the Northeast Blackout of November 1965 gets a freeze frame and narration. (We haven't had a narrator appear since the first episode.) This show is cool.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

1.25: The Deputy

Lisa: Is that how you spell shopping, with one "o" and two "p"'s?
Oliver: Mmm-hmm.
Lisa: I always spell it with two "o"'s and one "p"?
Oliver: That's shooping.
Lisa: You mean all this time I've been "shooping" instead of "shopping".
Oliver: I guess so.
Lisa: Funny nobody noticed it.

Even the title clues you in, with this episode we're heading back to a more normal world of sitcom than Molly Turgis would have implied was our future. Mr. Drucker is going on vacation for two weeks. He tricks Oliver into becoming the deputy. That's the first act. The second act is general faffing around as Oliver gets his Deputy kit (more like a Deputy bag) and tries to give Mr. Charlton (?) Haney a ticket. Then, in time for the third act, he handcuffs himself to Lisa and that takes the wacky to the end.

Eisner & Krinksy's Television Comedy Series has an appendix that lists "Standard Classic Sitcom Plots", including meeting a person who is identical to one of the lead characters, a picnic or family trip of some sort and other great ones. One of them is "characters get handcuffed together". Lisa & Oliver's handcuffing isn't as funny as Kramden & Norton on the train. But, it's still darn good. The fact, however, that this plot line is in the "Standard Classic etc" list meas 1) GA is a Classic Sitcom & 2) there's a good chance that this episode isn't all that crazy.

You're right on both counts.

After the regular episodes of the house & farm being assembled and Lisa's decision day, the show would need to settle into a familiar groove. Something that people would want to tune into week after week. Something a little different each week but not terribly different. That's just the way sitcoms worked back then. So, the last third of this season is the show manoeuvring around as it finds its niche. Molly T. implies that the show is going mad. And, in fact, it will. This is the direction it followed. The Deputy shows the program as a Standard Sitcom. The structure might still be a bit strange but the storytelling is pure Classic Sitcom. Another route the show could have taken.

And, luckily, Jay & Dick are so good at what they do that this is a viable avenue for the show to take. Once the Second Season begins, it will be the rare episode that is as standard as this. There are wonderfully individual moments, pure GA: The shooping list, Wyatt Earp talk, "Let me see your credentials...Oh, you've got a whole bag of them" and talk of The De-Putty. Mr. Kimball is the sign that something isn't quite matching up, however. He seems rather out-of-place in his scene. His weird antics at the train tracks feel off here. But, setting that aside, the show could have run like this for years, (possibly with a toned-down Hank) telling regular stories with touches of strange wit & odd humor.

But, the show didn't go this way. It is still early enough in its run that it can play around with what it's doing and it's great to see. Many shows go down one route and then abandon it for something else. (For example: the first 12-ish episodes of The Munsters are far more macabre than the remainder of the show. And, frankly, I think it loses something.) GA has two types of Green Acres running alongside one another...I wonder if folks originally watching would have noted this? It's pretty cool to see. And, obviously, with each episode we draw closer to the Firm Green Acres Style set in stone.

Oddly enough, the next episode by production order (I've decided that's the way I'm doing it) is about fixing up the house in some way but it is loaded with the oddness to come. Stay tuned.