Wednesday, June 13, 2012

1.30: Culture

5/25/66 Jay & Dick

"Uh oh. Here come my boss."
"Eb, you're supposed to be working."
"Are you going to hit him again?"
"He told us when he don't work you beat him with a baseball bat."
"Or an axe handle."

I know. The dialog sounds rough. But, it's delivered by Henry and Horace, two local Hooterville kids. Eb's watching them while their moms are getting together for a cultural meeting. The ladies, led by Lisa, decide that it's time for culture to hit Hooterville. Ralph Monroe may never get the closet door in the bedroom finished. But, she'll take the minutes on the club voting for a Hooterville Symphony Orchestra.

Oliver immediately declares all the women to be "nuts". And, he could be right. Watching the group of women in this puts me very close to feeling that this a "rural" show after all. Ralph is nutty, as always. The rest of the ladies are very countrified. They seem like they could safely meet at the Shady Rest over on Petticoat Junction and not have a problem.

We learn that Hooterville has less than 110 people. We hear the first use of the word "wetback" in the show. Derogatory? Definitely. But, Oliver's follow-up line about smuggling in a "few damp oboe players" is funny. Oliver, in fact, spends most of the episode amused at Lisa's attempts to bring the culture in. In this episode, he seems settled into the world of Hooterville in a way he hasn't so far. He's doing his thing. And, a sign that he's comfortable here comes in the "Fantasy Flashback" sequence. The first of many that this series will have.

"The Concert in the Park" sequence. A band plays 'The Irish Washer Woman". Two people who look a lot like Oliver and Lisa sit and listen and flirt. In fact, it is Oliver and Lisa breaking the fourth wall constantly. Lisa mentions The Beach Boys and calls Oliver "Irving". Oliver insinuates that smooching should be a big part of their afternoon. Lisa keeps pointing out that her "mother is very strict". They smooch behind a parasol. Oliver kisses like a Harry. He's no Irving. I do love the flashbacks. In the later seasons, these would, generally, involve Oliver and Lisa telling about how they met. Here, it's another charming element added to the series bag of tricks.

Sir Jeffrey Wingate, AKA Poopsie, comes to Hooterville to start the orchestra. Guess what? It all goes wrong. One of the joys of the episode, in fact one of the joys of the show, is that the plot is really just a basic framework for a lot of goofing around. We see the New York City skyline. A caption reads "What city is this?" Three seconds later, we read "If you answered New York, you were correct." The season is ending and the guys are pushing the sitcom boundaries even further.

Sir Jeffrey arrives and discovers no culture in Hooterville. But, he's a stuffy clod. The people are very gung ho. Oliver can't stop smiling at all of it. I like to think of Oliver as a character in a sitcom who discovered, upon arriving in Hooterville, that his sitcom makes no sense. This is one of the few episodes where Oliver is in the sitcom he seems to think he should be in. It suits him. His bemusement is charming. When Oliver says that he can play guitar in the orchestra because his wife is in charge and said he could, it is very funny. And, watching the Volunteer Fire Department band playing for Poopsie is a joy.

Watching Poopsie degenerate during the third act rehearsal is funny. The people of Hooterville force a confident man to run out of town in one night. When he asks them to play Brahms' Lullaby, they all play "Hot Time in the Old Tonight". We knew they'd play it. We know they'll play it again. It's funny.

And, the episode ends with a callback to Lisa's mom being "very strict". Nicely done.

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