Tuesday, August 26, 2014

1.32 Uncle Ollie

Written by Dick Chevillat & Elon Packard

"Well, might as well make yourself at home. Want to hang up your coat and hair?"

Welcome the HYPAS to the show. They are only mentioned here but they will return.


The episode begins with Oliver using some of Hal's Hotcake Flour as mortar for bricks in the bedroom fireplace. That's good stuff. (Lisa makes hotcake sandwiches later, which are genius.) Then, a loud motorcycle pulls up and Oliver's nephew Chuck/ Charles arrives.

The appearance of sleaze film director Don Edmonds (Ilsa, She Wolf of the S.S. & Terror on Tour) as Chuck/ Charles is tricky enough. Seeing him with his long, lush Mop Top haircut pretending to be a beatnik (or something similar) can do something strange to a Green Acres viewer.* It can almost make you turn the episode off. Hippies are bad enough. (We'll see some of those in a few seasons.) But, beatniks? Oh boy. I never quite understood the "beatnik." Bongo drums and bad poetry are all I can think of when that word crosses my mind. So, to end the very entertaining Season 1 with the appearance of a full-on beatnik can make one weary.

But, you should persevere. Trust me.

For the first two acts (around 18 minutes), this is about the beatnik's reactions to the farm mixed with the Douglas's reaction (along with Eb) to the beatnik. And, it's not-so-great as you might imagine. (Although, finding out that Eb likes Dizzy Gillespie and Dave Brubeck is cool.) There's some charm in it. I think this is the only episode where Eb whittles. But, Chuck/ Charles feels so out of place. The long hair jokes get tiresome fairly quickly. The laugh track seems to love him but who else did? Apart from, maybe, his mother. Possibly the writing credit should have clued us in: "Dick & Elon Packard." Where'd Jay go? Vacation? Granted, he deserves it. But, beatniks? Dick, did you tell Jay about this? I'd hate to think Mr. Sommers came back from two weeks in Palm Springs and wept quietly when he saw Mr. Edmonds with his long haired wig. But, it might have happened.

Then, the episode does something that I've always appreciated in Green Acres. There are so many shows from the 1960s and the 1970s where a character shows up for one episode and they suddenly become the main focus of everything. They're the ones who learn from their surroundings (or not) and the main characters, the people we come to see, fade into the background. Green Acres will do an episode like that later on with Bob Cummings. But, it will be a "seeing this world through an outsider's eyes" episode. Chuck/ Charles here is a little different because he's a beatnik. No different from a flapper or a stoner. He draws attention to himself and it's, mostly, laughable.

Then, the episode twists.

It turns out that Chuck/ Charles is great at souping up hot rods so he fixes his uncle's tractor. It goes so fast that Oliver gets arrested and dragged before a judge. Then, Oliver takes out his nephew's motorcycle and it happens again. While this doesn't sound like the height of hilarity, it's well done. And, it, basically, shifts the focus in the second half away from Chuck/ Charles and his Beatnik world to Oliver, where it should be. And, things become funny again. And the episode ends charmingly. And the end of the season is saved.

Giving such a large chunk of the episode over to an unlikable/ annoying character can make one a little worried that they might do that again. Luckily, they really don't do it that much. They keep the focus on the main characters, where it should be. So, Season 1 of Green Acres doesn't end with a strong flourish but with a few laughs. Now, things are going to get really wonderful.

By the way, Chuck/ Charles does not return. Hallelujah!

*Chuck/ Charles may not actually be a beatnik. He might just be a "groovy" pre-hippy kind of guy. However, he mentions getting an espresso. Coffee house=beatnik in my mind. Thank you. Good night.