Monday, February 16, 2015

Season 2, Episode 1: Wings Over Hooterville

Aired: September 14, 1966
Written by: Jay Sommers and Dick Chevillat

 Oliver holds up a tiny piece of corn:

“I’m going enter this in the Corn Festival.”
“That ought to get a big laugh.”
“Eb, this may be funny to you. It is not funny to me. This is why I left New York.”
“To grow small corn?”

And Season 2 begins. And a show that was pretty assured of itself in its first season (while finding its format) is even more assured now. "Wings Over Hooterville" gives us Lisa making cupcakes (cake in a cup), the flashback to Lisa and Oliver meeting during WWII, a scene with Hungarian being spoken featuring English subtitles (which are referenced by the characters), an English officer telling Oliver to ask for "Hogan" if he goes to Stalag 13 and Hank Kimball delivering the kookiest slide show ever.
Jay and Dick pull out all the comedy stops here.

The Bing Bug is attacking all of the crops in Hooterville. And there is only one man who can fly a plane and stop them. But, first, we get the Meeting of Lisa and Oliver in WWII. "I don't think you're really American...  you spend more time talking than smooching." Lisa helps blow up a tank by wearing a lovely gown. Oliver hangs by a parachute from a tree. And a glorious model tank rolls through some model trees.

The excitement and surreal thrill that was building up through much of the second half of Season 1 is officially here to stay. Mr. Kimball's Emergency Town Meeting is one of the highlights of this. The slides include: the Bing Bug itself (unidentified, possibly the mother, maybe the uncle), Hank Kimball in his early stages, the county agent from Dexter County dressed as a lady...  OK, maybe there are only the three slides but they're still great. And the closing "Three Cheers For Mr. Douglas!" gag is beautiful.

"How do we get rid of the Bing Bug?"
"Well, there's one simple solution: Everyone go home and burn your crops!"

There's a lovely amount of sexual innuendo in this episode. Lisa constantly talking about smooching, mixed with her wiles used on the German soldiers (which will be even more evident in the semi-sequel to this episode "Das Lumpen"). The stock footage of big guns firing after Lisa and Oliver kiss. The mention of the sounds that the Bing Bugs make, except when they're mating. And, the story that goes with the slide of the woman in the bathing suit who is actually a man. It's the sort of innuendo that Three's Company or The Love Boat would have been proud of but never would have thought of.

The episode is paced like a bullet. With the addition of the flashback scene, there almost isn't enough time for everything happening here. And, that's awesome. Funny joke is followed by weird moment (what about those Right Brothers and their airplanes?) followed by laugh out loud silliness. With all this comes the realization that every character from Petticoat Junction is now fully acclimated to Green Acres.

Oliver ends up in trees a lot. He also ends up getting taken advantage of a lot by the Hooterville people. (And, at the end of the episode, Oliver's corn crop burns down.) Lisa is having a great time, whether she's making bad coffee or telling great stories. Now, the show is on track for the way it would run until the end. 

The final image of the episode is a shot of the woods and the appearance of the caption "Prevent Forest Fires." Love it.

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