Green Acres: The Complete Second Season
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 12 Hours 34 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: Full Screen (1.33:1)
Audio: English – Monaural
March 8th, 2005
“Green Acres is the place to be…”
As I mentioned at the outset of my review for the first season of Green Acres, the show was initially conceived to serve as a spin-off to the successful sitcom comedy Petticoat Junction, with each calling the valley of Hooterville home. Another thing these programs had in common was that they were produced by Paul Henning, who also produced the immensely successful The Beverly Hillbillies.
Despite the immense pressure of following up Petticoat Junction, however, the fish-out-of-water comedy Green Acres fared very well, enjoying a six-year, 170 episode run of its own from September 1965 until September 1971! In terms of ratings, the series’ best showing came during the 1966-1967 (second) season, when it peaked at sixth in the Nielsen Ratings! Coincidentally, it is precisely this season that we are dealing with here, which not only picks up where season one left off, but improves upon it, with snappier dialogue and even more outlandish situations!
So, how did this show about a wealthy attorney and his high-maintenance wife get off of the drawing board and onto television screens anyway? Well, the journey into television history began innocently enough, when writer Jay Sommers, who was hoping to adapt his radio show “Granby’s Green Acres” for television, approached producer Paul Henning and pitched his idea.
As history tells us, Henning saw something special in Sommers’ radio program, which featured the high-powered New York lawyer Oliver Douglas (to be played by Eddie Albert) and his high-society wife Lisa (to be played by Eva Gabor) leaving Manhattan for a life in the country, and struggling to come to terms with the somewhat less refined living conditions in their new rural environment. In particular, the extravagant, stylish Lisa was worried she would be unable to adapt rural life, or survive without shopping in high end stores, but Oliver was somehow able to convince her that the simple pleasures of the country would be well worth the costs of leaving the hustle and bustle of New York City behind.
Interestingly, it would be Lisa that would adapt more quickly and easily to small town life, by making many new friends and resolving their problems with her sharp wit, and continuing to live in exactly the same over-indulgent manner as she did in Manhattan. Oliver, on the other hand, never seems able to blend in, despite his strong desire to live a simple, country life. An obvious example of this is how the would-be farmer wore a three-piece suit to tend to his crops!
Of course, you can’t have a series made up of just two characters, so recurring characters and guest stars were a key ingredient in Green Acres’ recipe for success. The most noteworthy recurring characters were: Farm handyman Eb Dawson (Tom Lester), peculiar neighbors Fred (Hank Patterson) and Doris Ziffel (Barbara Pepper – 1965 to 1969 and Fran Ryan – 1969 to 1971), who were also the proud parents of the famous Arnold Ziffel, a prized pig with almost human qualities, and the consummate country conman Mr. Haney (Pat Buttram).
With respect to recurring characters, Green Acres and Petticoat Junction also shared a common regular in Sam Drucker (Frank Cady), proprietor of the General Store. The most memorable performances were, of course, turned in by stars Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor, but I think a large part of the series’ longevity can be attributed tot the supporting players being able to rise to the occasion, giving life to the crazy (and usually well-written) situations each episode consisted of, as well as generating a large part of Green Acres’ charm.
While I can’t say Green Acres is my favorite comedy series (I am a tried and true city slicker), I think it was a funny and effective, albeit non-traditional, situation comedy overall, highlighted by an ample amount of fish-out-of-water humor, running gags, and fine comedic performances. For these reasons, it is easy to see why the show was so popular during its initial run, but after its cancellation Green Acres also proved to have tremendous staying power in syndication. As is the case with many series that enjoy such enduring popularity, Green Acres was even revisited nearly two decades after its cancellation, via the made-for-TV movie Return To Green Acres (1990), with Eddie Albert, Eva Gabor, and many of the other remaining original cast members reprising their roles.
In terms of this particular set, the following descriptions offer a complete, but brief, rundown of all 30 installments of Green Acres’ second season, which are spread across two double-sided discs:
--- “Wings Over Hooterville” – Air Date 9/14/1966
In the first episode from season two, the dreaded Bing bug has infested and ravaged Hooterville’s corn crop, sending the residents in to a panic! Subsequently, these desperate people discover Oliver is a former flying ace, and they become convinced that the he is the only hope of salvaging their crop. The question is can Oliver actually pilot the old county crop-duster and save their farms?
--- “Water, Water Everywhere” – Air Date 9/21/1966
An interesting situation has developed in Hooterville – whenever someone attempts to set up a new well, another resident’s water source runs dry! Hoping to resolve the problem, Oliver proposes the construction of a reservoir, but after discussing his proposal, the locals conclude that the only suitable site for the project is on his own land! Now, in order to save himself from his own bright idea, Oliver must find another way to get water into Hooterville!
--- “I Didn’t Raise My Pig To Be A Soldier” – Air Date 9/28/1966
In this installment, the Zifels decide that their relationship could stand a little more romance, so they plan to embark on a second honeymoon. Before they can head off on this much-needed vacation, they have to leave Arnold the Pig in the Douglases’ care. Shortly thereafter, however, Arnold is drafted by the military, and it is up to Oliver to convince the government that the service is much better off without a pig in uniform!
--- “How To See South America By Bus” – Air Date 10/5/1966
As this episode begins, we see that Oliver is absolutely thrilled when a fellow farmer retains his legal services. Unfortunately, when Lisa discovers her husband’s new client is an attractive younger woman, she convinces herself that Oliver is having an affair with her. Obviously, this means bad news for Oliver!
--- “The Ugly Duckling” – Air Date 10/19/1966
In “The Ugly Duckling”, Ralph’s heart gets broken yet again, at which point Lisa jumps in, offering to give Ralph a makeover. Unfortunately for Oliver, Lisa wants Oliver out of the house so she can devote all of her attention to making Ralph irresistible. In the meantime, the evicted Oliver is desperate to get Ralph a date, so he can return to his own home!
--- “One Of Our Assemblymen Is Missing” – Air Date 10/26/1966
Each year, the farmers in Hooterville are assessed a State Farm Unattached Duty tax, but nobody in town knows what programs their money is going to support. Determined to find out, the legal eagle Oliver takes the matter all the way to the state capitol…only to discover that Hooterville has had no assemblyman since the early 1920s!
--- “The Good Old Days” – Air Date 11/2/1966
Hoping to give Lisa a better appreciation of farming, Oliver reads her the tale of Gus and Etta, a pioneer and his Hungarian wife who were able to establish a happy home on the frontier. Of course, this being Green Acres, you already know although Oliver’s idea is not a bad one, it is bound to backfire. Apparently, he did not realize that Gus and Etta’s home got washed away in a flood, and when Lisa hears this little detail, she not only does not develop an appreciation of the farming lifestyle, but becomes more determined than ever to head back to New York!
--- “Eb Discovers The Birds And The Bees” – Air Date 11/9/1966
As the title sort of suggests, love is in the air in Hooterville! To be more specific, Eb reveals that although he is in love with Betty Jo Bradley of Petticoat Junction, he is completely unsure of how to go about pursuing her. In an effort to help, Oliver offers Eb some of his pearls of wisdom on the way to a woman’s heart. As you might expect, though Oliver’s heart is in the right place, things do not exactly go as planned. Will Cupid’s arrows find Eb and Betty Jo, or will Oliver’s advice doom their relationship to failure before it even begins?
--- “The Hooterville Image” –Air Date 11/16/1966
Despite living in Hooterville for quite a while, and desiring a more simple country life, Oliver still overdresses for the wrong occasions. At their wit’s end, the locals try to help out, and show him how ridiculous he looks dressed to the nines at all times by following suit. Unfortunately for them, their plan backfires when the ladies of Hooterville quickly become attached to the slick new look their husbands have adopted, and want the slacks, shirts, and ties to stay!
--- “You Ought To Be In Pictures” – Air Date 11/23/1966
In this episode, the locals try to give the local economy a boost by inviting filmmakers to shoot their movies in Hooterville. Unexpectedly, however, the Department of Agriculture is the first agency that responds to the offer, and soon becomes known that the subject of their film is the pitfalls of farming, with Oliver’s farm having been selected to serve as a prime example!
--- “A Home Isn’t Built In A Day” – Air Date 11/30/1966
Here we go again - Lisa is threatening to leave Hooterville, unless she can get Oliver to get off his rump and fix up their dilapidated farmhouse. After he agrees, Lisa is happy, but things quickly go south when the two buffoons hired for the project picket the property, and no one else will cross their picket line. Can Oliver calm things down and get the Douglas home into shape, or will lovely Lisa be headed back to New York, to return to the posh lifestyle she is accustomed to?
--- “A Square Is Not Round” – Air Date 12/14/1966
In “A Square Is Round”, the Douglases experience something truly strange – even for Green Acres - when one of Lisa’s chickens starts laying eggs that are shaped like squares. After this unexplained phenomenon, the Chicken Breeders’ Association offers Oliver a cool $1,000 for the bird, which sets him off on a frantic search to determine which of the chickens is geometrically challenged!
--- “An Old Fashioned Christmas” – Air Date 12/21/1966
It is holiday time in Hooterville, and Lisa is once again moping, consumed by thoughts of the wonderful winters she had enjoyed in New York City. Conversely, Oliver is happy in Hooterville, and just wants some simple pleasures this Christmastime, like to cut down a Christmas tree of his own. Unfortunately, Oliver learns it is illegal to take down a tree without a permit too late, and is faced with the possibility of spending Christmas in the pokey!
--- “Never Trust A Little Old Lady” – Air Date 12/28/1966
Ever the hopeful farmer, Oliver is looking for a way to get his crops growing, so he turns to Hooterville’s most reliable meteorologist for advice on what seeds to sow. Unfortunately for Oliver, while Walter the Singing Weatherman predicts a drought, a strange old lady named Mildred is seen roaming about with an umbrella in hand, a turn of events that leaves Oliver completely confused. Who to trust?
--- “School Days” – Air Date 1/4/1967
In this episode, Oliver, who is hoping Lisa can improve upon her rudimentary cooking abilities, encourages his wife to enroll in a cooking class offered at Hooterville High. For whatever reason, however, Lisa gets enrolled in other classes as well, and creates havoc when she tries to give a teacher a lesson in Hungarian history, causes an explosion in a chemistry lab, and crashes the driver-training vehicle! After all this, Oliver, who had just wanted a little more variety (and maybe some more quality as well) in his diet, begins to wonder if he should have just let well enough alone.
--- “His Honor” – Air Date 1/11/1967
In “His Honor”, the citizens of Hooterville select former attorney Oliver to serve as a judge, an appointment he is honored and proud to accept. In typical situation comedy fashion, he later makes the disturbing discovery that things were not quite what they seemed, for as he makes ready to take up office in the County Court of Appeals, he finds out that his appointment was simply as the judge of the apple competition at the county fair!
--- “It’s So Peaceful In The Country” – Air Date 1/18/1967
Oliver’s mother is in need of a bit of rest and relaxation, so she heads to Hooterville for a visit with her boy and some peace and quiet. Unfortunately, a tribe of Sioux Indians led by Chief Yellow Horse decides that the perfect place to perform their ceremonial bear dance is outside the Douglas residence, so Oliver’s poor mama can’t get any shuteye! To make matters even worse, Chief Yellow Horse will only leave the farm if Oliver allows him to take his mother for his bride! Oliver is in a real jam this time…what will he do?
--- “Exodus To Bleedswell” – Air Date 1/25/1967
In this installment, the nearby Bleedswell Rocket Plant begins recruiting Hooterville residents for employment, and their attractive positions cause the town’s population to decline dramatically. In order to keep Hooterville from disappearing, Oliver tries to revive the Hooterville Airline Company. A good plan, to be sure, but things unexpectedly become much more complicated when Air Force calls Oliver back to duty!
--- “It’s Human To Be Humane” – Air Date 2/1/1967
Here we go again - Lisa is bored of the small town life for the umpteenth time! This time out, Oliver recommends that she head up the Hooterville Humane Committee, which champions animal rights. Now as most of Oliver’s plans seem to, this one quickly goes awry, when Lisa turns the Douglas homestead into an animal refuge!
--- “Never Take Your Wife To A Convention” – Air Date 2/8/1967
While out and about at the Farmers’ Alliance convention, the Douglases encounter a couple named Wanda and Charlie. After they get to know the couple a little better, Oliver and Lisa begin to suspect that these people have a few skeletons in their closets, and are thus relieved when they finally return home to Hooterville. Sadly, their relief turns to worry when their newfound friends arrive at their residence bearing gifts that appear to be a little “hot”!
--- “The Computer Age”- Air Date 2/15/1967
I never would have guessed they had computer dating services in the late 1960s, but Ralph enlists just such a service in “The Computer Age”, to help her find a compatible bachelor. Oliver and Lisa, dumbfounded by the notion that a machine could successfully match people up, decide to have the computer test their own compatibility.
--- “Never Start Talking Unless Your Voice Comes Out” – Air Date 2/22/1967
In this episode, Oliver is offered a partnership in an extremely powerful and well-known law firm in Washington, DC, which causes the locals to believe the Douglases are on the fast track out of town. As such, they try to dream up enough phony cases to keep Oliver’s local law practice booming – and him from leaving Hooterville. There is no doubt this is a warm gesture, but will it be enough to keep the Oliver and Lisa from heading to the nation’s capitol?
--- “The Beverly Hillbillies” – Air Date 3/1/1967
Get out your banjos everyone, because the residents of Hooterville are putting together a production of The Beverly Hillbillies, and an extremely excited Eb has been tabbed to portray Jethro! But just as he is dreaming about his big break, the star of the show injures his ankle, forcing the townsfolk to ask Oliver to fill in for him. Will Oliver get bitten by the acting bug and move yet again, or is there enough in Hooterville to keep him from pursuing a show business career?
--- “Lisa’s Vegetable Garden” – Air Date 3/8/1967
Upon learning the disappointing news that Lisa continues to purchase vegetables at Drucker’s store, proud (but inept) farmer Oliver demands that his wife establish her own garden. As the garden takes shape, Oliver is as pleased as punch, but his demand for homegrown produce is not as great once Lisa hits him where it counts (the wallet), by buying an expensive tractor and tools, and then hiring two assistants, who earn a handsome weekly salary! Will Oliver stand his ground and eat the expense, or will he give up and allow Lisa to go back to getting her vegetables at the store?
--- “The Saucer Season” – Air Date 3/15/1967
When Eb claims to have had a run-in with aliens, the entire town is flund into a state of paranoia! Things get even worse when it appears that several portions of Eb’s statements were censored, as everyone in town becomes convinced that Martians are responsible for the editing and are determined to prevent him from revealing important information to the authorities.
--- “Getting Even With Haney” – Air Date 3/22/1967
In this episode, the Zifels’ new washing machine goes haywire, ultimately flooding their home and shorting out Arnold the Pig’s boob tube. As a result of this catastrophe, the Zifels hire Oliver and sue the shady seller, Mr. Haney, for damages. This being Green Acres, you can bet your bottom dollar that the ensuing court case is one of the craziest you will ever see!
--- “Kimball Gets Fired” – Air Date 3/29/1967
After Agricultural Agent Kimball loses his job, his replacement declares the Douglas farm a disaster, which devastates Oliver. As the new man begins to wreak further havoc, the townsfolk become determined to find a way to get rid of the new agent before he does irreparable harm to the town of Hooterville!
--- “The Vulgar Ring Story” – Air Date 4/12/1967
In this episode, viewers are told the fascinating history of Lisa’s gorgeous diamond ring, which begins with a group of gypsies in the south of Hungary, then follows the ring as it is smuggled past the Nazi’s, and ultimately reveals how it came into Lisa’s possession.
--- “Who’s Lisa?” – Air Date 4/19/1967
Despite living in Hooterville, Lisa is determined to make it to New York to attend the opening of opera season, even though Oliver absolutely refuses to go. Unfortunately for Oliver, Lisa is stricken by a bizarre case of amnesia, and her doctors theorize that the only thing that might help snap her out of it is a trip back home to Manhattan…where the sights and sounds of her past may help bring her around ( and the opening of opera season just happens to be taking place)!
--- “Music To Milk By” – Air Date 4/26/1967
The final episode from season twos sees Hooterville’s local radio station holding a 48-hour song contest, which music fanatic Eb has a great shot at winning. The problem with his shot at taking home the big prize is that a cow named Eleanor has swallowed his radio. As a result, poor Eb must keep a close ear to Eleanor’s stomach (one of the four, anyway) to stay in the contest!
SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
As was the case with the first season set, the visual quality of the episodes in this package is a bit inconsistent, but MGM still deserves some credit for making these full-frame (1.33:1) presentations look as clean and bright as they do overall. A big plus is that color reproduction is very good (in most episodes), as evidenced by the vibrant, well-saturated primary colors, crisp whites, and relatively natural skin tones. Black levels are deep, stable, and only contain a minimal amount of noise, so the image frequently boasts plenty of shadow detail and somewhat better than expected depth and texture as well.
Unfortunately, some of the episodes in this set contain minor distractions, such as a moderate amount of grain and debris, or a bit of haloing around the borders of light/dark transitions. In a couple of episodes, fine detail is also a bit lacking, although the majority of them are more than satisfactory in this regard.
Now despite this fluctuation in visual quality between episodes, this Season Two set is very similar in quality to the Season One set, meaning that Green Acres continues to look better than I have ever seen it look before on the whole! Indeed, the only episode that really didn’t cut the mustard was the “An Old-Fashioned Christmas” episode, which was marred by some significant print damage throughout. While I would have liked to see these episodes exhibit a bit more consistency, in terms of their overall image quality, the source material is likely to be the culprit, and the visual presentation is certainly much better than what you are likely to get from your cable/satellite television provider.
WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
For an older show, the episodes from Green Acres’ second season sound good, even though they are presented in monaural (as they should be)! All kidding aside though, frequency response is fairly smooth, and dialogue has a relatively rich, full-bodied character to it, which is a good thing since that comprises the vast majority of the audio information.
Another positive aspect of the soundtrack is that music reproduction is handled just as well as it was in the Season One set, especially the show’s memorable opening number. I have to be honest, though I was not blown away by what I heard on this set, there is not much to quibble about, save for a few instances where the audio cuts out during the episodes from the beginning of Season Two. Otherwise, these episodes feature decent transfers of their audio information.
Aside from a booklet that outlines each of the episodes from Green Acres’ second season, there are no supplemental materials included.
(on a five-point scale)
THE LAST WORD
The two disc set containing Green Acres second season is virtually identical to the initial season’s DVD release, which was good but unspectacular. As was the case with Season One, the audio quality was slightly better than expected overall, but the somewhat inconsistent visual quality and absence of supplemental materials was disappointing. Surely, the show’s age made an impact on both areas, but this show has been running strong for almost three decades, so it is particularly distressing that no extras whatsoever are offered, not even a featurette by “experts” on the show or surviving cast and crew.
In any event, I suppose that those with a fondness for the show are going to go out and pick this set up with or without extras, as it includes all 30 episodes from Green Acres’ highly-rated sophomore season. And with that being said, if you are among those who have a special place in your heart for the show, and can accept the fluctuation in visual quality between episodes and complete lack of supplemental materials, than you should find this set to be a worthwhile acquisition!