BevHillbillies4coverGrade:  B-
Entire family:  Yes
1965-66, 811 min., Color
Unrated (would be G)
Paramount
Aspect ratio:  1.33:1
Featured audio:  Dolby Digital Mono
Bonus features:  None

From the git-go, The Beverly Hillbillies was a silly situational comedy—an often preposterous riff on bumpkin and rube humor that nonetheless (or maybe consequentially?) made it the #1 TV series in America its first two years. It fell to #12 its third season, but bounced back slightly this fourth season to finish tied with Bewitched for 7th place.

Season 4 was the show’s first in color, which will make it the place to start for many families whose young ones are put off by black-and-white. The premise is clear enough from the title song, “The Ballad of Jed Clampett”:

Come and listen to a story ‘bout a man named Jed,
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed,
Then one day he was shootin’ at some food,
And up through the ground came a bubblin’ crude.
Oil, that is—black gold, Texas tea.

Well the first thing you know ol’ Jed’s a millionaire,
The kinfolk said “Jed move away from there,”
They said “Californy is the place you oughta be”
So they loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly.
Hills, that is—swimmin’ pools, movie stars.

Jed (Buddy Ebsen) was talked into putting his money into a bank run by Milburn Drysdale, but surprised the Drysdales by buying the house right next door—a mansion that had a “ce-ment pond” and everything. His daughter, the beautiful tomboy Elly May (Donna Douglas) made good use of the pool for her “critters,” while Granny (Irene Ryan) spend most of her time in the kitchen cooking “vittles” and brewing up potions.  Also living with them is Jethro (Max Baer), the dim-witted son of Jed’s Cousin Pearl. Episode after episode it was the same, story, really: the Clampetts’ misunderstanding Beverly Hills life or else bringing their own hill culture into sharp clashes with the local highbrows. 

Screen Shot 2013-10-12 at 12.18.53 PMThis season Granny makes a tonic to hook a man for Elly May, Jed pushes Jethro to go to college to get his mind off “girls,” and Jethro gets a job as actor Dash Riprock’s double—which he thinks means twice as good of an actor. The flightly Jethro also decides to become a magician when he meets Marvo the Magnificent. But fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. Jed gets the notion to become an “international playboy” after reading about one, and the family takes in a Swedish actress who’s looking to learn about hillbilly life for a movie she’s starring in (but they think she’s really a sharecropper’s daughter).

Bluegrass giants Flatt and Scruggs return for an episode, as does the Drysdale’s son, Sonny (Louis Nye). Kids will probably like the weakest episode the best: Granny mistaking the Drysdale’s ostrich for a giant chicken. Funnier (and just as kid-friendly) is an episode in which a cat burglar is on the loose and Ely May is worried . . . for her cats and kittens. She ought to worry instead about the sheik who wants her for one of his wives in yet another episode. Whether its bank robbers, the U.S. Navy, or just “average” people, a dose of the Clampetts is all they need . . . to get them running the other direction.

I wouldn’t say this show is laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s still silly and still amusing. After all, the concept of clueless mountain folk coming into contact with “sophisticated” people in high-falootin’ Beverly Hills never loses its currency. Kids will probably like Granny’s character the best, and Elly’s critters. Thirty-two episodes are contained on four single-sided discs housed in a standard-size keep case.

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