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MGM Studios DVD presents
Green Acres: The Complete First Season (1965-1966)

Oliver: Please, you haven't told me what you think of the farm yet.
Hank Kimball: What I think? Well, uh, actually, it's a...well, you see, a farm is a....I'll try to rush this report right through, sir.
Oliver: If there's something wrong, I'd like to know what it is.
Hank Kimball: What it is? What it is.
Oliver: Yes, give me your frank opinion.
Hank Kimball: Frank opinion? Well, uh....
Eb: Want me to wipe the perspiration off your forehead, Mr. Kimball?
Oliver: For example, what do you think of the soil?
Hank Kimball: Oh, the soil? Well, now, that's different, Mr. Douglas. I mean, the soil is out there, on the fields, where it should be.

- Eddie Albert, Alvy Moore, Tom Lester

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: January 11, 2004

Stars: Eddie Albert, Eva Gabor, Pat Buttram, Tom Lester
Other Stars: Frank Cady, Edgar Buchanan, Smiley Burnette, Rufe Davis, Hank Patterson, Barbara Pepper, Alvy Moore, Kay E. Kuter, Eleanor Audley, Bea Benaderet, Sid Melton, Mary Grace Canfield
Director: Ralph Levy, Richard L. Bare

Manufacturer: Laser Pacific
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (some mild racial stereotyping)
Run Time: 13h:38m:50s
Release Date: January 13, 2004
UPC: 027616898005
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ AA-B F

DVD Review

Paul Henning produced three of the most successful sitcoms of the 1960s: The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction and one of the most surreal programs ever to hit the American airwaves, Green Acres. The latter two shows were both set in the fictional town of Hooterville, but the three shows shared a reality, the Hooterverse if you will, with the Hillbillies making a couple of crossovers at times. With Green Acres starting last, it had the advantage of slipping into a full-blown background scenario from Petticoat Junction, but where that program was frequently dull, this series constantly sparkles with absurdist wit.

The basic premise of the program is that New York attorney Oliver Wendell Douglas (Eddie Albert) has always dreamed of being a farmer. After some attempts to farm on his penthouse terrace, he buys a farm in Hooterville and convinces his wife Lisa (Eva Gabor) to move there with him. But the farm is nothing but one disaster after another, helped along by the efforts of inveterate con man Mr. Haney (Pat Buttram). Much of the first season is devoted to Lisa's initial promise to stay for six months as mishaps continue to befall the farmstead (dubbed Green Acres early on, but the concept is promptly dropped). Other wacky denizens of Hooterville include Fred Ziffel (Hank Patterson) and his son, Arnold the pig; hired hand Eb Dawson (Tom Lester); brother and sister carpentry team Alf and Ralph Monroe (Sid Melton and Mary Grace Canfield) and double-talking County Agent Hank Kimball (Alvy Moore). The jaunty music by Vic Mizzy, most notably the unmistakable piglike grunt of the bass harmonica, keeps the programs moving along in a sprightly manner.

The setup is a fun one, and series creator Jay Sommers uses some basic concepts to good effect. He takes the folkloric tradition of the yokels getting the better of the city folk and artfully melds it with an unexpectedly contrary notion: the city man is in the idealistic role while the country people are hardened cynics, turning the stereotype on its head. The two concepts provide a comic tension that allowed the series to generate humor on a consistent basis for its entire six-season run (it was canceled with high ratings as a result of CBS' misguided desire to dump its rural image, a bizarre decision from which the network didn't recover for many years).

But more important than the basic premise is the marvelous cast. Albert is perfect as the headstrong, determined, and idealistic Oliver, while Eva Gabor's fractured English helps make Lisa even more out of place in Hooterville than if she had been an ordinary urban American woman. Tom Lester's wide-eyed innocence is a great counterpart to Albert's slow burns, and old Gene Autry sidekick Pat Buttram carries off the scheming Mr. Haney with consistently hilarious results. Members of the Petticoat Junction cast also make regular appearances, and seem more lively here than I recall them being on their own show. The supporting cast is sprinkled with notable character actors such as Hank Patterson, Kay E. Kuter, and Frank Cady, but the real gem is Alvy Moore. His constantly befuddled Hank Kimball is one of the most finely realized comic characters ever, and he strikes the perfect balance of being completely ridiculous and oblivious at the same time.

The first thirty-two episodes are provided here (a television season in 1965 ran a good deal longer than it does today). It's difficult to select the best shows, but episode 5, My Husband, the Rooster Renter, with its introduction of Kimball, is a gem. The iconic image of the phone at the top of the pole is introduced in the tenth episode, Don't Call Us, We'll Call You. The Monroe Brothers come into the picture in episode 15 when we learn How to Enlarge a Bedroom, beginning the process of giving Oliver an endless source of frustration that would continue over the next six years. But perhaps the best program of the first season is episode 24, The Ballad of Molly Turgiss, featuring a bitter poltergeist who throws things whenever her name is mentioned, and Oliver's efforts to turn her into a folksong.

This series (especially in this first season) has a much tighter continuity than one ordinarily finds in a situation comedy. Events develop from week to week in a manner that helps snowball the series along, and the result is very few episodes that I'd rank as less than average. The first show, which sets up the situation in a mock documentary style, is fairly weak, as are some of the last episodes in the season, which fall back on ordinary sitcom situations to a certain extent. But even then, the characters and the actors give the program a vibrancy and humor that has seldom been equaled since. Any single episode of Green Acres generates more laugh-out-loud moments than most full-length comedy films. Highly recommended.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The original full-frame picture looks surprisingly sharp and lifelike. The picture is crystal-clear, with vivid color and very nice black levels. On a few occasions the color's a little too vivid: Oliver's red vest sometimes bleeds a bit. But textures and detail are nicely realized; at times even wrinkles in the sky backdrop are visible! Some of the title sequences have a fair amount of dirt and crud printed into them, while others are pristine; I'm baffled as to why cleaner ones weren't borrowed to replace the uglier ones, since there's no difference in the content. In episode 15, Albert wears a finely-checked suit that turns him into a walking moiré pattern, but for the most part this looks terrific.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono audio is also quite good, with minor hiss at reference levels being the only issue. Most listeners will not even notice it. Mizzy's music sounds great, with a decent presence and a fair amount of bass. Dialogue is clear throughout.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues
Packaging: Digipak
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: DVD-18

Extra Extras:
  1. Episode list pamphlet
Extras Review: Where this set falls down a bit is in the presentation. The entire season is contained on two DVD-18s, but doesn't seem to suffer from overcompression. The menus are rather odd, with the same animated menu with one solitary choice on it appearing on all four sides. There is no "play all" feature, and the episode lists contains serious spoilers, as is also the case for the included pamphlet with its episode list. No other extras or supporting materials are included, and there are no chapter stops in each episode. It's kind of the DVD equivalent to having to climb a pole to answer the telephone, I guess.

Extras Grade: F

 

Final Comments

The classic hilarious series reaches DVD with surprisingly attractive transfers, but no extras. Recommended nonetheless.

 


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