On This Day: ‘Green Acres’ Airs Series Finale in 1971

by Joe Rutland

On this day, “Green Acres” wasn’t the place to be as the series finale for the rural comedy starring Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor aired on CBS.

In the final episode called “The Ex-Secretary,” Oliver Wendell Douglas, played by Albert, reaches out to his old secretary Carol, played by Elaine Joyce. Now Carol works to keep her boss, a California realtor played by Richard Deacon, from undergoing a con by a guy Douglas tried to indict in New York.

This episode was originally a pilot for a new show from the world of executive producer Paul Henning. In fact, the last two shows from “Green Acres” actually were pilots that Henning hoped CBS would pick up. Henning turned over the creative challenge on this show to Jay Sommers, who wrote, produced, and directed many of the episodes.

But the two pilots went nowhere. After six seasons and 170 episodes, the Douglases and Arnold the Pig were out of work.

‘Green Acres’ Created for CBS Through World of Paul Henning

“Green Acres” was one of three shows from the creative world of Henning. The other two? “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Petticoat Junction.” Those shows, though, also would find themselves canceled by the network, too.

Yet let’s focus a little bit on the show, which had Albert, a veteran stage and screen actor, playing fancy big-city lawyer Douglas. Gabor, whose sister Zsa Zsa was an actress and socialite, played his wife Lisa. She brought her heavy Hungarian accent into the role. The Douglases moved from New York City to the country because that’s what Oliver wanted to do.

This city couple finds themselves living near Hooterville, meeting all types of people like Mr. Haney, played by Pat Buttram. Other regulars included farm agent Hank Kimball, played by Alvy Moore; farmhand Eb Moore, played by Tom Lester; and general store owner Sam Drucker, played by Frank Cady.

Oh yeah, we can’t leave out Arnold whose parents, the Ziffels, had the interesting ability to understand pig snorts.

By 1971, CBS executives had made a decision around its programming. They wanted to gear toward a more mature audience. In order for this to happen, CBS decided to KO all of the funny, simple shows that weren’t deemed mature or even popular.

But “Green Acres” happened to be a popular show. It won its time slot on a regular basis, yet CBS dumped it. Variety shows, once a big part of the network’s lineup, were bounced, too. Powerhouses like Jackie Gleason and Red Skelton were out of work.

Buttram reportedly said, “CBS canceled everything with a tree – including ‘Lassie.'”

Much like other shows from this time, “Green Acres” lives on in the world of reruns. So you can catch the Douglases, Arnold, Mr. Haney, and all the other characters on your TV screen.