It might seem strange for a show like “The Beverly Hillbillies” to have a rocket-ship rise in TV ratings. Put its success in context, though.
The show, which debuted in 1963, did at a time when a nation was hurting. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. For the next few days, all three major television networks – CBS, NBC, and ABC – devoted round-the-clock programming to events after Kennedy’s assassination.
All other shows were put on hold. Nothing aired but scenes out of Washington, D.C., and Dallas, Texas. That was it.
A nation in mourning started to turn its attention toward the future. Networks started slowly returning to their regular programming, which included sitcoms. “The Beverly Hillbillies” falls into that category.
It is a purely fun, silly, out-of-this-world plot where some poor guy out of Tennessee shoots his rifle, the bullet strikes an oil patch, and he gets rich.
‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ Provided Much-Needed Laughter
The family moves from Tennessee to Beverly Hills, Calif., and takes its less-than-well-heeled manners to their stately mansion. This show, created by Paul Henning, would be one of the first to give viewers some levity in their hearts.
People wanted something funny to watch and take their minds off of so much pain and heartache.
Well, “Hillbillies” was just the show for everyone. How can you tell? Within the first three weeks of its debut, the show reached No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings. Viewers could not get enough of the hijinx between Uncle Jed, Granny, Elly Mae, Jethro, Mr. Drysdale, Miss Jane, and anyone else who showed up.
‘Hillbillies’ Remained In No. 1 Position For 2 Straight Years
Once the “Hillbillies” hit the apex of TV ratings, that show stayed in the No. 1 position for two straight years. It’s practically unheard of in the modern-day TV era with multiple channels having programming.
To this date, no other TV show accomplished what that show did in making its ascension to the No. 1 spot so quickly. It is a feat that remains unmatched in the record books. They remain some of the most-watched half-hour shows in television history.
Eight episodes started the run for Henning’s creation. They are The Beverly Hillbillies: Turkey Day (1963), The Beverly Hillbillies: The Garden Party (1963), The Beverly Hillbillies: Elly Needs a Maw (1963), The Beverly Hillbillies: The Clampetts Get Culture (1963), The Beverly Hillbillies: Christmas at the Clampetts (1963), The Beverly Hillbillies: A Man for Elly (1964) and The Beverly Hillbillies: The Giant Jackrabbit (1964). The Beverly Hillbillies: The Girl from Home (1964).
It was a show that was irreverent, funny, wild, and a bit unreal at times. But it helped give a country in need of humor a much-needed boost.