‘The Beverly Hillbillies’: Why the Series Was Snubbed by Critics

by Joe Rutland

Oh boy, let’s get into why television critics could not support a series like “The Beverly Hillbillies” even though people tuned in to watch.

Remember when“The Beverly Hillbillies” debuted on CBS in 1963? Its first episodes were aired after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The country bumpkin humor gave viewers something to laugh at and escape the pains that they and the country faced in those times.

Television critics, though, couldn’t make the connection between its fans and the show itself. Time magazine called the show “the lowest form of humor,” according to an article on Screenrant.com.

The speculation involves a growth of urban sprawls across the United States. That began a shift away from rural living. Even to this day, there remains a big divide between those who love living in urban settings against rural settings.

1960s TV Scene For ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ Was Different

As the show continued gaining popularity in the Nielsen ratings, critics kept picking “The Beverly Hillbillies” apart. The 1960s TV scene was full of different shows in prime-time slots.

There were cartoons like “Top Cat” and “The Flintstones” and variety shows like “The Jackie Gleason Show” and “The Hollywood Palace.” Spy shows like “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and “I Spy” were ones critics could see as worthy of acclaim.

But a show about some Tennessee dude who struck it rich, then moved his hillbilly family to Beverly Hills? Nope, they weren’t accepting it at all.

CBS, though, made a ton of money off of “Hillbillies” and other rural-style comedies like “Green Acres” and “Petticoat Junction.” These shows were all from the mind of executive producer Paul Henning. Ad revenue was good for stretch from these three shows.

Critics kept dumping on Henning’s shows. Viewers flocked to see all three. Ultimately, critics might believe they won the war as CBS pulled all of its rural-style programs and variety shows off the network in 1970. The network shifted its programming to a more serious, adult tone.

So, Uncle Jed, Granny, Elly May, Jethro, Oliver Wendell Douglas, the Bradley sisters (remember the water tower shot?), and Uncle Joe got the heave-ho. Henning’s shows were no longer needed by the network.

Fans Remain Loyal To ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Despite Critics

But their memory remains alive as all three of his shows remain very popular in syndication around the world. People of different generations could sing one of those show’s theme songs if you asked them to do so. The shows didn’t need a bunch of brain power to watch. They were fun. They made people laugh…and still do today.

One wonders what critics would say about shows that fall along the rural/urban fault line in today’s TV landscape. One has to remember that when “The Beverly Hillbillies” ran originally on CBS, there were just three main networks: CBS, ABC, and NBC. The modern-day TV world has multiple channels from which to view original programming.

Television critics have their tastes for programming. They probably still find something wrong with “The Beverly Hillbillies” in some way. Fans, though, don’t care. All they want to do is laugh at the antics of the Clampetts and their friends. Guess what? In the end, it’s the fans who win.