Green Acres started out as a radio show from the 1950s that reached the TV airwaves because the executive producer promised a quick, no fuss, no muss kind of series.
Remember the show? It ran from 1965-71 and was a companion series to Petticoat Junction. They also shared roots with the Beverly Hillbillies. Paul Henning served as executive producer of all three of the TV classics.
Network officials from CBS talked to Henning about doing another show. Henning said he was told, “if you will come up with a third series (they’ll) guarantee to put it on without a pilot.” Producer Jay Sommers wrote about one-third of the episodes.
The show was based on a 1950 summer radio series called Granby’s Green Acres. A wealthy banker wants to realize his dream of becoming a farmer, so he and his family moved to the country. On the radio show, Gale Gordon played the banker. You may know him from his role as Mr. Mooney, Lucille Ball’s boss, on “The Lucy Show.” Bea Benaderet was the wife on Granby’s Green Acres. She became a well-known TV actress in the 1960s, playing Kate Bradley on Petticoat Junction and Pearl Bodine, Jethro’s mother, on the Beverly Hillbillies.
Paul Henning, Green Acres EP, Said Network Thought One Character Was Too “Hungarian”
In an interview with the Television Academy, Henning said he knew almost immediately who he’d cast for the lead roles in Green Acres. He wanted Eva Gabor to play Lisa Douglas. He’d seen her act on stage and thought she’d be perfect.
But CBS initially said no because network executives figured the audience may not understand her. Henning said he was told she’s “too Hungarian.” Eva was one of the glamorous Gabor sisters. Zsa Zsa and Magda were her older siblings. They were born in Budapest.
Eddie Albert was cast as Oliver Wendall Douglas, a well-known Manhattan attorney. But he longed for the simple farm life. So he dragged Lisa to Hooterville and they bought a dilapidated farmhouse. The whole show was a fish-out-of-water social experiment. While Oliver wanted to get his hands dirty every day and gave impromptu speeches about the glories of farming life, Lisa dressed to the nines and yearned to move back to their penthouse.
Show’s Characters Gave Series Its Charm
The rest of the Green Acres cast added to the hilarity of the show. The Douglas’ neighbors were Fred and Doris Ziffel, a childless, elderly couple. While they had no human children, they did have Arnold, the pig. He lived in the house. He understood English and would often walk to the Douglas house to watch their TV.
Sam Drucker also was a key character. He owned the local store and appeared in both Green Acres and Petticoat Junction. But he also was so much more to both shows. He edited and printed the local paper — the Hooterville World Guardian. He also was the town constable, justice of the peace, postmaster and a volunteer fireman.
By 1968, the show was doing crossover episodes with the Beverly Hillbillies. A Thanksgiving episode featured some of the cast members from all three shows. Eb, the farmhand, fell in love with Elly May Clampett.
The show ranked among the country’s top 20 in each of its first four seasons. It got the ax when CBS decided to purge all its rural shows. You can thank Paul Jenning, the one-time comedy writer for George Burns, for those shows. Jenning died in 2005.
If you’d like a taste of Green Acres, check out the theme song. It’ll make you want to go plow something, or at least want to talk to Arnold.