One of CBS' longest running
situation comedies, this was the slapstick treatment of the Clampetts, an Ozark
hillbilly family who struck it rich (an oil well sprouted in their front
yard) and moved to a Beverly Hills mansion. They deposited the $25
million given them by John Brewster, of the OK Oil Company, for drilling
rights to their land, in Milburn Drysdale's Commerce Bank.
As Drysdale's biggest
depositors, they received special treatment. The banker, concerned about their naiveté
and ignorance of "big city ways," moved them into the mansion next
door to his own home, in hopes of keeping an eye on them and helping them become
The Clampetts were quite a
group. Jed was the patriarch of the clan, a widower with much more common sense
than anyone else in his slightly scatter-brained family. Jed's mother-in-law,
Granny, spent most of her time concocting potions and trying to find a husband
for Elly May. Elly May was a gorgeous young thing who loved "critters"
(from cats and dogs to skunks and goats) and was incredibly naive. Many viewers
put up with inane stories just to see her in a pair of jeans that looked like
they were painted on. Cousin Jethro Bodine was a hulking giant of a man, as
stupid as he was strong, always chasing any attractive lady he saw. The
Clampetts' encounters with corrupt politics, unfamiliar fashions, indoor
plumbing, and the other trappings of modern life provided grist for years of
Mrs. Drysdale, the banker's
wife, could not stand living next door to the Clampetts. A socially prominent,
status-conscious lady, she could never civilize them and, at one point, suffered
the indignity of having her prize poodle Claude bear a litter fathered by Jed's
lazy bloodhound, Duke. Despite her constant efforts, she could never get the
Clampetts to move away. That her husband fawned over them, and indulged them as
his best customers, only made matters worse. To help him with the monumental task
of dealing with the Clampetts, Mr. Drysdale had the able help of his highly
efficient assistant, Jane Hathaway.
In its first season,
spent much time in the hill country, as well as in Los Angeles. Jethro's
mother, Cousin Pearl Bodine, was a prominent member of the cast, and there was a
running story line covering the romance of Jethro's sister, Jethrine, with
Jasper DePew. In later years, when
Junction was on the air, the Clampetts would travel to Hooterville
around Christmastime to spend the holidays with their friends "back
home". They were even there in the fall of 1970, after
Junction had been cancelled as a regular series.
In June of 1966, Jethro finally
got his grade-school diploma and began a succession of schemes to become
successful in business and, more important, as a playboy. None of his schemes
worked but, since the oil kept flowing (by the last season, the Clampett
fortune had swelled to $95,000,000), it really didn't matter. In the fall of 1964, Mr.
Drysdale purchased controlling interest in Mammoth Studios for the Clampetts,
who spent the next several seasons giving studio boss Lawrence Chapman fits.
Elly May even found a long-term, but unsuccessful, suitor in movie star Dash
Riprock, who tried to help Jethro in his quest to become a playboy. There was
also an extended running battle between Mr. Drysdale and John Cushing, who ran
the Merchant's Bank in Beverly Hills, since the latter was always trying to get
the Clampetts to move their funds to his bank. In the last season
Beverly Hillbillies was
in production, Elly May had a serious beau in Mark Templeton, a Navy frogman,
something Granny never quite understood. Interestingly, during the previous
season, the same actor had played a backwoods hillbilly named Matthew Templeton
during a story line in which Granny returned home to Bug Tussle with Elly May to
find her a husband.
The Beverly Hillbillies was
an instantaneous hit, and during its first two seasons, ranked as the number one
program on television, attracting as many as 60 million viewers per week. It entertained
audiences for nine years in prime time but was finally cancelled because its
ratings declined gradually and its audience was too heavily concentrated in
rural areas to suit Madison Avenue advertisers.
The theme song, "The
Battle of Jed Clampett," was specially composed for the show by blue-grass
musicians Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, and was on the national hit parade in
early 1963. Not only did they sing the theme song, but Flatt and Scruggs made
annual appearances on the show, playing themselves as friends of the Clampetts.
These annual appearances, which ran until 1968, included actress Joi Lansing in
the role of Gladys Flatt, Lester's wife, an ambitious but untalented singer and
CBS aired reruns of
mornings from September 1966 to September 1972.