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The Rural Purge That CANCELED Your Favorite Sitcoms

If you were a television fan in the early 1970s, you probably noticed an unusual trend. Shows that took place in a rural setting started disappearing one by one. Popular shows like Bonanza and Petticoat Junction suddenly disappeared from the schedule in what became known as the rural purge. In this video, we’re going to look at some of the most iconic shows that went off the air, in some cases at the height of their popularity. Be sure to watch until the end of the video to hear what popular show managed to avoid the purge. And don’t forget to click the like button below and subscribe to the Facts Verse channel so you don’t miss any of our upcoming videos.

If these iconic shows were still boasting high ratings, why did the network dump them so unceremoniously? Like most things in life, you’ll find the answer if you follow the money. While these rural-themes shows had millions of viewers every week, those viewers were overwhelmingly older. This didn’t make the advertisers very happy. After all, the cute little grandmother settling in to watch Lassie doesn’t buy many refrigerators or stoves.

Advertisers prefer to target the 25 to 35 year old demographic and those people weren’t watching those country-centric shows. So in spite of the great ratings, the TV studios — especially CBS — gave in to the bigwigs holding the purse strings and started the rural purge. Join Facts Verse to know the details about The Rural Purge That CANCELED Your Favorite Sitcoms.

The Beverly Hillbillies

The Beverly Hillbillies one of the most popular TV shows of the 1960s so it’s a little surprising to hear it got pulled so abruptly. This iconic rags-to-riches story tells the tale of the Clampett family from deep in the Ozarks. After discovering oil on their property, they become overnight millionaires and make a bee-line for Southern California. Of course, these country hicks don’t know much about city living and find themselves in crazy situations in every episode.

At the peak of its popularity, The Beverly Hillbillies saw an astonishing 57 million people tuning in to watch the hijinks of the Clampett family. But even though it rated in the top 20 TV shows for eight out of its nine season run, it wasn’t enough to save the show. In 1971, The Clampetts got their walking papers.


If you thought the network execs weren’t cruel enough to cancel the cutest animal on TV, we’ve got some bad news for you. The purge had no feelings and didn’t care how cute or well-loved the show’s stars were.

Lassie was a modern-day fairy tale that follow the adventures of Lassie and her companions, both human and animal. In most episodes, someone would get into some kind of trouble like falling down a well or getting cornered by a bear and Lassie would rush in to save the day. There was inevitably a happy ending to the story, with Lassie solving all the problems in an easy 22 minutes.

By the early 1970s, Lassie had been on the air for over a decade and a half. The show is still the fifth longest-running U.S. primetime TV show in history but that pedigree couldn’t beat the mighty rural purge. By 1973, the beloved Collie was off the air.

Mayberry R.F.D.

The name Mayberry still conjures up images of idyllic small-town America decades after The Andy Griffith Show aired. When Griffith and his on-screen son Ron Howard left that show, the spinoff, Mayberry R.F.D., saw millions of viewers tuning in. It kept the original show’s premise of a widower raising his young son and most of the original show’s townspeople made appearances.

Mayberry R.F.D. was an immediate hit thanks to its built-in audience from The Andy Griffith Show. All three seasons of the show were popular but in the end, even quaint little Mayberry wasn’t immune from the purge. Mayberry R.F.D. canceled in 1971 and America no longer had its view into the lives of this small-town utopia.

Petticoat Junction

Petticoat Junction was a late-60s sitcom that existed in the extended universe of The Beverly Hillbillies. It focuses on the rural Shady Rest Hotel, run by widow Kate Bradley and her three daughters, Bettie Jo, Bobbie Jo, and Billie Jo. The three have to deal with their shiftless, lazy Uncle Joe and try to keep the Hooterville Cannonball, an 1890s vintage steam train that ran like a taxi service, from getting shut down.

Petticoat Junction took place in Hooterville, the same fictional town as Green Acres, another hit rural sitcom. Characters from The Beverly Hillbillies made appearances at the Shady Rest Hotel but despite the connections and good ratings, Petticoat fell victim to the purge and canceled in 1970.


If there was one show that had a chance of escaping the jaws of the rural purge, it was Gunsmoke. The iconic western drama did manage to hold on longer than most, getting all the way to 1975. The show focused on Marshall Matt Dillon as he tried to keep the peace in Dodge City, Kansas during the wild west times. The show was different than all the other westerns on the air at the time. It had a darker tone and tried to show the reality of life on the frontier, not some kind of sanitized, made-for-Hollywood version. Audiences loved the authenticity, and loved it for a long time.

By the time the purge caught up with Gunsmoke, it had been on the air for 20 years. It was a record for a scripted drama at the time, with 635 scripted episodes. In fact, that record only recently overtaken by The Simpsons. Gunsmoke premiered in 1955 and there only three other shows from the 1960s still on the air when it was canceled. During its 20-year run, 30 other TV westerns came and went. But no show was completely immune from the purge and Gunsmoke eventually had to go.

Green Acres

When The Beverly Hillbillies hit pay-dirt in the ratings, the show’s creator Paul Henning went back to the country for more, first creating Petticoat Junction and then, in 1965, Green Acres. Henning served as both casting director and executive producer and following its sister shows, it became a massive hit. The show follows the adventures of wealthy New York attorney Oliver Douglas and his glamorous wife Lisa after the buy a farm in the middle of nowhere to escape the glitz of the big city.

They end up in Hooterville, the same town that Petticoat is set in. While most of Green Acres is pretty standard fare for a 1960s sitcom, the show’s unique in the way it incorporated elements of surrealism and satire. It featured running jokes, recurring visual gags, and characters that regularly broke the fourth wall. It also the first sitcom in which the theme’s lyrics were sung by the show’s two leads, beating The Monkees by a year. Despite these modern touches in the way it told its stories, Green Acres got swept up in the tsunami that was the rural purge and ended up canceled in 1971.


If you watched any amount of TV in the 1960s and early 1970s, you can probably hum the theme song from Bonanza. The incredibly popular western focuses on the Cartwrights, a family of bachelor cowboys who run a ranch near Lake Tahoe. The show was unique at the time as a western that rarely focused on the west. Instead, it was more often about how the father Ben and his three very different sons, Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe, cared for each other.

The show also unique for the 60s in the way it tackled the tough social issues of the time. In different episodes, Bonanza tackles antisemitism, immigrants’ struggles to assimilate into American society, and interracial marriage. It took a very progressive view of these types of topics. But despite its forward-thinking ideas, Bonanza couldn’t withstand the purge and canceled in 1973.

Hogan’s Heroes

Hogan’s Heroes seems like an unlikely show to fall victim to the rural purge. After all, it took place in 1940s Germany, about as far from the world of The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction as you could get. The show ran from 1965 to 1971, logging 168 episodes during its run — the longest broadcast run for an American TV series inspired by World War II.

While it might not have fallen victim to the rural purge, it was a victim of a purge nonetheless. CBS didn’t think its brand of humor was in line with other hip urban sitcoms and it canceled the show unceremoniously in 1971, after only six seasons.

Hee Haw

Hee Haw an unapologetically rural-themed variety show that ran on CBS from 1969 to 1971. It featured country music and humor set in the fictional Kornfield Kounty. It inspired by Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In but focused on country music and rural rather than pop culture. As a result, it was far less topical than Laugh-In. It hosted by country music stars Buck Owens and Roy Clark for most of its run and was well-known for its corn pone humor and scantily-clad women known as the Hee Haw Honeys

Hee Haw fell victim to the rural purge when CBS went looking for more advertiser dollars but its producers ended up getting the last laugh. After the cancellation, they put together a syndication deal for the show and it continued in more or less the same format for the rest of its run, right through 1993, proving that it was possible to overcome the rural purge.

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