The Beverly Hillbillies, a beloved sitcom that first graced our television screens in 1962, has entertained audiences for generations. With its simple, rural family striking it rich and navigating the complexities of high society, the show has become an enduring classic. Today, we invite you to join us as we uncover some facts about The Beverly Hillbillies. So sit back, relax by the cement pond, and let’s journey back in time.
The critics loathed it.
Once in a blue moon, a television show emerges that captivates audiences and utterly confounds critics. The Beverly Hillbillies, a sitcom that first graced the airwaves in the early 1960s, was one such production.
Despite the harsh criticism from publications like The New York Times, Variety, and Time magazine, The Beverly Hillbillies defied expectations and became a beloved sitcom for millions of viewers. As detailed in Blockbuster TV: Must-See Sitcoms in the Network Era, the negative reviews did little to dampen the show’s popularity, and it even appeared to thrive in the face of such elitist disapproval.
Indeed, The Beverly Hillbillies became a lightning rod for critical animosity throughout its entire run. Audiences, however, adored the characters and their antics, leading to a love affair that mystified the media.
In a sense, the disconnect between the critics’ opinions and the love for The Beverly Hillbillies highlights the divide that can sometimes exist between media elites and everyday viewers.
The Beverly Hillbillies: TV Ratings Hit
The Beverly Hillbillies, in defiance of its complainer, swiftly catapulted to the apex of television popularity. Within a mere three weeks on air, the show claimed the top spot in TV ratings, a meteoric ascent that would later become the stuff of legends. It didn’t stop there, either; the show held onto the coveted number-one position for two seasons and remained a fixture in the top 20 for eight seasons. Only during its final year did the sitcom’s ratings falter, but by then, it had already etched its name in television history.
The numbers were as astounding as a surprise uppercut from a kangaroo. In just six short weeks after its debut, The Beverly Hillbillies had become the most-watched program on television. Between 1962 and 1964, an average of 57 million viewers tuned in to the antics of the beloved Clampett clan. In addition, two particular episodes, which aired on January 8 and 15 in 1964, hold the distinction of being the second and fourth most-watched television episodes of the entire decade, respectively.
The episode “The Giant Jackrabbit” has secured its place as one of the most-watched of all time. This iconic installment aired on the same day as President Lyndon B. Johnson’s first State of the Union address, attesting to the show’s popularity. It’s worth noting that The Beverly Hillbillies attracts around 60 million viewers at a time when the U.S. population is approximately 190 million, which means that a staggering 44 percent of all American televisions tune to the show during its peak.
The Beverly Hillbillies’ remarkable success story is a testament to the power of audience engagement, proving that even in the face of critical disapproval, a show can still capture the hearts and minds of millions.
The Beverly Hillbillies: From the Scratch
The show had their humble beginnings on a trip through the South taken by its creator, Paul Henning. In 1959, while exploring Civil War sites with his mother-in-law, Henning was struck by the idea of transplanting a rural Southerner into the heart of an , urban environment. Initially, New York City slates as the show’s backdrop, but Beverly Hills chooses as the setting due to cost considerations.
The inspiration for the series, however, can be traced back even further to Henning’s childhood experiences in Missouri. As a young boy, Henning, a native of the South, was an enthusiastic member of the Boy Scouts. His passion for nature and rural life ignites during camping expeditions in the Ozarks, near the town of Noel, Missouri. These adventures, which sometimes involved 14-mile hikes into the wilderness, left an indelible mark on Henning, who later drew upon these memories when crafting The Beverly Hillbillies.
In an interview with the Television Academy Foundation, Henning fondly recalled that he had always had a great affection for hillbillies, which started when he was a Boy Scout. His admiration for the rural way of life and his penchant for fish-out-of-water stories and cultural clashes led to the creation of the beloved sitcom.
The Beverly Hillbillies centered around a family of farmers who, after becoming rich, suddenly found themselves navigating the opulent world of Beverly Hills. This comical contrast provided a platform for exploring the characters’ interactions with the area’s wealthy residents, highlighting the stark differences—and similarities—between the two worlds. By mining his own experiences and fondness for rural life, Paul Henning crafted a television classic that resonated with audiences and showcased the value of cultural understanding.
The Beverly Hillbillies’ No. 1 Hit Song
Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, the legendary founders of the Foggy Mountain Boys, made a lasting impact on country and bluegrass music. However, their most famous work, “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” remains their sole No. 1 hit. The catchy theme song for The Beverly Hillbillies topped the country charts in January 1963 and even managed to reach No. 44 on the pop charts, showcasing its crossover appeal.
The talented banjo players were no strangers to the show, as they appeared in seven episodes, playing themselves. Interestingly, the original on-air version of the theme song was not performed by Flatt and Scruggs, but by Jerry Scoggins, who was working as a stockbroker at the time. Scoggins’ rendition of the tune became synonymous with the show, further cementing its place in popular culture.
When a movie remake of The Beverly Hillbillies was in production in 1993, Scoggins reached out to the studio about reprising his iconic performance. The studio, unaware that Scoggins was still alive, was surprised by his offer.
IT’S NOT ENTIRELY OIL-ACCURATE
The premise of The Beverly Hillbillies, while entertaining and engaging, does indeed defy geological reality. In the show, Jed Clampett, a struggling mountaineer, accidentally discovers an oil deposit while hunting, which sets the stage for his family’s transformation into wealthy Beverly Hills residents.
However, in reality, oil deposits are rarely, if ever, found in mountainous regions. The formation of oil reservoirs typically requires specific geological conditions that are not present in these areas. Oil is formed from the remains of ancient marine plants and animals that have been subjected to heat and pressure over millions of years. These organic materials are usually trapped in sedimentary rock layers, which are more commonly found in flat plains, in deserts, and beneath the ocean floor.
Mountainous regions, on the other hand, are formed through the collision of tectonic plates, resulting in the uplift and folding of the Earth’s crust. This process creates an environment that is not conducive to the formation of oil deposits.
While the premise of The Beverly Hillbillies may not hold up under scientific proof, it is no big deal since the show is a work of fiction, designed to entertain rather than educate. The story’s charm and appeal lie in the characters, their humorous fish-out-of-water experiences, and the cultural clashes they encounter, rather than in the geological accuracy of its premise.
THE URBAN RISE KILLED THE SHOW
The cancellation of The Beverly Hillbillies, along with other rural-themed shows like Petticoat Junction and Green Acres, was part of a move by CBS in the early 1970s. This period is often called the “rural purge,” during which the network sought to revamp its programming lineup to better cater to the tastes and preferences of a growing urban demographic, particularly younger viewers.
CBS believed this demographic was more interested in shows tackling contemporary issues, featuring urban settings, and having a more sophisticated appeal. As a result, the network began systematically canceling shows with rural themes or settings, regardless of their popularity or ratings.
The Beverly Hillbillies, despite its enduring charm and loyal fan base, was not immune to this corporate shift.
In the wake of the rural purge, CBS shifted its focus to more urban-themed shows, giving rise to a new era of television programming that reflected the changing tastes and priorities of the American viewing public. While The Beverly Hillbillies and other rural-themed shows may have been casualties of this shift, they remain beloved classics that continue to resonate with audiences to this day.
The 1993 Beverly Hillbillies movie attempted to recapture the magic of the original series but ultimately fell short of expectations. Unlike the television show, which defied critics and won over millions of fans, the film adaptation failed to resonate with both critics and audiences alike.
One possible reason for the movie’s lackluster reception could be the casting of different actors to portray the beloved hillbilly characters. Fans of the original series had formed strong connections with the original actors, and the new cast may not have been able to recreate the same chemistry or evoke the same nostalgia. Consequently, the film struggled to capture the essence and charm that had made the television series such a hit.
Critics were not kind to the movie adaptation, with some even going as far as to call it “one of the worst movies of this or any year.” The film adaptation simply could not match the enduring appeal and heartwarming charm of the original Beverly Hillbillies series.
Discovering “oil” in real life
Buddy Ebsen, best known for his role in The Beverly Hillbillies as Jed Clampett, embarked on a new creative journey following his retirement from acting. He turned his attention to writing and penned a novel titled Kelly’s Quest. It is a heartwarming collection of poems chronicling the emotional journey of a young girl as she experiences joy, heartbreak and learns lessons about love and life.
Despite the compelling narrative and Ebsen’s established reputation, he faced considerable challenges in publishing his work. He approached nine different publishers, all of whom declined to publish the novel. Undeterred by these rejections, Ebsen took matters into his own hands and decided to self-publish the book.
His determination and perseverance paid off, as Kelly’s Quest climbed to number 3 on the Los Angeles Times paperback best-seller list in 2001. This success not only showcased Ebsen’s talent as a writer but also demonstrated the power of persistence and self-belief in the face of adversity.
There you have it. It’s now time to hear from you. Which of the facts unveiled in the video did you find most interesting?