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"Oliver Buys a Farm," "Lisa's First Day on the Farm," "The Decorator," "The Best Laid Plans," "My Husband, the Rooster Renter," "Furniture, Furniture, Who's Got the Furniture?," "Neighborliness," "Lisa the Helpmate," "You Can't Plug in a 2 with a 6," "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You," "Parity Begins at Home," "Lisa Has a Calf," "The Wedding Anniversary," "What Happened in Scranton?," "How to Enlarge a Bedroom," "Give Me Land, Lots of Land," "I Didn't Raise My Husband to Be a Fireman," "Lisa Bakes a Cake," "Sprained Ankle, Country Style," "The Price of Apples," "What's in a Name?," "The Day of Decision," "A Pig in a Poke," "The Deputy," "Double Drick," "The Ballad of Molly Turgis," "Never Look a Gift Tractor in the Mouth," "Send a Boy to College," "Horse? What Horse?," "The Rains Came," "Culture," "Uncle Ollie"
by Walter Chaw A sort of old-fashioned dedication to the all-power of the paterfamilias that seems appalling now and probably seemed more than a little quaint by 1965, "Petticoat Junction" (and The Egg and I) spin-off "Green Acres" has a surprisingly good nature that forgives it a lot of its contemporary offensiveness, locating the series as a belated, often surreal continuation of television's "Golden Age" that saw father knowing best and mother knowing next to nothing. Oliver Wendell Douglas (Eddie Albert), the eternal Pollyannaish optimist, uproots his high society wife Lisa (Eva Gabor), the archetypical dingbat, from her beloved Park Avenue penthouse view and plants them both square in the middle of provincial Hooterville on 160 acres of the rundown old Haney farm. There are moments in the series' first season when it's apparent that series writers Jay Sommers and Dick Chevillat have something subversively weird on their minds; "Green Acres" is like a grassroots "The Prisoner" at times--it's just that brilliantly peculiar.
Though the first season aired in an alternating fashion with the third season of "Petticoat Junction", it's not long before "Green Acres" establishes itself as a meticulously constructed alternate reality all its own, shot entirely on soundstages that make no apologies about their artificiality. If standard sitcom, fish-out-of-water, culture clash scenarios rule the day, there are whole episodes even, that strike as satirical. Better, Arnold and Gabor make a charming couple, the one banking on the brusque good humour of an accomplished straight man, the other exhibiting a tremendous amount of feather-light charisma. How else does one deliver, as Gabor does in episode 1.17 ("I Didn't Raise My Husband to be a Fireman"), a line like, "Hey, they guessed your who-who." Don't ask. Or consider "Lisa the Helpmate" (1.8), in which every other line appears to be some sort of bizarre double entendre as Oliver tries to plant his contaminated field and Uncle Joe (Edgar Buchanan) sets out to covertly court Oliver's mother (Eunice Douglas), calling his mission of love "spear-fishing" ("Yeah, and who's the fish you're going to spear?" asks his spunky niece). It might be innocent--I'm thinking that it's too consistent, too consistently funny, to actually be.
The provincialism of the small town residents of Hooterville is presented in a sly sort of way that suggests that the only real idiot of the piece is Oliver--the show's affection for the culturally marginalized marking it as something of an ancestor to the clueless protagonists/wise outcasts of the Farrelly Brothers. An early episode written entirely in country-fried homily recalls both the experimental spirit of an Ionesco and the pop-aphoristic mumbo-jumbo of Dr. Phil. "Green Acres" is a tremendous surprise upon revisitation; while there's really no forgiving the sport that's made of Lisa's limited mental capacity (one episode is dedicated to her apparent inability to do simple addition), Gabor's performance is self-aware enough that Lisa functions as a pointed parody of a certain stereotype, namely Gabor's real-life socialite sister, Zsa Zsa.
"The Day of Decision" (1.22) offers a particular highlight in this regard: Oliver ponders aloud what's going on in Lisa's "pretty little head," and we cut to a close-up of Lisa with the sound of clanking machinery grinding in the aural background. Dreamy fantasy sequences mixed with the sharpest writing of the first season fashion from what is essentially a clips show elements that have obviously been the inspiration for many of the gags on "The Simpsons". The cruelty towards Lisa, then, becomes something like a commentary on traditional sitcom marriage, from the thinly-veiled abuse and anger of the Kramdens to the unveiled condescension of the Andersons, the Cleavers, and the Nelsons. Lisa's penchant for wearing eye-shadow and pearls to bed is something that has since become a staple of Golden Age satire.
Riding the wave of the astonishingly popular TV-on-DVD trend, MGM brings "Green Acres" home in a shelled two-disc gatefold that captures the bright art-deco quality of the series' look and sensibility. A slim case insert provides brief episode synopses, but the entire presentation is built-to-last. Fullscreen picture quality varies wildly between pretty good to pretty awful, depending, one surmises, on the condition of the source negatives, which have been through the syndication grinder at this point. The 2.0 mono audio tracks, however, sound clear and loud even when the video is degraded. There are no special features accompanying this initial 32-episode run, spread out across a pair of DVD-18s with eight segments per side. Originally published: March 30, 2004.
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