From top left: Mr. Kimball, Eb, Mr. Haney. Second Row: Lisa, Oliver, Oliver's Mother
Oliver Wendell Douglas (Eddie Albert), a successful New York lawyer, and his elegant socialite wife Lisa (Eva Gabor) move to the little country town of Hooterville and buy a little farm that is not in good condition. Oliver intends to set himself up in a simple country life as a farmer, but neither the reality of country life nor the insanity of the locals allows it. Lisa hates the country, but is better at dealing with the locals: her idea of haggling with Mr. Haney, the door-to-door salesman, is to lower her price when he lowers his—and it works for her... Hooterville also has a resident genius: Arnold the pig.A spinoff of the very staid Petticoat Junction, the show was initially a by-the-books sitcom, in which Oliver was portrayed as an obsessive eccentric, while Lisa, despite being rather spoiled and having a poor grasp of English, was meant to be normal. However, the show quickly took on a decidedly absurdist tone; Lisa turned into a Gracie Allen-style Cloud Cuckoolander, and Oliver became the Only Sane Man. The insane townspeople continue to see Oliver as an outsider while rapidly embracing Lisa as one of their own. Oliver, clinging tenaciously to logic, splutters and despairs as he sees his dream life in Hooterville slipping rapidly out of his fingers.Some of the causes of Oliver's perpetual headache are:
Eb (Tom Lester), the gold-bricking farmhand, who calls Lisa and Oliver "Mom" and "Dad", either as flattery or out of genuine confusion. To worsen matters, Lisa often forgets that Eb is not actually their son.
Mr. Haney (Pat Buttram), who sold them the faulty farm, and never gives up on trying to sell Oliver more dilapidated junk. Oliver thinks he's on to Haney, but he's surprisingly vulnerable to Haney's sales pitches.
Mr. Kimball (Alvy Moore), the county Agricultural Agent in charge of keeping all the local farms in good stead, and victim to short-term memory loss to the point that he forgets what he's talking about in mid-sentence as a matter of course.
Fred and Doris Ziffels (Hank Patterson and Barbara Pepper/Fran Ryan), friendly neighbors whose pet pig Arnold is treated by everyone as a real person — specifically, their son. Eventually, Arnold becomes a fairly major character on the show. Everyone can communicate freely with him, except Oliver, who is at a loss as to why these people think they can talk to a pig.
Alf and Ralph Monroe (Sid Melton and Mary Grace Canfield), a brother-and-sister carpenter team who are contracted to fix Oliver's derelict farmhouse. Although the Monroes show up at intervals to (supposedly) work, the house remains in a state of half-construction for the duration of the series.
There's also Mr. Drucker (Frank Cady) down at the general store, who acknowledges the ridiculousness of Hooterville while at the same time whole-heartedly participating in it. He's the only character who even approaches being logical by Oliver's standards, often leading Oliver to start sentences with "Mr. Drucker, you're a reasonable man...". In keeping with the apparent rules of the series, Mr. Drucker's behavior on Petticoat Junction tends more toward the normal end of the spectrum.
Adam Westing: Lyle Talbot, former matinee idol turned B-movie actor, portrayed "State Senator Lyle Talbot", a former matinee idol turned B-movie actor turned politician, parodying both himself and then California governor Ronald Reagan. He later portrayed the unnamed state's governor who would host marathons of his own films on a local TV station.
The Artifact: The theme song, which has Lisa wanting to go back to New York and hating farm living, even though that premise was mostly abandoned by the second season.
Be Careful What You Wish For: While on a 2 week vacation in New York City in "Oliver's Jaded Past", Oliver is tempted by all the girls he used to know into falling back into his old party-all-night lifestyle. Lisa makes Oliver give up an invitation to rejoin his old NY lawfirm and for the first time refers to Hooterville as their 'home'.
Shares a universe with Petticoat Junction, which shares a universe with The Beverly Hillbillies. Yet one episode has the Hootervillian Playhouse use a Beverly Hillbillies TV script as a play, and makes jokes about creator Paul Henning and star Buddy Ebsen.
Another episode casually mentioned that Beverly Hillbillies was one of the most popular shows in Hooterville.
Maybe the townspeople just consider the sitcom as based on the lives of the (for them) real Clampetts.
Lisa (and occasionally other townspeople) seeing and reacting to the opening "Written by" and "Directed by" credits.
In one episode Eb starts humming the Green Acres theme song, and then mouths Eva Gabor's "Dahling, I love you, but give me Park Avenue."
Very commonly the townspeople would ask Oliver how he got that fife to play "Yankee Doodle" in the background when he made one of his soapbox speeches.
The City vs. the Country: Played with. Oliver is tired of city life and moves to Hooterville to live the idyllic (he thinks) life of a farmer. He finds, however, that Hooterville operates by its own peculiar set of rules, and is often frustrated by its colorful denizens. His socialite wife Lisa is always begging him to return to the city, but, ironically, she is the one who fits in, as she is as loopy as the Hootervillians.
Cousin Oliver: Adorable little Lori lodges with the Douglases for a handful of episodes during the final season. Thankfully, she doesn't stick around long, and numerous episodes remain between her departure and the end of the series.
Criminal Doppelgänger: An episode featured a criminal who looked just like Oliver and the ensuing mix-up.
Crossover: Characters from this show and Petticoat Junction occasionally gravitated to the other. And one 1968 episode of The Beverly Hillbillies had the Clampetts traveling to Hooterville, leading to characters from all three shows intermingling. Once to the point where Mr. Drysdale was physically ill at Elly Mae even being interested in Eb.
Derailed For Details: Mr. Kimball's manner of speaking, although in his case it's more like "Derailed to Correct Something He Misremembered as the Exact Opposite of What Actually Happened."
Early-Installment Weirdness: Cross Over above explains this. The first season was more of a extension of Petticoat Junction, considering the citizens of Hooterville, including Kate and Uncle Joe, welcoming Oliver and Lisa to town, and helping them adjust (in fact, throughout the first season, Uncle Joe kept trying to flirt with Oliver's mother). However, by the second season, the show further branched off on its own, and many of the Petticoat Junction crossovers and references had become few and far between with some rare examples (such as the episode "Eb Discovers the Birds and the Bees"). In fact, Drucker's General Store became the only evidence that the two shows shared the same universe, and Mr. Drucker himself ended up being the only crossover character.
Easy Amnesia: Lisa gets hit on the head in one episode, believes Oliver is her butler, that she has a boyfriend named Mr. Fredericks, and demonstrates excellent cooking skills. Yet through the whole thing, she knows who Mr. Kimball is and treats him absolutely normally.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: In one episode from the last season, the Green Acres farm becomes something of a summer camp, where a number of little boys, and one girl (see Cousin Oliver above) stay with the Douglases; one day, Lori stays home alone with Lisa because Oliver had taken the boys skinny dipping at the lake... in fact, when they get home, and Oliver sneezes from possibly catching cold, one of the boys remarks maybe he shouldn't have taken off all his clothes. Now, imagine a camp councelor swimming with your kids, all naked.
Interspecies Romance: Arnold the Pig and Cynthia Haney, a bassetthound (or as Lisa says, 'baskethound').
Kafka Komedy: A frequent plotline is Oliver doing something to improve life for the citizens of Hooterville, only to have it backfire on him spectacularly. Sometimes this occurs due to the incompetence of the Hootervillians, sometimes it's just because the laws of the universe demand it. Regardless, Oliver never learns to stop doing this. Green Acres has been compared to Kafka many times.
The Lad-ette: Played with as far as Ralph is concerned. Although she, deep down, is very much a lady, there's an unwritten rule that she has to be regarded as man, from the fact her name is Ralph, she and Alf are refered to as "brothers", and all of this because they're both carpenters, and women apparently can't be carpenters.
Lampshade Hanging: Not only did they hang the lampshade on this show, they destroyed the lampshade. And the lamp too. Alf and Ralph are not to blame for that.
Lethal Chef: whatever you do, don't try Mrs. Douglas' "hotscakes".
In one episode, Oliver even used the batter to shape a replacement car part.
They also make excellent replacement roof shingles.
Limited Wardrobe: With the obvious exceptions of Oliver and Lisa, the rest of the cast wears the exact same outfits for all six seasons!
Eb wears a green army cap and trousers, with a pale blue buttoned shirt, covered with a checkered coat with different shades of brown.
Mr. Drucker wears a long-sleeved pale blue buttoned shirt, black sleeve covers, and a white apron.
Mr. Haney wears a straw hat, a white buttoned-shirt with a brown vest and slacks.
Mr. Ziffel wears an old brown hat, a red and green plaid shirt, and denim overalls, while Mrs. Ziffel usually wears the same spring green colored outfit (though on very rare occasions, is seen wearing something different).
Mr. Kimball wears a khaki-colored hat, khaki slacks, and a tan coat.
Alf and Ralph wear white hats and overalls, and blue work shirts.
Although Oliver had many different vests, the citizens of Hooterville seem to believe they have figured out what each vest indicates he is doing, et al, "Oh, he's wearin' his plowin' vest".
Even in the 1990 TV reunion movie, Return to Green Acres, the characters STILL wore their same outfits from the series.
Massive Numbered Siblings: Between the time the series ended, and before the reunion movie took place, Eb had gotten married, and had a bunch of kids, his oldest being a teen who wishes to move out of a dull town like Hooterville, and his wife being pregnant with another baby during the course of the movie.
Medium Awareness: Lisa notices the drum-and-fife music that plays whenever Oliver makes an impromptu speech (as does pretty much everyone else), and even the opening credits at one point.
Another example involved Lisa entering with the line, "Well, Oliver — here it is a week later!":
Oliver: A week later than what?
Lisa: Well, when Mrs. Ziffel came over here to do her washing!
Oliver: I know it's a week later. You don't have to march in here and announce that.
Lisa: Well, that's how they always do it in the movies. It's either somebody comes in carrying a sign which says, "Here it is a week later," or a calendar falls apart for a week, or somebody comes out and says, 'That week sure went by fast.' ... They do another thing in the movies, where the screen kind of swims" — (which it proceeds to do when Oliver looks at her) "And that shows that you're dreaming — but in this kind of situation we only do the one week later thing."
Loophole Abuse: In one episode the town revives it's economy by building planes for the US military. . . useless antique planes because their contract didn't have a due date so they could still make planes designed for WW 1. The government gets Oliver back by using the same loophole in his military discharge. All abuses fall through when it turns out that the town isn't competent enough to make even antique plane.
Only Sane Man: Oliver, though all the other characters think they're sane and that he's the crazy one. And by Hooterville logic, they may be right.
Mr. Drucker, however, could arguably be the only other sane person in Hooterville, for the most part.
The episode "The Ballad Of Molly Turgiss" dealt with Oliver trying to get the denizens of Hooterville to tell him about the legend of the eponymous ghost woman. Every time Molly's name was mentioned, strange things happened, such as things getting thrown through the air, pickle barrels falling apart, Mr. Haney's truck starting up on its own, etc. In the end, Molly promises not to do those things anymore after Lisa had a talk with her and made her beautiful, though she does manage to break the promise for a few seconds by smashing Oliver's guitar over his head, because she did not like the song that he wrote about her.
Another episode "The Saucer Season" involved Eb apparently having interacted with some aliens, which led to him becoming a celebrity about it, much to Oliver's chagrin. However, when an airforce lieutenant tried interviewing Eb about his encounter, Eb's attempts to tell the lieutenant about what he saw are censored by having him say "Bleep" repeatedly, to keep the facts in the dark.
Poorly Disguised Pilot: The final episode began with Oliver contacting his former secretary (who was just as ditzy and absent-minded as Lisa) in New York for contact information for his old jeweler to get his watch repaired... the rest of the episode focused on the secretary as well as her family and friends.
In fact the last TWO episodes were pilots, the one discribed above and one involving the resort that Oliver and Lisa are spending a second Honeymoon in.
Retcon: Almost everything about the characters changes from season to season, even episode to episode, for example...
In one episode, Ralph works for the Douglases as a maid, and it turns out she's a decent housekeeper, and a marvelous cook, providing Oliver with the first great meal he's eaten in a long time; in a later episode, Ralph is a terrible cook, even worse than Lisa.
Well, maybe Lisa gave her lessons, and they took.
Oliver and Lisa's stories about how they met are never the same... the only consistency with their stories is that their first meeting took place during WW 2.
In the pilot episode, Fred Ziffel is a pig farmer, and Arnold just happens to be one of his pigs, but throughout the rest of the series, Arnold is the only pig he has.
Mr. Kimball altogether. In his debut episode, he was depicted as a mild-mannered county agent, and a somewhat competent businessman; all of that is changed by his second appearance, where he becomes the scatter-brained, and otherwise absent-minded county agent who always frustrated Oliver with his incompetence and short-term memory.
Running Gag: The telephone pole telephone, the closet door falling, characters seeing the "Written by" and "Directed by" credits, Arnold doing un-piglike things, Haney turning up almost instantly upon Oliver expressing a need for something, Lisa's 'hotscakes' and general non-existent housekeeping skills.
In fact, it got to a point where series director Richard Baer began complaining to creator/writer Jay Sommers about excessive use of the same gags over and over again. And you have to admit, for a live action sitcom, even by 60s standards, this show seemed to rely way too heavily on these gags.
Take a Number: Oliver draws a high number, while the by-the-book clerk is still in the single digits, and insists on systematically calling every intervening number, even though Oliver is the only customer in the room.
Take That: Played for Laughs: When the farm is set up for electricity for the first time, Oliver goes to plug in his generator, causing a comical explosion that a narrator explains is what was really responsible for the 1965 northeast blackout.
Title Drop: Sort of. The earliest episodes of the series would contain a specific line of dialogue that also served as the title of the episode ("My Husband, the Rooster Renter", "You Can't Plug a 2 with a 6", among others).
The Unfavorite: Oliver's mother does this to him! She dotes on Lisa, almost always takes her side of an argument, and continuously tries to think of a scheme to bring her back to New York and leave Oliver behind it Hooterville; in fact, whenever Oliver reminds her, "You're my mother", her usual response is, "Don't spread it around", or, "Not so loud, people will hear you". In fact, in one episode where everyone thought Lisa was pregnant, she nearly comes apart at the thought of Lisa having a baby in a rinky-dink town like Hooterville, and even disowns Oliver for doing this to her.
Unintentional Period Piece: Averted. The show pretty much relied on the stigma that modern people (well, modern for The Sixties) were flocking more to city life, and leaving the country and farming behind, with Oliver being the biggest exception. Other than that, Mr. Drucker directly mentions the year 1966 in one second season (1966-67) episode.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Lisa had a pet yorkie named Mignon, whom she doted over throughout the first season, but afterwards, she pretty much disappeared, with the exception of an occasional apparence or mention in the second season.
Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Even funnier is the fact that even in-universe, people who don't live in Hooterville (or Crabwell Corners, or Pixley) either never heard of Hooterville before, or assume it's a made-up town.
In the reunion movie, the zipcode for Drucker's General Store suggests Hooterville is somewhere in Kentucky. Otherwise, an old book about TV Land (before the actual channel was launched) seemed to place Hooterville somewhere in Ozark region.
Write Who You Know: Pat Buttram based his performance of Mr. Haney on Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, who he had met several years before when Parker worked as a carnival barker.
You Look Familiar: Over the years, the series had various different character actors playing different guest roles, but one specific example involves Sid Melton in a guest role as an interior decorator in one of the first episodes shortly before taking on the role of Alf.