Petticoat Junction is the intermediate entry in Paul Henning's trio of rural sitcoms, which also included The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres. It was produced by Filmways and originally aired on CBS from 1963 to 1970.
The series centered on Kate Bradley, mother of three and owner of a quaint hotel called the Shady Rest in the small town of Hooterville. She was allegedly aided by Uncle Joe, who tried to avoid getting involved in anything resembling work. Most episodes were about Kate trying to move along her girls' love lives, or one of Joe's money-making schemes. From time to time, the railroad company would threaten to take away Hooterville's mostly unnecessary rail line, but Kate would always straighten them out, since she needed the train to bring her guests.
Petticoat is known for its numerous cast changes; to start, there were the three daughters, Billie Jo, Betty Jo and Bobbie Jo (just don't ask which one's which). Only one of them was played by the same actress through the entire series, and another daughter was recast twice. Then, Bea Benederet, who played Kate, fell ill and died, and so June Lockhart was cast to fill in as a new maternal figure, the town doctor. Lockhart played her character straighter than comical Benederet, and the remaining episodes shifted more to Betty Jo's married life. There was some turnover in the supporting cast along the way.
Kate was related to The Beverly Hillbillies via Cousin Pearl (also played by Bea Benederet), who in turn was the cousin of a man named Jed. Eventually, Oliver and Lisa Douglas settled in Hooterville, resulting in the birth of Green Acres. Characters from each of these shows appeared on the others at one point or another.
Tropes featured include:
- Bavarian Fire Drill: Happens at least Once an Episode, usually to try and thwart Homer Bedloe's attempts to scrap the Cannonball.
- Big Eater: Uncle Joe.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Each of the Bradley girls—Billie Jo, Bobbie Jo, and Betty Jo.
- Brotherhood of Funny Hats: Uncle Joe, Sam Drucker and several other men are members of the Royal Order of Camels.
- Characterization Marches On: In conjunction with The Other Darrin. The girls' personalities shifted a lot as their actresses were recast, apparently to whatever best suited the talents and qualities of the new actress. Billie Jo started out the series as the most boy-crazy and troublesome daughter, but after Meredith Macrae took over the role, she became the most level-headed and independent one. Similarly, when Lori Saunders took over the role of Bobbie Jo, the character went from bookish and smart to flighty and scatter-brained. Even Betty Jo, who was played by Linda Henning for the entire run, dropped her tomboy qualities after she got married, but this seems to have been intentional Character Development.
- Cool Old Guy: Bedloe's boss, Norman Curtis, quickly turns into this, being fascinated by Hooterville and it's people, enjoying his visits out there and putting his foot down whenever he catches Bedloe trying to shut down The Cannonball again.
- Cool Train: The Hooterville Cannonball, which functions as not only the main rail service from Hooterville to Pixley, but also as a taxi service for Kate, amongst other odd and funny operations.
- Dinosaur Doggie Bone: In the second-season episode, "The Brontosaurus Caper", Betty Jo's dog goes through an open window into the closed-for-repairs Pixley Museum. Stealing the bones one-by-one, he slowly brings the skeleton of a baby Brontosaurus back to the hotel.
- A Dog Named "Dog": The stray that follows Betty Jo home and she ends up adopting is simply named "Dog"
- Early Installment Weirdness: In the first few episodes, Bedloe is a Punch-Clock Villain whose reluctantly willing to leave the cannonball alone once they explain to him that, despite how poorly run it is, it actually wont cost his company anything to keep it running. This might be explained as a case of It's Personal, brought on by his early humiliations, though.
- Eccentric Townsfolk
- Expository Theme Tune: "Come ride the little train that is rolling down the tracks to the junction/Petticoat Junction..."
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: One line in the theme song goes "Lots of curves, you bet, and even more when you get to the Junction." just as the clip of the girls' petticoats are seen on the exterior of the water tank.
- Kate using the girls to lure male guests to the hotel is just this short of Unfortunate Implications. It's all part of network head James Aubrey's "broads, bosoms, and fun" formula.
- Have a Gay Old Time: Just try to say "Hooterville" without smirking. Go ahead, try.
- Hidden Depths: The little family visit the national's capital. In front of the Lincoln Memorial Uncle Joe recites the entire Gettysburg Address from memory and with great sincerity and beautiful oral skills. He humbly tells the gathered crowd that he learned it in school.
- Long Bus Trip: Kate herself. Immediately following her disappearance (and Bea Benederets death), it is explained Kate has gone out of town to care for a sick aunt. She is barely mentioned again, regardless of how strange it is for Kate to never stop back home and see her newborn granddaughter. She is briefly mentioned in the final season, and although the cast shows some wistfulness in the moment, Kates status is left very ambiguous.
- Mean Boss: Mr. Carson could often be as mean as Bedloe, though it's usually to help out Kate and Co.
- Only Shop in Town: Drucker's General Store is this to Hooterville.
- Paranormal Episode: A couple over the series:
- "The Curse of Chester W. Farnsworth": The Shady Rest is haunted by the titular ghost.
- "That Was The Night That Was": A space alien rents a room at the hotel.
- The Place
- Perfumigation: Uncle Joe attempts to make money by selling "Lord Violet" and "Lady Violet" perfume, which everyone but him hates because it smells terrible. Even the pigs hate it. He doesn't seem to notice. It turns out to be an excellent mosquito spray.
- Quirky Town
- Too Dumb to Live:Why Floyd works for the railway and is never fired is a mystery.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Paul Henning based the series on a little town his wife knew in her childhood.
- Theme Naming: Billie Joe, Bobbie Jo, and Bettie Jo. This has become something of a Memetic Mutation; on other shows, when two people have similar names, expect a jab at Petticoat Junction to be made.
- The Scrooge: Homer Bedloe
- Literally in the first season Christmas Episode "Cannonball Christmas" ... He's determined to close the Cannonball on Christmas Eve even though his own Boss wants him to leave the Hootervillians alone.
- Shopkeeper: Mr. Drucker.
- Skinny Dipping: The opening shows the girls skinnydipping in the water tank. In fact that's how that particular location gets its (unofficial) name, from the girls' petticoats draped over the side of the tank.
- Though at least one episode showed the girls actually swimming in the tank, in swimsuits. An attempted subversion?
- In Episode 1, Kate chastised the girls for swimming in the tank, saying that if the train came early to take on water it'd leave them "high, dry and bare." Later they find bathing suits at the general store, but Kate says it's almost the end of summer.
- Supreme Chef: Kate's cooking and kindness through cooking might well be legendary in the area. She seems to pay everyone from the train to workers with food. In fact it's through food she saves the Shady Rest more than once.
- Stealing from the Hotel: And it's Serious Business. In one of only twoepisodes with a supernatural theme, "The Curse of Chester W. Farnsworth" sees the ghost of Chester W. Farnsworth haunt the Shady Rest. Many years before, Chester Farnsworth was a dashing young salesman, and a daring towel thief. Having stolen the towel in his room, Farnsworth left on a dark and stormy night never to be seen alive again. But his spirit has been forced to return the purloined towels before he'll be admitted into heaven. The Shady Rest Hotel is Farnsworth's last stop . . . .
- Steam Never Dies: In spite of Mr. Bedloe's many schemes to shut her down, the Hooterville Cannonball keeps on chugging along.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Dr. Craig for Kate.
- Sweet Home Alabama
- Wacky Marriage Proposal: When Steve Elliot intends to propose to Betty Jo Bradley, Sam Drucker catches wind of it and prints it on the front page of the Hooterville World Guardian. To avoid being scooped, Steve proposes to Betty Jo while she's upside-down working on his plane.
- Wrench Wench: Betty Jo.
- Zany Scheme: One of the few things (besides eating) that Uncle Joe puts much effort into.