There’s classic television, and then there’s iconic television. The latter is the category The Beverly Hillbillies falls into. Its set-up, unforgettable characters, and ridiculous scenarios are perfect for a goofy sitcom, and the series never lost its touch.
Unbelievably, this is the first DVD season of the show available. The first season is apparently in public domain, with selected episodes appearing in a variety of "best of" or compilation sets.
Regardless, it’s not as if the second season is a dud. The set-up, that of a poor country family moving into the high class city of Beverly Hills is worthy of TV legend for a reason. It’s a simple, brilliant concept, and even if it feels like it’s being overplayed from one season to the next, for some reason the jokes never feel stale.
While Buddy Ebsen is the star, the head of the family Jed Clampett, it’s Irene Ryan who steals every scene she’s in. The volatile, stubborn, and completely hilarious character known to most people as Granny (although the character’s name was in fact Daisy), is undoubtedly what made the show complete. It’s a hardly a surprise the character would turn up on other sitcoms of the day in guest appearances.
Her brilliance can be seen in a number of episodes in this set, including "Granny Learns to Drive" or "The Giant Jack Rabbit". In fact, these are arguably the best of the lot. Then again, not many of these could be considered to be lacking in entertainment. This is classic TV done right.
For the show’s “official” DVD premiere, CBS has done a fine job. Each episode offers excellent clarity, with a minor layer of dirt and grain being the only noticeable hindrance. There’s not a speck of damage anywhere to be found on the original prints, impressive given the age. Contrast is set perfectly and it’s not difficult to pick out some fine detail.
The audio on the other hand truly sounds its age. The opening theme is scratchy, along with almost all dialogue. Fidelity is low, and the audio sounds muted. This is a mix that remains true to its original source, for better or worse.
It’s surprising there’s anything in terms of extras on this disc, with the golden piece being a screen test of Irene Ryan, plus a clip from the original pilot. Two show promos are included, and an interview with writer Paul Henning (from 1969) is included. He states his thoughts on the show, and on the increase in TV violence of the day. Also, you can choose to watch episodes with their original sponsor ads, although you’ll be warned about the dangers of smoking before some of them thanks to the lawyers over at CBS.
The cancellation of the show in 1971 came not due to ratings or decline in advertisers, but an attempt by CBS to change its image. Other shows canned for this reason include Green Acres and Petticoat Junction.