Watching the fourth season of The Real McCoys is a learning experience. Oh, you won’t learn much about farming or the transition a family makes when moving from West Virginia to California. What you’ll learn is what the dark ages were like—attitudes that fueled the women’s liberation movement, among others.
The cast of characters includes Grampa Amos McCoy (star Walter Brennan), grandson Luke (Richard Crenna) and his new bride Kate whom he calls Sugar Babe (Kathleen Nolan), sister Hassie (Lydia Reed as the resident teenager), brother Little Luke (Michael Winkelham), farm hand Pepino (Tony Martinez). They have a grumpy neighbor named George (Andy Clyde) with a spinster sister (Madge Blake). Guess who the sister has her eye on.
Wife Kate is clearly the brains in the family, but the machismo is so thick in the air it’s amazing she can breathe, no less think. In the first five minutes of episode one, Grampa McCoy has these gems to impart: “When a woman starts pulling crossways in a harness she needs a strong hand wherever it lands on her,” and “You can learn anything you need to know on the other end of a broom” in response to Kate’s desire to attend night school.
Grampa is not only an expert on the role of women, but he’s also a master marriage counselor: “There comes a time in every man’s life when he’s got to stand on his own two feet and fight a woman.” There is an emphasis on a woman knowing her place, or else being put into it; and the woman, in order to manipulate her situation, is shown subverting her own talents and dreams.
The Real McCoys is a curiosity. It doesn’t lack humor, in fact it’s very funny at times. It inspired such rural comedies as The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, and Green Acres. Some of the situations upon which episodes were based are still being recycled in modern television. However, no matter how funny it gets, the humor is undermined by the nastiness of the mindset. Yes, I realize that, viewed with historical perspective, The Real McCoys is just another situation comedy, no more sinister than any other. But no less, either. The fact that this thinking was, more or less, the norm doesn’t make it less disturbing.
If the viewer can look past the sexual, regional, and ethnic stereotypes, there is humor to be found. However, attitudes have changed so radically in the past 50 years that it’s difficult to overlook dialogue that—at one time considered funny—is insulting and demeaning. Certainly there are people who will find this hilarious; I’m just not one of them.
Growing up is hard to do. As a little girl, I loved The Real McCoys. I had a crush on Richard Crenna (I suspect I had a crush on all male TV leads), and thought Kathleen Nolan was the prettiest thing. I expected to be writing fondly of the show.
Watching now, I am disappointed to see how insensitive it all was. The McCoys themselves are depicted as ignorant, uneducated hicks. At the end of each episode, someone actually has an intelligent thought or noble feeling, but it’s negated by the way it is expressed.
I’m no longer a little girl; I’m a li’l ol’ girl, and I just can’t put myself in a 1950s state of mind. I suppose I should be thankful for experiencing The Real McCoys again, just as a reminder that the “good old days” really weren’t all that great.
There are no extras included with this four-disk set. Bottom Line: Would I buy The Real McCoys Complete Season 4? No.