It’s been over three decades since Green Acres went off the air. Is it time to go back to country life in Hooterville?
Green Acres debuted on September 15, 1965 on CBS as a spin-off of The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction. The sitcom followed New York attorney Oliver Wendell Douglas (Eddie Albert) as he lived out his life-long fantasy of being a farmer. His glamorous and ditzy wife Lisa (Eva Gabor) was dragged unwillingly from her sophisticated life to live in a ramshackle farm in Hooterville. The bizarre small town was populated by a wide variety of eccentric characters like dimwitted farmhand Eb Dawson (Tom Lester), oily salesman Mr. Haney (Pat Buttram), scatterbrained county agent Hank Kimball (Alvy Moore), elderly farmers Fred and Doris Ziffel (Hank Patterson and Barbara Pepper, later Fran Ryan) and their “son,” Arnold the pig.
Like Hillbillies and Junction, Acres became incredibly popular and the show ran for 170 episodes. The sitcom’s 1971 cancellation was part of CBS’ “rural purge” that saw the cancellation of shows like Hillbillies, Mayberry R.F.D., and Hee Haw. Junction and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. had been cancelled a year earlier. Acres’ ratings were still high when it was cancelled but the older demographic wasn’t very attractive to advertisers. As Buttram once said, “It was the year CBS killed everything with a tree in it.”
Now, 36 years later, veteran TV director Richard L. Bare hopes that network tastes have changed. Bare directed all 168 episodes of Acres and plans to pitch a revival of the classic sitcom. He’s acquired rights from the widow of series creator Jay Sommers and wants to simply pick up where the original Acres left off. Casting is already underway for original cast lookalikes and location scouting has also begun. A script has been written by William Justice Forbes and veteran director Tom Logan has agreed to helm the pilot.
Though he didn’t plan it this way, Bare thinks that the writers strike will increase his chance of success. He told The Hollywood Reporter, “Studios are going to be searching for properties that have been written and ready to go into production without upsetting WGA in any way.”
Of the original cast, only Lester, Frank Cady (Sam Drucker), Sid Melton (Alf Monroe) and Mary Grace Canfield (Ralph Monroe) are still with us. None have been seen on-camera in years and Lester is the youngest of the group at age 69. It’s too early to know if any of them will be involved with this new project but, based on his long history with Acres, it seems likely that Bare will honor the original series in any way he can.