Episodes: 274 (half-hour)
TV show dates: September 26, 1962 — March 23, 1971
Series status: Cancelled/ended
Performers include: Buddy Ebsen, Irene Ryan, Donna Douglas, Max Baer Jr., Raymond Bailey, Nancy Kulp, Harriet E. MacGibbon, and Bea Benaderet.
TV show description:
As the memorable theme-song says, poor mountaineer Jed “J.D.” Clampett (Buddy Ebson) was shooting for his supper when one of his bullets struck oil on his property.
At the insistence of his kin, the new millionaire moves to Beverly Hills along with his mother-in-law Daisy “Granny” Moses (Irene Ryan), daughter Elly May Clampett (Donna Douglas) and his cousin’s son, Jethro Bodine (Max Baer, Jr.).
The foursome have to adjust to their strange new surroundings and do so with the help of greedy banker Milburn Drysdale (Raymond Bailey) and his secretary Miss Jane Hathaway (Nancy Kulp).
Episode 274 — Jethro Returns
Jethro finally comes out of hiding after some of “Granny’s cooking” doesn’t sit well in his stomach. The scheme of actor Dick Bremerkamp (Mike Minor) to woo Elle May for her money is finally exposed and he’s given a suitable job at the bank. Extended description of the last episode.
First aired: March 23, 1971
Ryan passed away in 1973 at the age of 70, just a couple years after the abrupt cancellation. As a result, there’s never been a full cast reunion.
In 1981, CBS aired Return of the Beverly Hillibillies. In this made-for-TV movie, Miss Jane works for the government and is trying to track down the recipe for Granny’s moonshine so that it can be used for fuel. It features the return of Kulp, Douglas, and Ebsen in their roles. Bailey had passed away in 1980 and Baer ultimately decided to pass on reprising the role of Jethro. The movie lacked much of the charm of the original show and performed poorly in the ratings.
In 1993, a retrospective was aired on CBS and called The Legend of the Beverly Hillbillies. Ebsen, Douglas, Baer, and a few supporting players reprised their roles for this mockumentary-style special. It’s explained that Miss Jane is in the witness protection plan, having testified against Mr. Drysdale for stealing all of Jed’s money. Elly lives with her critters, Jethro is a Beverly Hills doctor (following in Granny’s footsteps), and Jed lives quietly back in the hills. By the end of the special, Jed’s struck oil once again. The special was the fourth highest-rated program of the week.
Later in 1993, a feature film version of the show was released in theatres. It stars Jim Varney, Diedrich Bader, Erika Eleniak, Cloris Leachman, Lily Tomlin, Lea Thompson. The story is based on the early events of the series and the actors are essentially made up to look like the original actors. Leachman in particular bares a great likeness to Ryan, the original Granny. Ebsen, in his final screen performance, plays Detective Barnaby Jones — a role he played on television for eight years following Hillbillies’ cancellation. The movie was not a box office success and earned only $45 million domestically.
Prior to his death in 2003 at the age of 96, Ebsen reprised his role as Jed a few times for various commercials. Baer licenses several Hillbillies products and is working on a casino resort based on the sitcom.