Plot: Oliver Douglas (Eddie Albert) is a successful attorney in Manhattan, but he has been worn down by the fast paced, complicated urban lifestyle. He dreams of a laid back life where he works with his hands, though his wife Lisa (Eva Gabor) adores the wonders of big city existence. But Oliver has had enough of the hustle and bustle, so he looks to purchase some rural land and run a small farm, a huge change of pace from his hectic law career. A real estate deal with the shady Mr. Haney (Pat Buttram) lands the Douglas couple the plot to start this dream, but it turns out the house is more than a fixer upper and requires massive renovations. While Lisa struggles to adjust to this ramshackle life, Oliver is determined to build his new land into a home and a farm, no matter how much work is involved. But can two big city folks like the Oliver and Lisa really thrive in this rural landscape?
Entertainment Value: An undisputed sitcom classic, Green Acres ran for six seasons and well over one hundred episodes. The show combines two time tested story threads, with Lisa and Oliver as an odd couple, then both of them as fish out water when they shift from Manhattan to the rural countryside. The premise is a simple one, but it does what it needs to and that is set up plenty of comedic situations. The early episodes are a lot of fun, as the couple goes from a plush lifestyle to a shack with no amenities, slowly getting the farm going and seemingly always on a one step forward, two steps back type of schedule. As the show progresses, the couple becomes more at home with farm life, but plenty of mishaps and comic situations arise. In addition to the relationship humor as Oliver beams hope and Lisa seems ever put out, the show boasts a nice selection of offbeat rural folks to keep things varied and humorous. Mr. Haney is great as the hayseed shyster, while Eddie and Lisa’s interactions with Hooterville’s other colorful residents is always fun to watch. The humor is broad and never tries to be subtle, but most of it works and the show never fails to entertain. And the show does rise above the usual sitcom tropes in many episodes, so it is a cut above the genre and certainly earned its reputation as a television classic.
I think the main reason Green Acres worked so well is the presence of Eddie Albert, who plays Oliver as an eternal optimist who never gets waylaid by setbacks. Albert is often the straight man, but he still brings immense humor and character to Oliver, a far richer performance than most sitcoms can claim. As the show moves forward, Albert really finds the sweet spot as Oliver, making sure his performance is on point, but also making his costars shine, which really enhances the show. Eva Gabor brings a great turn to the show as well, showing some skilled timing and comedy chops, as well as being the ideal foil for Albert’s optimist. As I said above, Hooterville is home to numerous colorful roles and that also adds a lot to the show’s success, as the interactions can be priceless and pack a strong comedic punch. As with any long running show, some episodes and story threads are better than others, but I think Green Acres is consistently funny and rarely passes off a clunker episode. That is no minor feat, especially with over one hundred episodes produced. If you’re a fan of classic television or great sitcoms, Green Acres is the life for you.