MeTV presents 7 Darn Tootin’ True Facts about The Beverly Hillbillies. Here are three of my favorites..
1. The Critics Loathed It
If there was ever evidence of the divide between critics and the public, this is it. Few seismic hits have ever received such a drubbing in the press. According to the book Blockbuster TV: Must-See Sitcoms in the Network Era, upon the Hillbillies premiere, The New York Times deemed the show “strained and unfunny.” Variety said it was “painful to sit through.” Time decried that “the pone is the lowest form of humor.” The elitist uproar hardly seemed to matter.
2. It was a Ratings Behemoth
The number are truly staggering — like being punched by a kangaroo. A mere six weeks after its debut, The Beverly Hillbillies was the most watched program on television. Between the years 1962 and 1964, the show averaged 57 million viewers. The episodes that aired January 8 and 15 in 1964 rank as the second and fourth most watched television episodes of the entire decade, respectively. The former of those, “The Giant Jackrabbit,” remains one of the most watched half-hours of all time. It ran the same day at LBJ’s first State of the Union address. Bear in mind, this show was luring around 60 million viewers at a time when the U.S. population was approximately 190 million. At some points in its run, 44-percent of all American televisions were tuned to the show.
5. Sharon Tate Appeared in the Biggest Episode
Wearing a brunette wig, blonde bombshell Sharon Tate actually appeared in fifteen episodes as Janet Trego, including “The Giant Jackrabbit.” Her character was a secretary at the bank. Tate, who was close with “Jethro” portrayer Max Baer, Jr., would end up as a tragic victim of the Manson family killings. In Stephen Cox’s book The Beverly Hillbillies, director Joe Depew is quoted as saying, “When we first got her, she couldn’t even walk through the door convincingly.”