15 Farm-Fresh Facts About Green Acres
From 1965 to 1971, Green Acres was, indeed, the place to be. For six seasons, the CBS sitcom featuring a couple who traded fast-paced city living for the "simple" country life was a fan favorite. From the real-life inspiration for the show to the identity of one very famous fan, here are 15 things you may not have known about Oliver and Lisa Douglas and their eclectic acquaintances in Hooterville.
1. THE SHOW WAS BASED ON A RADIO PROGRAM CALLED “GRANBY’S GREEN ACRES.”
Like other early TV shows, Green Acres had its roots in an old radio show. “Granby’s Green Acres” had the same basic premise about a banker-turned-farmer who knew more about growing funds than crops. The show only aired for about seven weeks during the summer of 1950, but it allowed Jay Sommers to create and produce the similarly-themed TV show more than a decade later.
2. THE WHOLE RIDICULOUS PREMISE WAS BASED IN REALITY.
If it seems a bit farfetched that a city slicker would leave a lucrative career in finance to rehab a dying farm without knowing a thing about agriculture, well, at least one person has tried it. “I got the idea from my stepfather when I was a kid,” Sommers, the show's creator, said in a 1965 interview. “He wanted a farm in the worst way and he finally got one. I remember having to hoe potatoes. I hated it. I won’t even do the gardening at our home now, I was so resentful as a child.”
3. EDDIE ALBERT DIDN'T FIND THE PREMISE RIDICULOUS AT ALL.
Eddie Albert, who starred as Oliver Wendell Douglas, had previously eschewed television roles, believing that the medium was "geared to mediocrity." But after his agent explained the idea behind Green Acres, Albert was hooked. "I said, 'Swell; that's me. Everyone gets tired of the rat race. Everyone would like to chuck it all and grow some carrots. It's basic. Sign me,'" he told TV Guide. "I knew it would be successful. Had to be. It's about the atavistic urge, and people have been getting a charge out of that ever since Aristophanes wrote about the plebs and the city folk."
4. BOTH STARS HAD A LITTLE BIT OF THEIR CHARACTERS IN THEM.
Albert turned the front yard of his Pacific Palisades house into a cornfield, and also had a large greenhouse in the back where he grew organic vegetables.
Eva Gabor, who played Lisa Douglas, owned cats, dogs, birds, chickens, roosters, and rabbits. She was a little bit like her urban character, though; according to her assistant, Gabor hadn't had the rabbits for long when she decided to show them off at a party. When she got to the hutch, it appeared that the rabbits had done what they do best, because there were suddenly quite a few more. "Didn't I just get a pair of rabbits? Where did the others come from?" she asked her assistant. Her dinner party guests explained that rabbits were famous for their impressive reproduction.
5. THE FAMOUS THEME SONG WAS WRITTEN BY VIC MIZZY.
Vic Mizzy, who created the Green Acres theme, certainly had a knack for composing catchy theme songs; he’s also responsible for The Addams Family song. It marked the first time the stars of a show performed the theme song.
6. THE ACTORS DIDN’T AD LIB—EVER.
“There was no time to improvise on that program,” Albert once said. “And furthermore, it was so well written, it would be impossible to improve on it. We never changed a word. I’ve never been in anything before or since that I didn’t want to monkey with a sentence here or something. But not a word there. It was so clean and so tight.”
7. IT WAS ONE OF DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER’S FAVORITE SHOWS.
During his retirement years, keeping tabs on the residents of Hooterville became one of the former president’s favorite pastimes. The Eisenhowers loved the show so much that they deemed their valet’s pet pig “Arnold” and allowed it to freely roam their house—even letting it lounge on slip-covered chairs that their grandkids weren’t allowed to sit on.
8. ALBERT WASN'T PLEASED WITH GABOR'S FURS AND FEATHERS.
On one occasion, Albert—an environmentalist—asked Gabor to avoid wearing an expensive outfit festooned with feathers onscreen. When Gabor protested, saying how beautiful it was, Albert told her that he didn't want other women to copy the fashion, causing the deaths of more birds. "Eddie, feathers don't come from birds," she told him. When he asked her where she thought feathers came from, she responded, "Dahlink. Pillows! Feathers come from pee-lowz!"
"She swears that she was not teasing me!" Albert later said.
9. MR. HANEY WAS BASED ON ELVIS PRESLEY'S MANAGER.
Actor Pat Buttram, who played Mr. Haney, met Elvis Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, on the set of the movie Roustabout, where Buttram played the owner of a carnival. He got the part of Mr. Haney just a year later—and later stated that he used Parker as inspiration for the Green Acres swindler.
10. WE NEVER FOUND OUT WHERE HOOTERVILLE WAS LOCATED.
Much like The Simpsons’s Springfield, viewers never found out for sure where Hooterville was located. Though Sommers once referenced time spent on a farm in Greendale, New York, Mr. Haney stated the town was located about 300 miles from Chicago. And the accents on the show are all over the place.
11. THE SHOW WAS FULL OF LITTLE INSIDE JOKES.
During one episode, Lisa explains to Oliver that he needs to accept her lack of cooking skills. "When you married me, you knew that I couldn't cook, I couldn't sew, and I couldn't keep house. All I could do was talk Hungarian and do imitations of Zsa Zsa Gabor." Zsa Zsa, of course, was Eva Gabor's real-life sister.
There are also many references to The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction, both of which were also produced and/or written by Green Acres's executive producer Paul Henning. In the episode below, Hootervillians discuss putting on a local production of The Beverly Hillbillies. Lisa ends up playing Granny Clampett while Oliver stars as Jethro.
12. IT WAS CANCELED AS PART OF THE “RURAL PURGE” OF THE EARLY 1970s.
When Green Acres got the axe in 1971, it wasn’t the only show to go. That was the year that CBS got rid of “everything with a tree,” according to Buttram. The so-called “rural purge” also saw the demises of The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, Hee Haw, The Andy Griffith Show, and Lassie.
13. ARNOLD THE PIG WAS NOT EATEN AT THE SHOW'S WRAP PARTY.
After the show wrapped, the actors were often asked what happened to Arnold the pig. On one such occasion, Tom Lester, the actor who played Eb Dawson, responded that Arnold was cooked and eaten at the luau-themed wrap party. Don't worry—he wasn't.
14. THERE WAS A REUNION SHOW IN 1990.
Return to Green Acres saw Oliver and Lisa—you guessed it—returning to Green Acres after spending 20 years back in New York. Mr. Haney is up to one of his underhanded schemes as usual, and the residents of Hooterville need the Douglases to save the town.
15. THE SHOW EXPERIENCED A REVIVAL IN THE 1990s.
In the 1990s, Nick at Nite brought Green Acres back, advertising it with the tagline, “It’s not stupid ... it’s surrealism!” Apparently they weren't the only ones who thought so. "A professor once told me students see it as surrealistic," Albert told People Magazine. "He said, 'The comedy is like Pickwick Papers or Gulliver's Travels or Voltaire. It's so far out that it becomes truth, deep truth.'"
And there could be more Green Acres on the way. The book was written for a Broadway production as of 2012, and a movie was in the works at the same time. Not much has happened since, at least not publicly, but you never know when those projects will pop up again.