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By CBS Television - eBay itemphoto frontphoto back, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By CBS Television - eBay itemphoto frontphoto back, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

15 Farm-Fresh Facts About Green Acres

By CBS Television - eBay itemphoto frontphoto back, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By CBS Television - eBay itemphoto frontphoto back, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

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.

Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

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.

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15 Confusing Plant and Animal Misnomers
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People have always given names to the plants and animals around us. But as our study of the natural world has developed, we've realized that many of these names are wildly inaccurate. In fact, they often have less to say about nature than about the people who did the naming. Here’s a batch of these befuddling names.

1. COMMON NIGHTHAWK

There are two problems with this bird’s name. First, the common nighthawk doesn’t fly at night—it’s active at dawn and dusk. Second, it’s not a hawk. Native to North and South America, it belongs to a group of birds with an even stranger name: Goatsuckers. People used to think that these birds flew into barns at night and drank from the teats of goats. (In fact, they eat insects.)

2. IRISH MOSS

It’s not a moss—it’s a red alga that lives along the rocky shores of the northern Atlantic Ocean. Irish moss and other red algae give us carrageenan, a cheap food thickener that you may have eaten in gummy candies, soy milk, ice cream, veggie hot dogs, and more.

3. FISHER-CAT

Native to North America, the fisher-cat isn’t a cat at all: It’s a cousin of the weasel. It also doesn’t fish. Nobody’s sure where the fisher cat’s name came from. One possibility is that early naturalists confused it with the sea mink, a similar-looking creature that was an expert fisher. But the fisher-cat prefers to eat land animals. In fact, it’s one of the few creatures that can tackle a porcupine.

4. AMERICAN BLUE-EYED GRASS

American blue-eyed grass doesn’t have eyes (which is good, because that would be super creepy). Its blue “eyes” are flowers that peek up at you from a meadow. It’s also not a grass—it’s a member of the iris family.

5. MUDPUPPY

The mudpuppy isn’t a cute, fluffy puppy that scampered into some mud. It’s a big, mucus-covered salamander that spends all of its life underwater. (It’s still adorable, though.) The mudpuppy isn’t the only aquatic salamander with a weird name—there are many more, including the greater siren, the Alabama waterdog, and the world’s most metal amphibian, the hellbender.

6. WINGED DRAGONFISH

This weird creature has other fantastic and inaccurate names: brick seamoth, long-tailed dragonfish, and more. It’s really just a cool-looking fish. Found in the waters off of Asia, it has wing-like fins, and spends its time on the muddy seafloor.

7. NAVAL SHIPWORM

The naval shipworm is not a worm. It’s something much, much weirder: a kind of clam with a long, wormlike body that doesn’t fit in its tiny shell. It uses this modified shell to dig into wood, which it eats. The naval shipworm, and other shipworms, burrow through all sorts of submerged wood—including wooden ships.

8. WHIP SPIDERS

These leggy creatures are not spiders; they’re in a separate scientific family. They also don’t whip anything. Whip spiders have two long legs that look whip-like, but that are used as sense organs—sort of like an insect’s antennae. Despite their intimidating appearance, whip spiders are harmless to humans.

9. VELVET ANTS

A photograph of a velvet ant
Craig Pemberton, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

There are thousands of species of velvet ants … and all are wasps, not ants. These insects have a fuzzy, velvety look. Don’t pat them, though—velvet ants aren’t aggressive, but the females pack a powerful sting.

10. SLOW WORM

The slow worm is not a worm. It’s a legless reptile that lives in parts of Europe and Asia. Though it looks like a snake, it became legless through a totally separate evolutionary path from the one snakes took. It has many traits in common with lizards, such as eyelids and external ear holes.

11. TRAVELER'S PALM

This beautiful tree from Madagascar has been planted in tropical gardens all around the world. It’s not actually a palm, but belongs to a family that includes the bird of paradise flower. In its native home, the traveler’s palm reproduces with the help of lemurs that guzzle its nectar and spread pollen from tree to tree.

12. VAMPIRE SQUID

Drawing of a vampire squid
Carl Chun, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This deep-sea critter isn’t a squid. It’s the only surviving member of a scientific order that has characteristics of both octopuses and squids. And don’t let the word “vampire” scare you; it only eats bits of falling marine debris (dead stuff, poop, and so on), and it’s only about 11 inches long.

13. MALE FERN & LADY FERN

Early botanists thought that these two ferns belonged to the same species. They figured that the male fern was the male of the species because of its coarse appearance. The lady fern, on the other hand, has lacy fronds and seemed more ladylike. Gender stereotypes aside, male and lady Ferns belong to entirely separate species, and almost all ferns can make both male and female reproductive cells. If ferns start looking manly or womanly to you, maybe you should take a break from botany.

14. TENNESSEE WARBLER

You will never find a single Tennessee warbler nest in Tennessee. This bird breeds mostly in Canada, and spends the winter in Mexico and more southern places. But early ornithologist Alexander Wilson shot one in 1811 in Tennessee during its migration, and the name stuck.

15. CANADA THISTLE

Though it’s found across much of Canada, this spiky plant comes from Europe and Asia. Early European settlers brought Canada thistle seeds to the New World, possibly as accidental hitchhikers in grain shipments. A tough weed, the plant soon spread across the continent, taking root in fields and pushing aside crops. So why does it have this inaccurate name? Americans may have been looking for someone to blame for this plant—so they blamed Canada.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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18 Tea Infusers to Make Teatime More Exciting
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Make steeping tea more fun with these quirky tea infusers.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. SOAKING IT UP; $7.49

man-shaped tea infuser
Amazon

That mug of hot water might eventually be a drink for you, but first it’s a hot bath for your new friend, who has special pants filled with tea.

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2. A FLYING TEA BOX; $25.98

There’s no superlaser on this Death Star, just tea.

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3. SPACE STATION; $9.99

astronaut tea infuser
ThinkGeek

This astronaut's mission? Orbit the rim of your mug until you're ready to pull the space station diffuser out.

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4. BE REFINED; $12.99

This pipe works best with Earl Grey.

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5. A RIBBITING OPTION; $10.93

This frog hangs on to the side of your mug with a retractable tongue. When the tea is ready, you can put him back on his lily pad.

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6. ‘TEA’ ALL LIVE IN A YELLOW SUBMARINE; $5.95

It’s just like the movie, only with tea instead of Beatles.

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7. SHARK ATTACK; $6.99

shark tea infuser
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This fearsome shark patrols the bottom of your mug waiting for prey. For extra fun, use red tea to look like the end of a feeding frenzy.

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8. PERFECT FOR A RAINY DAY; $12.40

This umbrella’s handle conveniently hooks to the side of your mug.

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9. AN EGGCELLENT INFUSER; $5.75

cracked egg tea infuser
Amazon

Sometimes infusers are called tea eggs, and this one takes the term to a new, literal level.

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10. FOR SQUIRRELY DRINKERS; $8.95

If you’re all right with a rodent dunking its tail into your drink, this is the infuser for you.

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11. HANGING OUT; $12.85

This pug is happy to hang onto your mug and keep you company while you wait for the tea to be ready.

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12. ANOTHER SHARK OPTION; $5.99

If you thought letting that other shark infuser swim around in the deep water of your glass was too scary, this one perches on the edge, too busy chomping on your mug to worry about humans.

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13. RUBBER DUCKIE, YOU’RE THE ONE; $8.95

Let this rubber duckie peacefully float in your cup and make teatime lots of fun.

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14. DIVING DEEP; $8.25

This old-timey deep-sea diver comes with an oxygen tank that you can use to pull it out.

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15. MAKE SWEET TEA; $10

This lollipop won't actually make your tea any sweeter, but you can always add some sugar after.

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16. A SEASONAL FAVORITE; $7.67

When Santa comes, give him some tea to go with the cookies.

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17. FLORAL TEA; $14.99

Liven up any cup of tea with this charming flower. When you’re done, you can pop it right back into its pot.

Buy on Live Infused.

18. KEEP IT TRADITIONAL; $7.97

If you’re nostalgic for the regular kind of tea bag, you can get reusable silicon ones that look almost the same.

Buy on Amazon.

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