Petticoat Junction: The Great Remake Project
Thank you, Paul Henning
In another life, screenwriter, producer, the late Paul Henning had to be a master chef. For if you have had the pleasure to viewing just one episode of Petticoat Junction, you will easily realize without any written program, Henning blended just the right amount of humor along with serious dialogue to make this show, in my opinion, his "pearl" of all the CBS rural comedies he produced.
Henning's expert blending also applied to the characters cast for Petticoat Junction. He put two show business legends, Bea "Kate Bradley" Benaderet and Edgar "Uncle Joe Carson" Buchanan, whose careers had their roots in radio as well as Vaudeville. These two show business icons lent that certain expertise to their sitcom that the supporting cast, mostly young actors, could benefit from to further their latter careers.
Petticoat Junction, I have to be truthful, in its beginning, was, in every way, funny. The lines, the sight gags, and sometimes-abstract thought that was so typical of the way the citizens of "Hooterville," thought about life and its various adventures. But for Henning, it was not just a fun project to produce and write for Petticoat Junction, but a glowing reason to go to work everyday.
Let's Visit Petticoat Junction
- Petticoat Junction is an American situation comedy produced by Wayfilms (a joint venture of Filmways Television and Pen-Ten Productions) that originally aired on CBS from September 1963 to April 1970. The series is one of three interrelated shows about rural characters created by Paul Henning. Petticoat Junction was created upon the success of Henning's previous rural/urban-themed sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies (1962–1971). The success of Petticoat Junction led to a spin-off Green Acres (1965–1971).
- The setting for the series is the Shady Rest Hotel, just outside the farming town of Hooterville (later the location of Green Acres). The hotel is situated on the train line of the C. & F.W. Railroad, halfway between the towns of Pixley and Hooterville, each 25 miles (40 km) away. The characters "seem" to go to Hooterville for some goods and services, including high school and the hospital, but prefer Pixley for supermarket shopping, beauty parlors, and movies.
- The petticoat of the title is an old-fashioned garment once worn under a woman's skirt. The opening titles of the series featured a display of petticoats hanging on the side of the railway's water tower where the three originally teenage daughters are apparently bathing in the nude, or skinny-dipping. In fact, the show's opening theme contains a hint of sexual innuendo in the line, "Lotsa curves, you bet, and even more when you get to the Junction." This is an obvious double entendre referring to both the train tracks and the Bradley daughters.
Why not leave well enough alone?
Toward the end of a very successful run, Petticoat Junction's scripts as well as plots became childlike, strange and sometimes annoying to watch, such as, in my honest opinion, Green Acres, another Henning production. It was as if someone, not Paul Henning, was having to apologize for the working-mixture that Henning created in the blurry screenwriting that hid the "real" and balanced premise for Petticoat Junction: a moderate, settled-down, laid-back atmosphere with "real" characters who could be believable.
One example I offer is the fusing of The Beverly Hillbillies, another Henning "baby," to Petticoat Junction with Jed, Granny, Jethro and Elly May, along with Milburn Drysdale and (Miss) Jane Hathaway, trailing along to help Drysdale keep Jed's millions happy inside Drysdale's bank.
Granny, who was summoned to the Shady Rest Hotel by Kate Bradley to help with Betty Jo's first baby after her and newcomer, Steve Elliott came aboard the cast as a freelance pilot. But a Hooterville local named, "Howard Hewes," makes fast-friends with Jed Clampett and this hot news gets back to Mr. Drysdale who sees an even bigger account in the Commerce Bank of Beverly Hills by combining Jed's and Howard's millions, a believable script, but as this one show went further, it took on a tired, boring image and I am sure that even the most-loyal fans of Petticoat Junction could sense.
I still resent Hennings' bosses
If Paul Henning's bosses had just left the "sauce" alone. And I mean by "sauce," the successful-mixture of good scripts and acting by the cast of Petticoat Junction--and say a quick "no" to the latter scripts that didn't fly and not blending more reality into the show as to not overwhelm the show's legions of fans.
By the term, "more reality," I mean . . .
If the central industry of the Hooterville valley was farming, why didn't you see anyone farming? The main "farmers," "Newt Kiley," and others, were always sitting around Sam Drucker's General Store asking questions, even for Newt, were ignorant while his apple crop or whatever crop was tended by some phantom farmhand, I can only guess.
Couldn't the main writers of Petticoat Junction have made Hank Kimball, the county agent, played by another show business legend, sensible on some shows of Petticoat Junction and Green Acres? I am sorry. This just became a "thorn in my television viewing" when each time Kimball was written into a show, it was the same ol', same ol' dialogue with Eddy "Oliver Wendall Douglas" Albert in his cornfield talking about crop prices, well, not crop prices. Pure ad nauseum, I have to admit.
And while I "get it," for CBS in this "golden timeframe," of raking in millions on these rural comedies, why didn't producers have just one serious plot on one of their stable of superstar actors? Audiences, I think, would have loved it.
I will spare you my further ramblings and segments of a careful dissection of Petticoat Junction and Green Acres, just so I can ask you one question:
Do you think it would be within the realm of sensible-possibilities, to have a remake of Petticoat Junction? I mean a total-remake from cast to script and film the remake for the big screen.
Who's Who of Petticoat Junction
Uncle Joe Carson (222 episodes, 1963-1970)
Linda Henning ...
Betty Jo Bradley ... (222 episodes, 1963-1970)
Bea Benaderet ...
Kate Bradley (175 episodes, 1963-1968)
Frank Cady ...
Sam Drucker (165 episodes, 1963-1970)
Bobbie Jo Bradley (148 episodes, 1965-1970)
Rufe Davis ...
Floyd Smoot (128 episodes, 1963-1970)
Meredith MacRae ...
Billie Jo Bradley (114 episodes, 1966-1970)
Mike Minor ...
Steve Elliott ... (112 episodes, 1964-1970)
Smiley Burnette ...
Charley Pratt (105 episodes, 1963-1967)
Jeannine Riley ...
Billie Jo Bradley (73 episodes, 1963-1965)
Pat Woodell ...
Bobbie Jo Bradley (70 episodes, 1963-1965)
Gunilla Hutton ...
Billie Jo Bradley (33 episodes, 1965-1966)
Charles Lane ...
Homer Bedloe (24 episodes, 1963-1968)
Other Petticoat Junction nostalgia
Cast of New Petticoat Junction
Reba Mcentire -- Kate Bradley
John Goodman - Uncle Joe Carson
Kaley Cuoco -- Billy Joe
Courtney Cox -- Betty Jo
Mandy Moore-- Bobby Jo
Ed Helms -- Steve Elliott
Kevin Baumgartner -- Sam Drucker
Wayne Knight -- Mr. Haney
Tom Arnold -- Charley Pratt
Will Farrel -- Floyd Smoot
My turn to remake this television icon
So what would I, a complete amateur, “green horn,” when it comes to film remakes, do to remake one of CBS’ and America for that matter, very best sitcoms?
Do not worry, Petticoat Junction fans, if I were given a huge billion-dollar budget to hire anyone and everyone I wanted to help film and make this remake a success, I would do the following:
• Maintain the simple integrity of the production as it was on CBS Television. No complicated plots, silly scripts, and outlandish underlying political statements. Just plain, pure comedy.
• For the soundtrack, I would hire Nashville and Branson, Missouri’s finest: Kelly Pickler; Little Big Town; Hank Williams, Jr.; Lee Ann Rimes and The Kentucky Headhunters to give this remake a collection of songs that are not perfect, but say what the movie is about.
• I would have cameo’s, even in original film clips, Kate, Uncle Joe, and others who starred on the original Petticoat Junction, but I would not overdo this effect, but just enough to blend the past and present.
• No real violence to anyone or animals.
• Sets for the movie would be as close to the original Petticoat Junction as possible.
- The plot for the movie would be simple. Jeremy Irons, the dramatic actor, would star as a genius computer hacker who hacks the “upgraded” computer system located in Pixley, to seize control of the valuable farmland in Hooterville for his evil scheme of blackmailing the Federal Government into giving him a hundred million dollar ransom to set this innocent settlement free.
- Fear now controls the citizens of Hooterville as there is no electricity, mail delivery, even the “Cannonball,” train and railroad is not able to get free of Irons, “Thomas Blaze,” wicked computer powers. This forces the Hooterville residents to use their own rural abilities of survival until this problem is solved.
- But the one and only twist to this remake is that Wayne Knight, “Uncle Joe,” has never mentioned that he has built a good friendship with the real Hollywod actor, Stephen Segall, who stopped at Sam Drucker’s store a few years ago asking directions and for some reason, Joe recognized him, but Segall made him promise to not tell a soul. This was probably the only time Joe honored a confidence.
- Joe somehow gets a message to Segall via Western Union, another upgrade to Hooterville, but is located in Pixley, to come and help him and his friends. Segall arrives at seemingly the last minute and as usual, single-handedly, takes out what henchmen “Blaze,” has sent to the Shady Rest to make sure no one gets away to contact the authorities.
- After order is restored to Hooterville, Joe thanks Segall and convinces him to move to the settlement and act as a deputy sheriff. Of course, the two remaining single daughters of Kate Bradley are all for this idea. Segall, as the movie ends, has his famous smile as he is shaking hands with Joe.
So would you buy a ticket?