Ce-ment fish biting today?
Ah, the 1960s - the world would not see the likes of its non-intuitive oddball television premises until all of those absurd, can-you-believe-they-got-away-with-this? premises were recycled wholesale some 30 years later. That's right, come and listen to this story 'bout a man named Jed.
The Beverly Hillbillies
Is there any more American premise than a backwoods family falling into untold riches via a sexy non-renewable resource? The Kardashians have nothing on the Clampetts.
And hey, apparently they had a Halloween episode, so let's see how the other half of the 1%-half lives and celebrates this day of tricking and/or treating. My best guess is that there may be some manner of cultures clashing between our heroes and the citizenry of the future-home of Brenda Walsh. Something along the lines of, "Mr. Drysdale, you've hung up your Halloween decoration using Jethro's rope-belt!" Pull up a chair next to this giant mixing-bowl of cereal and let's dig in.
Space: Beverly Hills, CA
Time: October 31st, 1962
Episode: "Trick-Or-Treat" Season 1, Episode 6
So, this one threw me for a second - I thought there'd been a clerical error of some kind, some sort of mistake. It's weird, this one, let's be real about it. At this point, we're only 6 eps into what would be a 9 season run. I know, I'm always doing that, italicizing how many seasons a silly show gets to underscore how unbelievable it is. But, come on... Mister Ed got 6 seasons? Sure, My Mother the Car only got one season, which is not worth emphasizing, but the 30 episodes that one season produced totally does. 30 episodes! Shit, Fawlty Towers only has 12!
My point being, early in the run of any series, you're going to have that 'finding-yourself' period with a cast and crew - you can't totally entrench characters into caricatures (as is the inevitable evolution of any good character) until they've had some time to stretch out. So, here we are, in the Hills of Beverly, six eps in and working our premise with the same enthusiasm of a pilot. And herein lies the trouble, for I was certainly not going into the Beverly Hillbillies Halloween episode prepared to watch Irene Ryan grapple with the literal and figurative distance between the old life she knew for lo those many hundreds of years, and her new life of wealth and leisure. Oh sure, I'd anticipated Granny fishing in the ce-ment pond - that's what The Beverly Hillbillies is mostly about - but I had not anticipated the cloud of angst hovering over her head - it's practically Angela Chase-esque!
Likewise, I'd also not anticipated watching Jed Clampett get misty-eyed at the sight of his daughter, Elly May, dressed up in an out-on-the-town dress and ready to meet new, exciting people in California. It was an actual goddamned moment, a nuanced example of a father-daughter relationship that offered dimension to both of these so-called "hillbillies." Naturally, I shouted at the television, "Noooo, stop making me feel things, Buddy Ebsen! I did not sign up to have goddamned feelings be acknowledged!" It was a tender scene, and it moved me. By which I mean, 'It moved me from a headspace built for outlandish 1960s sit-com premises, into the one that makes me cry when Alan Grant sees his first Brachiosaur in Jurassic Park.'
Anyway, these two things combined, along with Jethro's (who, along with Kramer, Gomer, Fester, Jazz, and Balki is a titan from the storied pantheon of well-meaning television dipshits) general dissatisfaction with the strict open-carry laws of Beverly Hills, lead to Jed flexing his patriarchy and introducing the family to the neighbors in an attempt to better fit-in. Well, heh-heh, wouldn't you just know it... it happens to be Halloween that very same night!
We learn this through an odd device seen in much of this first season, which is the use of a parallel story of Jed's cousin, Pearl, who confuses a person with some familiarity of the world with her daughter, Jethrine. Jethrine, of course, is actually just Max Baer dressed as a lady-version of Jethro, so the normal-guy assumes they've dressed up for trick-or-treating, though we soon find out that such a thing is not a "thing" in the Hills from which these 'Billies hail.
Cut over to the Clampetts visiting the neighbors, and we now understand why the family is oblivious to the assumption that they've simply dressed like they're impoverished, in celebration of the holiday. This is a classic mix-up, the kind of mistaken-identity humor that bolstered this entire first season, and would soon build the entire canon of story ideas for The Munsters. And while it almost kind of works as a source of humor, it totally works as a glimpse into Halloween '62.
Things we can learn from this set-up:
1.) House decorations were not really a thing. Indeed, this space seems like a mortuary lobby featuring a table of lost and found items.
2.) Those rich folk sure knew how to put a Halloween gift basket together - look at the size of those things!
3.) Rubber crone masks were very in. Don't believe me? Oh, then let's move on to the next phase in our journey, and part 2 of what has now become an impromptu Richard Whorf Tribute Extravaganza...