One of the longest running and best-known sitcoms in television history, The Beverly Hillbillies is proof that "you can't keep 'em down on the farm." An instant hit, the rural comedy drew nearly 60 million viewers a week in its peak years.
Anyone who has seen the show knows the premise from its unforgettable theme song. Poor hillbilly Jed Clampett and his faithful dog Duke are out hunting for some food, and unearth an oil gusher with a gun shot. Next thing you know, the OK Oil Company has purchased the Bug Tussle property from the Clampetts for $25 million. Jed's worldly cousin Pearl convinces the widower to move his family to the land of swimming pools and movie stars, Beverly Hills, Calif. So Jed, his daughter Elly May, his mother-in-law Granny and his nephew Jethro pack up their belongings and drive their rickety flatbed truck to the West Coast.
Always rich in the absurd, The Beverly Hillbillies is chock full of lowbrow but hilarious situations. As sitcom humor would have it, Jed and his brood move next door to the greedy banker Milburn Drysdale, who in an effort to make his financial institution the home of the Clampett millions, takes the fresh-off-the-farm family under his wing. Most of the early shows revolve around the impossible adjustments the poor mountain folk must make to city life, and Jed Clampett's backwoods brand of wisdom always wins out in the end. Despite their brand-new mansion with its cement pond and indoor plumbing, the Hillbillies stay true to their rustic roots. Many episodes center around Drysdale's attempts to keep the Clampetts in good spirits in their big-city setting (thus keeping their money in his bank). Enrolling Jethro in elementary school, buying Jed a movie studio, letting Granny open a medical practice and finding Elly May a beau are just a few of the silly but entertaining storylines.
The Beverly Hillbillies premiered in September 1962 and ran in primetime until September 1971, when CBS canceled all of its rural programming. Despite the popularity of The Beverly Hillbillies and its sister shows, such as Green Acres and Mayberry R.F.D., Madison Avenue believed that the viewers of these programs weren't buying the sponsors' products. In spite of the network's bucolic ban, The Beverly Hillbillies went on to become one of the most popular syndicated programs in history and has aired in reruns continuously since its cancelation.