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Petticoat Junction - Ultimate Collection


TITLE: PETTICOAT JUNCTION - ULTIMATE COLLECTION


Info:

DVD Release Date: August 30, 2005 (MPI Home Video)
Black & White
MSRP: $29.98
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 20
Running Time: Approx. 11 hours
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English; English subtitles
Special Features:
New Episode Introductions with Linda Kaye Henning
Original Sponsor Commercials with Cast
Network Promo
Documentary: The History of Hooterville
Bea Benadaret on Hollywood Talent Scouts with Art Linkletter (04/11/66)


Introduction:

Return to Hooterville and "Come ride the little train that is rolling down the track to the junction. Forget about your cares, it is time to relax at the junction..." The long-running television classic Petticoat Junction (CBS-TV, 1963-1970) was one the most successful and beloved situation comedies of the 1960s. Created by Paul Henning, the mastermind behind The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction ranked as the fourth-highest rated series during its debut season.

Set in the folksy farming community of Hooterville, Petticoat Junction centers on Kate Bradley, a widow who runs the quaint Shady Rest Hotel with her beautiful daughters - Billie Jo, Bobbie Jo and Betty Jo - along with her uncle, Joe Carson. Sam Drucker owns the town's general store while Charlie Pratt and Floyd Smoot operate the Cannonball, a small train that rolls through the valley and brings a host of interesting visitors and humorous mishaps to the Shady Rest.

This Ultimate Collection features 20 rare and restored episodes from the show's first year, complete with the original theme song plus all-new, trivia-packed introductions by actress Linda Kaye Henning (Betty Jo Bradley) and a wealth of other extras.


Episodes Included / Notable Guest Stars:

Petticoat Junction premiered on September 24, 1963 on CBS. The show would run for 7 successful seasons. 74 episodes (or 64 depending on the source you are looking at) were produced during the first two seasons, which aired in black & white. Starting with season 3, the remaining 148 episodes were broadcast in color.

The first 2 seasons of black & white episodes are very hard to find and seldom seen. These early episodes have rarely, if ever, been shown in syndication. Some were released by Columbia House a few years ago. TV Land has aired only one or two of the black & white episodes.

This set comprises 20 episodes from the first season. It is the first 20 episodes of the series - with one exception. The episode "Cannonball Christmas" (12/24/63) is not included. This episode will be available on the The Beverly Hillbillies/Petticoat Junction Christmas Collection, which is due to be released on October 25th, 2005.

Here are the episodes included on this Ultimate Collection:

1. Spur Line To Shady Rest (09/24/63), 2. Quick, Hide The Railroad (10/01/63), 3. The President Who Came To Dinner (10/08/63), 4. Is There A Doctor In The Roadhouse? (10/15/63), 5. The Courtship of Floyd Smoot (10/22/63), 6. Pleae Buy My Violets (10/29/63), 7. The Ringer (11/15/63), 8. Kate's Recipe For Hot Rhubarb (11/12/63), 9. The Little Train Robbery (11/19/63), 10. Bedloe Strikes Again (11/26/63), 11. Uncle Joe's Replacement (12/03/63), 12. Honeymoon Hotel (12/10/63), 13. A Night At The Hooterville Hilton (12/17/63), 15. Herbie Gets Drafted (12/31/63), 16. Bobbie Joe and The Beatnik (01/07/64), 17. My Daughter, The Doctor (01/14/64), 18. Hooterville vs. Hollywood (01/21/64), 19. Visit From A Big Star (01/28/64), 20. Last Chance Farm (02/04/64), 21. The Very Old Antique (02/11/64)

There were quite a few character actors that appeared in the episodes on this set. Legendary character actor Charles Lane had a re-curring role as Homer Bedloe. Roy Roberts appeared in the first season as Norman Curtis. John Hoyt ("Gimme A Break") guest starred as John Fisher in "Bedloe Strikes Again." Dennis Hopper appeared as Alan Landman in "Bobbie Joe and The Beatnik." Adam West ("Batman") made appearances as Dr. Clayton Harris in "My Daughter, The Doctor" and "Hooterville vs. Hollywood." Dick Patterson ("Grease") played Mr. Cassidy in "The Very Old Antique."


Packaging:

The cover art has a color photo of Linda Kaye Henning (Betty Jo), Pat Woodell (Bobbie Jo), Jeannine Riley (Billie Jo), and Bea Benadaret (Kate). The Petticoat Junction title is at the top in it's familiar font with a train in the background. The set comes in an Amaray movie-style DVD case. The back of the case has 5 small photos and gives a summary of the set along with a listing of the bonus features. The inside of the case has one holder that has a disc on each side with the third disc on the back panel. Basically, you don't have to remove one disc to get another disc out. Disc 1 has 7 episodes with a photo of Bea Benadaret and Edgar Buchanan with the train in the background. Disc 2 contains 7 episodes has photos of Jeannine Riley, Pat Woodell, Linda Kaye Henning, and Bea Benadaret with the house in the background. Disc 3 contains 6 episodes and the bonus features. Rufe Davis and Smiley Burnette are featured on the disc with the Cannonball in the background.

There is also a 4-page booklet included that lists the episodes with their original airdates by disc. The front has a photo of the girls with Kate and the back has a sepia colored photo of the main cast. There are 4 additional color photos of the cast inside the booklet. MPI Home Video also includes their 2005 DVD Catalog List.


Menu Design and Navigation:

The menus are very nicely designed and simple to use. The ending instrumental theme song can be heard in the background. The same photo that is used as the cover art is featured on all of the main menus. Some various clips of the train are shown in the upper left hand corner of the screen. Each disc has options for 'Play All Episodes,' 'Episode Selections,' and 'Subtitles.' The fourth disc contains the Bonus Features option. The Play All button will play all the episodes on the disc including the new introductions by Linda Kaye Henning. When you select Episode Selections, it takes you to another menu with still images from each episode. You have the option to play the episode with the intro by Ms. Henning or you can just start the episode from the opening credits. The subtitles menu, which allows you to turn on English subtitles, features a sepia colored photo of the cast from the first season.

I have a few minor issues when playing the episodes. First, there are no chapter stops within the episodes. You can skip the intro by Linda Kaye Henning, but you can't skip the theme song (which is great so I really don't know why you wouldn't want to hear it) or jump to other scenes. The skip button will just take you to the end of the episode. Secondly, whenever you finish an episode, the next episode will automatically start with the intro by Linda Kaye. It is difficult to get the time of each individual episode as they include the intros in their total, plus they keep a running total so the first disc runs 3 hours, 20 minutes.


Video and Audio Quality:

On the packaging, they say that these 20 episodes have been restored. The show is over 40 years old now so I'm sure they tried to improve the quality as much as possible. The episodes are very watchable in my opinion. There is some dust and debris, black lines, and other video problems here and there. I know Columbia House released some of the black & white episodes on VHS a few years ago, but I don't have any tapes to compare them. I can't compare them with what TV Land aired since they never aired any! All episodes appear to be unedited, running around 25 1/2 minutes in length. The original first season theme song, sung by Curt Massey, is included on all of these episodes. Most of the ending credits had a sponsor like Ivory or Tide super-imposed on them. One episode even featured a short promo for the National Safety Council at the end. For the closing logo enthusiasts, they have the 'A Filmways Presentation' logo with various voiceovers followed by one for the CBS Television Network.

The audio quality was adequate. It's your typical mono track from the 1960's. Some episodes have a slight buzz in them. The volume seemed a bit low, but that can be easily made higher. It doesn't look like closed-captioning is available on this set, but there is an option to turn on English subtitles.


Special Features:

I think most fans would have just been happy to see these very rare episodes. A nice array of bonus features adds value and enjoyment to this set. Here is a breakdown:

New Episode Introductions with Linda Kaye Henning: She gives 2-5 minute introductions for the episodes on the set. She is in her early 60's now and is very youthful looking. With a fireplace in the backgroud, she warmly shares her remembrances of the show. She appears in atleast 3 different outfits for variety. I was amazed at all the interesting trivia facts about the show and cast she mentioned. Among the topics she discusses: the development of the show, the theme song composer and singer Curt Massey, the main cast members and the many guest character actors, the real train and the mock-up train they used, and various topics on the production of each episode. I would say even the die-hard Petticoat Junction fan would learn something new from these intros. Can you name the only person to play the same character on 3 different sitcoms at the same time? Answer at the end of this section.

Original Sponsor Commercials with Cast: Linda Kaye Henning gives a short introduction. She mentions that during the first 2 years or so of the show, Procter & Gamble was their primary sponsor. As part of their contracts, the cast members agreed to appear in character in various commercials. There are a total of 8 commercials included for Ivory Soap and Tide. Various combinations of the cast were in each one. (9:46 total - 1:22 intro by Linda Kaye Henning and 8:24 worth of commercials)

Network Promo - This is a promo from season 3 or after. The color looks badly faded, but it is fun to watch. It promotes the show on CBS on Tuesday nights. (1:02)

Documentary: The History of Hooterville - This documentary features interviews with Linda Kaye Henning, Paul Henning (archived), Charles Lane, Frank Cady, Shirley Mitchell, Gunilla Hutton, Lori Saunders, and Mike Minor. The three Bradley girls look great. I can't believe they are all in their 60's. Who knew Charles Lane was still living? He turned 100 this year and looks to be in good health. Frank Cady, who will be 90 later this year, looks quite healthy and has a strong voice. I could close my eyes and his voice still sounds just like Sam Drucker.

All kinds of topics are covered in this bonus feature. Linda Kaye Henning and her father Paul (in an older interview) talk about the development of the show and how various actors were cast. CBS wanted another series from him after the success of The Beverly Hillbillies. He developed the show for Bea Benadaret, who he thought deserved her own series. They talk about the dog, who's real name was Higgins and later played Benji in that movie, that joined the cast in the second season. Then they discuss the development of Green Acres, which was created by Jay Summers and executive produced by Paul Henning. Many character actors guest starred on Petticoat Junction and they are mentioned. Shirley Mitchell, who played Cousin Mae, talks about her time on the series. Jeannine Riley and Pat Woodell left after the 2nd season, and the reasons for their departure are discussed. Starting in the 3rd season, the show was broadcast in color and Gunilla Hutton and Lori Saunders were added to the cast as Billie Jo and Bobbie Jo. Gunilla talks about why she left the series after just one season. Meredith MacRae would take over the role of Billie Jo starting in 1966. Mike Minor, who played Steve Elliott, discusses his time on the show. First, he was the boyfriend of Billie Jo and the following season he dated Betty Jo. Linda Kaye talks about her wedding dress and how she got married on the show in 1967 and then married Mike Minor in 1968. Bea Benadaret passed away in October 1968. In the 6th season, June Lockhart joined the cast as Dr. Janet Craig. After 7 seasons, Petticoat Junction was canceled despite still being in the top 10. It was one of many rural comedies that got canceled around that time. Finally, they discuss the enduring popularity of the show. The closing credits have an 'In Memory' section for the cast members that have passed away. Many photos are featured throughout the feature. Overall, this was a well-produced special that touched on many different topics. The cast seems to have many warm remembrances of their time on the show. The documentary runs 44 minutes, 37 seconds.

Cast Interview - This is a short clip of Hollywood Talent Scouts hosted by Art Linkletter on April 11, 1966. Bea Benadaret is interviewed and she talks about how the show got developed. This run 3 minutes, 4 seconds.

Trivia answer: Frank Cady played Sam Drucker on The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, and Petticoat Junction.


Final Comments:

This set was authorized by the estate of Creator Paul Henning. Sadly, Mr. Henning passed away earlier this year at the age of 93. I'm sure he would have been very proud of it, if he didn't have the opportunity to view the final product.

The first two seasons of the show have apparently never or very rarely been shown in syndication, so these episodes are very rare and will be a treat for anybody who hasn't seen them. Some fans may question why they didn't just release the whole complete first season. The first season had 38 episodes so maybe they are planning a second volume for a future release if this set generates interest. This set is affordably priced and offers good value. I really enjoyed the bonus features and I can tell a lot of time and effort went into putting them together. They definitely improved my viewing experience and gave me a lot of good background information and interesting trivia.


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 3.5/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 4.5/5
Menu Navigation/Design: 5/5
Overall: 4/5

-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 08/17/05.

To order the DVD click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0009NZMYC/ref=nosim/happydaysonline4-20


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