I told my wife that Eddie Albert had died last week at the age of 99 of pneumonia and Alzheimer’s. She said that she figured he was already dead. I suppose that was a reasonable assumption.
When I was a kid, I admit to not only watching Green Acres, but liking it. (I also enjoyed Switch, but there was no shame in that.) Maybe it was because it was another show in the same Hooterville universe as Petticoat Junction. (Think Buffy/Angel on TV, or Marvel Comics crossovers.) Or maybe it was that it had Green in the title. I realized that Oliver Wendell Douglas (Eddie Albert), who initiated the move to the country (check out the theme lyrics) remained a fish out of water, confounded by Mr. Haney, Arnold Ziffel the pig, and their handyman Eb. Lisa Douglas (Eva Gabor), on the other hand, seemed to take it as it came in “Hootersville”. Like most supposed “airheads” on TV, she was probably smarter than her husband, the lawyer. I’m not defending it as Great Television, just not as bad as it has been portrayed.
Eddie Albert sang the title song (Eva Gabor more or less talked it). It is unusual for a star to sing the title song, I thought. Oh, there’s Dean Martin, Tom Jones, Jimmy Durante, and Happening ’68, hosted by Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders, but those were entertainment shows. And, of course, there’s Mr. Rogers. But I’m thinking scripted comedies or dramas. There was Erica Gimpel on Fame, but that was an ersatz performing arts school.
The only other ones I could think of were Drew Carey (Drew Carey Show, “Moon over Parma” -first season only) and Linda Lavin (Alice, “There’s a New Girl in Town”). Oh, and I nearly forgot the classic Carroll O’Connor/Jean Stapleton rendition of “Those Were the Days” on All in the Family, so notorious that it had to be recorded twice. (No one could understand, “Gee, our old LaSalle ran great.”)
But then I checked out some of my Television’s Greatest Hits CDs and discovered Tony Danza (“Hudson Street”) and Marla Gibbs (227, “There’s No Place Like Home”). And how did I forget Will Smith (with Jeff Townes, a/k/a DJ Jazzy Jeff) on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”? But the leader in this category, as far as I can tell is Greg Evigan from My Two Dads (“You Can Count on Me”) and the title song of “B.J. and the Bear”; this is in quantity, not necessarily quality. For my money, Green Acres told the story as well as any theme.
CBS canceled Green Acres and the Beverly Hillbillies in 1971, part of its de-ruralfication, despite its still strong ratings. Would that happen now? Maybe, with emphasis on “demographics”, the coveted 18-49 market. But these days, some cable outlet (TNN?) would have snatched them up.
But my everlasting recollection about the Green Acres theme is the routine performed by the ice dancing duo of Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto. The couple, who won a silver medal at the World Championship in Moscow in March, do a goofy, sexy exhibition featuring the Green Acres theme segued with the theme to Deliverance. (BTW, I didn’t look this up. My wife watches skating; now, I’m watching skating. I know more about the new international scoring system than I care to.)
So, as Eddie Albert skates away to a new existence, Green Acres lives on, not only in reruns, but on the ice as well.