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‘Beverly Hillbillies’ at 50

Fifty years later and I still watch it.  The only thing that has changed is that now I am the dad watching it with my kids.  And just like we did in 1962, my kids absolutely love the Clampetts.  The logic, the priorities and the all American innocence of this great TV family made this half hour an endearing family gathering for nine seasons – now going on 50 years…

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There can be no doubt that The Beverly Hillbillies is a TV classic. 

The show became an instant hit of mammoth proportions. It spent its first two seasons at the very top of the Nielsen ratings. At its peak, it was being watched by 60 million viewers per week.  As late as 1982, eleven years after it had left the air at the end of its ninth season, nine of this show’s episodes could still be found on the list of the top fifty highest-rated broadcasts of all time, alongside Super Bowls, blockbuster miniseries, and special event programming. "The Beverly Hillbillies" was, without question, one of the most popular television series in the history of American television.

In the first episode, aired on September 26, 1962, we were introduced to Jed Clampett, his mother-in-law Granny, his daughter Elly May, and cousin Jethro, all poor mountaineers scraping out a happy but subsistence living in some remote location in the Ozarks. 

The now-classic opening theme song elegantly sums up the premise of the show. Jed shoots at what he hopes will be the evening’s meal, but misses. His errant bullet pricks the surface of the rich American soil, and oil (“black gold, Texas tea”) commences gushing out of the ground. With his new found riches, his cousin Pearl convinces him that “Californy is the place you oughta be” (in the pithiest phrasing of American Manifest Destiny since “Go West, Young Man”), so he loads up three generations of his family and moves to Beverly Hills.  

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