Before Sue Ellen, there was Elly May. In its time (1962-1971), 'The Beverly Hillbillies' was the biggest thing in television. By the time 'Dallas' went on air in 1978, television had come a long way. 'The Saturday Review' described 'The Beverly Hillbillies' as a show that combined social comment with a Niesen ratings. As of 2009, 13 of the Top 100 most-watched TV programs in history were 'The Beverly Hillbillies' episodes.
1. Season 2 Episode 16: "The Giant Jackrabbit" (44.0% rating; 65% share)
2. Season 2 Episode 17: "The Girl from Home" (42.8% rating; 62% share)
3. Season 2 Episode 22: "The Clampetts Go Fishing" (42.4% rating; 60% share)
4. Season 2 Episode 25: "Granny Versus the Weather Bureau" (42.2% rating; 59% share)
5. Season 2 Episode 19: "The Race for Queen" (42.0% rating; 61% share)
6. Season 2 Episode 30: "The House of Granny" (41.9% rating; 62% share)
7. Season 2 Episode 15: "A Man for Elly" (41.8% rating; 59% share)
8. Season 2 Episode 18: "Lafe Lingers On" (41.5% rating; 61% share)
9. Season 1 Episode 22: "Duke Steals a Wife" (40.6% rating; 59% share)
10. Season 1 Episode 32: "The Clampetts in Court" (40.5% rating; 62% share)
11. Season 1 Episode 18: "Jed Saves Drysdale's Marriage" (40.3% rating; 54% share)
12. Season 2 Episode 27: "The Bank Raising" (40.1% rating; 60% share)
13. Season 1 Episode 21: "Jed Plays Solomon" (40.1% rating; 58% share)
Centered around the lower middle class Clampett clan who decided to move to Beverly Hills after striking oil in the Ozark Mountains, 'The Beverly Hillbillies' revolutionized the face of 1960s television "by drawing a segment of the population that had been mostly ignored by situation comedies and dramatic shows - the rural audience." Paul Henning explained, "We’re not trying to prove anything except that people like to laugh. Nobody is offended and I think we have the finest cast ever assembled for a half-hour comedy.
"I just set out to entertain the people especially the people between New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. I know these people. I'm from Independence, Missouri. As a kid, I went to Boy Scout camp outside Noel, Missouri, which has no population to speak of. From Noel, we'd go for a 14-mile hike into the country. So I know country people. As for myself, I always liked hillbilly humor. When I would listen to Bob Burns, I used to lie on the floor so I wouldn’t fall down laughing. I love country humor."
The most widely held theory for its phenomenal success with city slickers as well as the rural audience was 'The Beverly Hillbillies' was the right show at the right time. Buddy Ebsen believed, "It has several things going for it – including the scripts. First, there's the contrast between a historically primitive culture and an extremely modern one.
"I think the basic comment on our show is that the Clampetts are good people, overlooked by the sophisticated element in society. And the simple one doesn’t come off second best because the people are kind and direct. The public is hungry for what we offer – honest humor. We’re friendly people, but some of our humor has a biting comment. If the show has any overtones, any message, it’s that people have more than they need in this material world.
"Our social comment is that people should live simpler, not necessarily like the Clampetts, but simpler. I guess you’d call our show a bucolic farce … People always like that – the story of the wise fools, a classic … I don’t really know why the show is a hit but I guess maybe we were born into such a plethora of agony shows that people grabbed something that took 'em away. We've got a wholesome show. Its basic concept is to entertain. And I don’t believe charges that we appeal to lowest intellectual strata. Our mails covers a wide spectrum of viewers, and now (back in 1963) we’re doing well in England, Australia and Japan, too."
Television trade with ratings, share of audience. Television stations earned money by selling commercial time. The commercials paid for the programs on the air and the viewers watching the programs would buy what was advertised. William S. Paley was regarded the single most influential man in broadcast history. In 1979, Doubleday Canada published his memoir, 'As It Happened'.
William voiced, "Personally, I wish that the ratings were truly a secondary consideration in programing. Television would be much better off and the public better served if the numbers race were not so important. But ratings are terribly important. Advertising revenues depend upon how many viewers the sponsor is reaching with his commercials. So, the financial well-being of each network does depend upon the ratings."
By July 1977, Associated Press reported, "For many elders, television is their lifeline to the outside world, their main topic of conversation, their means of putting time in perspective." Dr Richard Davis of the Andrus Gerontology Center at the University of Southern California clarified, "When you're working you have your whole life structured around the clock.
"But when you're retired, time assumes a different meaning. And one way that people who want to have a time–structured life can do it is through television. 'I have an appointment to watch Walter Cronkite,' they can say. When time is empty, television fills it. This is how (an elderly) keeps connected with the society. Television is the information window on the world. It expands the horizon of the often house-bound and dependent person, so that the older person has a share in the information flow … They get the same pool of information that everybody else does, so they don’t have to feel different."