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“Beverly Hillbillies” and “Petticoat Junction” Top 10 Shows

Oct. 29, 1963 - While Rod Serling escapes into “The Twilight Zone” every week and Reginald Rose cuts through complicated legal problems with social implications in “The Defenders,” comedy writer Paul Henning quietly climbs to the top of the Neilsen parade with shows like “Beverly Hillbillies” and “Petticoat Junction.” For the second consecutive year, “Hillbillies” has been rated the nation’s most popular television show. “Petticoat Junction,” this year’s new Henning entry, stepped into the sixth position. Only last year, “The Defenders” was one of the most talked about shows on television. Now, the No. 1 man in T.V. is Henning, who sought inspiration for his series in the Ozark hills. The 52-year-old Missouri-born writer has a theory about television that’s borne out of his two winning series. He maintains: “The most important thing about television is the people who perform in it. They have to be liked by the viewers. Because T.V. is an intimate medium, it demands characters. In ‘Hillbillies’ and ‘Petticoat Junction,’ our characters are broad, we admit, but they’re still nice, honest, likable people. And this is what counts.” Henning, a modest, unassuming talent, takes success in his stride. “When you’ve lived as long as I have,” he comments, “you know that providence, luck, and God’s grace are the forces working for you. Anybody that doesn’t give credit to providence is hiding his head in the sand.” He’s keenly aware, too, of the attitude in some quarters toward his top-rated shows. “We please lots of people,” he says, “and we displease lots of people. When you live too long in Hollywood or New York, you forget the people between the two coasts. After I finished the Bob Cummings show, I set out to do one thing. I took a trip all through Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and all the rural communities, visiting people and just observing. It’s the people in between I want to write for. My shows aren’t meant to be cerebral. All I’ve tried to do is entertain people and let them have a little fun.”


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