The first season of The Beverly Hillbillies can be regarded as a "shakedown" cruise, with the newly-rich Clampett family making first contact with the wealthy upper crust of Beverly Hills, CA, adapting to their strange but luxurious surroundings with a combination of farcical ignorance and warm-hearted common sense and decency. After striking oil on his property in the opening episode, poor-but-proud mountaineer Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen) is informed that his land is now valued in a "new kind of dollars" -- namely, "million" dollars (about 20 million, to be exact). On the advice of his social-climbing cousin Pearl Bodine (Bea Benaderet), Jed decides to move out of the hills and into a posh Beverly Hills mansion, taking his innocently voluptuous daughter Elly May (Donna Douglas), his elderly but feisty mother-in-law Granny (Irene Ryan) and Pearl's oafish son Jethro Bodine (Max Baer Jr.) along for the ride. Endeavoring to help the Clampett clan make the transition from abject poverty to untold wealth are Milburn Drysdale (Raymond Bailey), president of the Commerce Bank of Beverly Hills and the caretaker of Jed's fortune, and Drysdale's ultra-efficient secretary Miss Jane Hathaway (Nancy Kulp). Many of the earliest episodes are built around the Clampetts' hilarious misinterpretations of their new creature comforts: the mansion's swimming pool is referred to as "the cee-ment pond"; the billiard table is labeled "the fancy eatin' table"; the billiard cues are dubbed "pot passers"; and it takes several episodes for Jed and company to figure out where "thet music is a-comin' from" whenever somebody rings their doorbell. Meanwhile, animal-loving Elly May merrily goes about adopting as many local "critters" as she can find, the impressionable Jethro shows off the "cipherin' skills" he has accumulated as the world's oldest sixth grader (his future plans are to become either a brain surgeon or a fry-cook), and Granny crankily tries to transform her corner of Beverly Hills into a replica of her old mountain trappings, replete with a still for her "rheumatizz medicine."
Among the many subplots developed this season are Cousin Pearl's ongoing rivalry with Granny; Pearl's tireless efforts to marry off Jethro's twin sister Jethrine (also played by Max Baer Jr.), and her own furtive romance with oil-company executive John Brewster (Frank Wilcox); the Herculean efforts by Mr. Drysdale's snobbish wife Margaret (Harriet MacGibbon) to remove "those dreadful Hillbillies" from her neighborhood; and the ill-fated attempt by the Drysdale's overaged-preppy offspring Sonny Drysdale (Louis Nye) to woo and win Elly May, which nearly results in an old-fashioned shootin' feud between the Drysdales and the Clampetts! Though roundly panned by many of America's top TV critics (with such rare exceptions as the erudite Gilbert Seldes, who lauded the series for brilliantly upholding the tradition of the classic "rube outwits city slicker" stage comedies of the previous century), The Beverly Hillbillies closed out its first season as the nation's top-rated program. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
- Buddy Ebsen, Irene Ryan, (more)