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This rural sitcom, a spin-off of The Beverly Hillbillies, debuted on CBS on September 24, 1963. It ranked high in the Nielsen ratings for seven seasons. Production on the series certainly would have lasted longer, had CBS not decided to pull the plug on all of its rural comedy programming at the start of the 1970s. Its last prime time network telecast was on September 12, 1970.
The series centered around events taking place at the Shady Rest Hotel, the only lodging facility in the hick farming community of Hooterville. As one might gather from the show's catchy opening theme song, the hotel is run by Kate Bradley, a matronly widow blessed with three beautiful daughters who help her run the place: Billie Jo, Bobbie Jo and Betty Jo. She is also assisted by the self-proclaimed manager, lazy Uncle Joe.
Plots focus on the various transient hotel guests, the romantic lives of the Bradley daughters, and the conflict between Kate and Homer Bedloe, the vice president of the C.F. & W. Railroad. Homer had plans to shut down the branch of the railroad which ran through Hooterville and to get rid of the town's only train, the steam-driven Cannonball, putting its two hapless engineers (Floyd Smoot and Charlie Pratt) out of work. Long-shots of the Cannonball were actually the Jamestown Railroad, which still runs steam trains for the tourist trade one or two hundred miles north of the real-life town of Pixley, California (a Southern Pacific railroad town). Close-ups scenes usually used a locomotive and passenger car originally purchased from the V&T Rwy for a 1939 Cecil B. De Mille movie and also used for the tv series Wild Wild West
An unusual feature of this series is its large turnover of cast members. During the run of the show, Bobbie Jo was played by two different actresses, while Billie Jo was played by three. Additionally, many other supporting characters would be replaced by new ones after only a few seasons.
At the start of the 1968-69 season, the star of the show, (Bea Benaderet, who played Kate), died and was eventually replaced by the character Dr. Janet Craig (June Lockhart), a mature woman who took up residency at the Shady Rest and became the town physician after Doc Stewart retired.
In 1965, this spin-off series itself spun-off another series, "Green Acres," which also took place near Hooterville. For the following five seasons, the two shows would interact with each other on a regular basis, with cast members from one series making guest appearances on the other. One character, Sam Drucker (who ran the general store), was a series regular on both shows.
Although not as outwardly surreal as "Green Acres," "Petticoat Junction" perfected its own brand of country humor which was equally absurd, but in a more subtle way. Rather than outrageous comedy, the emphasis on this show was escapism. The Shady Rest made an ideal haven to offer a respite from the hectic lives of the big city traveler and the TV viewing public.