A 1981 TV movie was supposed to revive The Beverly Hillbillies

Irene Ryan's absence was felt, explaining why the television movie was not a fan favorite.

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Do you remember the Beverly Hillbillies movie? No, not the 1993 remake that attempted to portray a modern version of the 1960s classic. We're referring to the made-for-television movie that starred a few original cast members in 1981.

It's called The Return of the Beverly Hillbillies, but the original name was The Beverly Hillbillies: Solving The Energy Crisis. According to a 1981 United Press International article, the hour-and-forty-minute CBS movie aired in the winter. Buddy Ebsen and Donna Douglas reprised their roles, but Max Baer Jr., who became a producer, refused to "tarnish his public image" by playing Jethro again.

Irene Ryan, who played Granny, and Raymond Bailey, who played Mr. Drysdale, passed away before the TV movie came about, so they were not involved. To fill that gap, Paul Henning and other writers created a "fresh" plot to help revive the series for the movie.

The National Energy Commission assigned Jane Hathaway (Nancy Kulp) to find Jed, who left behind the luxurious Beverly Hills life to retire in Tennessee. According to the article in the newspaper, "she is accompanied by a hand-wringing government bureaucrat, Werner Klemperer, bent on solving the fuel shortage by learning the secret formula of Granny's powerful moonshine."

Yes, Granny's moonshine was the key to solving the fuel shortage. That's where Granny's maw (Imogene Coca) comes in, as she's the only person with the recipe. It was undoubtedly a different plot than Beverly Hillbillies fans were used to.

Many people didn't like the idea of revisiting a classic, but Buddy Ebsen felt that the new angle would work. "My vibes tell me that Thomas Wolfe may have been wrong when he said, 'You can't go home again,'" he told the United Press International in 1981. "There are new elements to this show and new characters that give it new life. This isn't just a revival."

It seems like Ebsen was trying to speak the "show" part into existence, as if the TV movie was a success, CBS would've made future long-form versions.

However, the ratings were not the best. Many fans believed the humor they once loved was gone, and it wasn't the same without Irene Ryan as Granny.

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59 Comments

Moverfan 10 months ago
So the National Energy Commission wants moonshine as a renewable resource and they send Miss Jane out to get it along with...Colonel Klink? Well, I'm glad he found a job after the war, but...really? Wasn't Carter available?
SrLerxst 10 months ago
I liked Buddy Ebson as Barnarby Jones much better
ninterfan 10 months ago
Had movie it sucked the movie was horrible
rvoyttbots 10 months ago
This movie was just plain bad. Really bad.
JeffPaul76 10 months ago
Hello. I don't Think I ever saw the movie, at least not to my knowledge. Or even heard about it until now.
ncadams27 10 months ago
Reunion movies like this always beg the question- where was Granny’s Ma during the original run? She was never mentioned.
JHP 10 months ago
that one episode - granny and the kangaroo - my supreme being ....so damm hilarious!!!...if you are having a bad day - please watch and that will set your mood toot sweet:)
or maybe it was an ostrich?
Coldnorth JHP 9 months ago
I certainly agree with you.
harlow1313 10 months ago
Well, I would love it were METV to broadcast "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman."

But the METV executives are from Squaresville.

I believe I would also enjoy a return to "Room 222."
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LoveMETV22 9 months ago
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LoveMETV22 9 months ago
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JHP 9 months ago
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Emma Steele might be my 1st crush...b4 Julie Newmar
daDoctah 10 months ago
Worst thing about that version was that Granny was represented by a smaller-than-lifesize wooden statue that Jed had whittled.
McGillahooala 10 months ago
You can’t go home again. Truer words have never been spoken. You can however, take a classic and squeeze a few more bucks out of it and potentially destroy it in the process.
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wallyandbagfan 10 months ago
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JHP MrsPhilHarris 9 months ago
all cool for sure:)

Simple times and quiet times - no stress or fear - not like now
MrsPhilHarris 9 months ago
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To be honest I don’t know most of those characters. I think I only watched the first 3-4 seasons.
Mblack 10 months ago
She looks like the grandmother in the Vacation movie.
cperrynaples Mblack 10 months ago
That's because Coca was also in that movie!
LoveMETV22 cperrynaples 10 months ago

Good old Aunt Edna from Vacation
Mblack cperrynaples 10 months ago
That was the point.
KawiVulc 10 months ago
Never heard of it before. IMDB dates it October 8, 1981, I was at NTC Great Lakes going through the Navy's basic electronics course & not watching much if any TV. The 1993 movie was OK & Cloris Leachman was a passable Granny. Best line went to Rob Schneider when he's kidnapping Granny & she wraps her feet around her neck from the back seat... "She's got crap on her boots!"
I was in college at the time it came out, but didn't actually see it until it appeared on a Saturday afternoon rerun a few years later.
Andybandit 10 months ago
I remember the 1993 movie of TBHB. The actor who played Jethro in that movie is cute.


Jeremy Andybandit 10 months ago
You mean Diedrich (I hope I spelled his name right) Bader? I was more smitten with Erika Eleniak, who played Elly Mae.
BuckeyeBeth7 Andybandit 10 months ago
Diedrich Bader. He is kind of cute. At least I always thought he was the cute one on the Drew Carey show. His episode on Monk is pretty funny. Monk can’t even look at him because he plays a nudist throughout the whole episode lol
4thtroika Jeremy 10 months ago
Met her at a con once. Very sweet. gave me her autograph on a card with her lipstick kiss.
Runeshaper 10 months ago
Good story, MetV. It really can be very difficult to replace or even leave out key characters of a show. Of course, when actors and actresses pass away, I understand that it may be worth a shot.
LoveMETV22 10 months ago
Not that " The Beverly Hillbillies" don't already see a generous amount of airtime on the current schedule.
Perhaps running the movie mentioned in the article on a Sunday in "TBH" time slot. True they may have to be creative with a runtime of 1h40m- with commercials and such. It would be interesting to see even if " the ratings were not the best."
Pacificsun LoveMETV22 10 months ago
Not that I can add, specifically, to your suggestion - because the running of almost any "Return of the ..." movie, based on a classic TV series, would be welcomed. As in the Perry Mason return (on Sunday nights). But showing of episodes in a block, makes me wonder if it costs the sponsors more, because they assume they have the attention of the viewer for a longer period. In other words, an hour of two episodes of something, is more valuable than a one-shot.
LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 10 months ago
Figure if they feel the topic is worthy of a mention with their article, why not show the movie as well. I think we may have discussed the program change with TBH in the past. Without looking or researching past schedules, the show airs all seven days, not sure if any past series has got that amount of coverage. There's definitely something behind that ( I'm curious why "TBH" and not some other series?).
LoveMETV22 10 months ago
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Pacificsun LoveMETV22 10 months ago
In reading about TBH on Wiki, has such a convoluted, confusing ownership history, am guessing it wasn't worth the time to sort through it all, at first. But then once it was more settled, they must've decided to make up for lost time. And show it all over the place. So the Return movie (1981) was handled by a specific company (MPI). And then another entity involved with the Series let their copyright lapse for some of the episodes, and they went to public domain. Which I don't if it is a permanent mistake. But then ORION reclaimed copyright. I got tired reading about the whole thing ...
LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 10 months ago
Not so much about the history or the show/movie itself. I don't get the 7 day a week coverage of the series. The only other show(s), that come close are M*A*S*H and TAGS. I just don't see the allure or advertisers/sponsors clamoring to get commercial time for that series. Oh well, guess the inner workings will always have an air of mystery with them.
cperrynaples 10 months ago
Well, it didn't help that Max Baer refused to play Jethro! His replacement was horrible!
JHP cperrynaples 10 months ago
like Jack Burns ? replacement for BARN? to watch him...I'd rather use single ply AW
Mannixishot cperrynaples 10 months ago
Can't say I blame him since it seems like he was pretty open about being typecast as Jethro. I'm surprised Buddy didn't have problems with typecasting but he seems to have landed on his feet with Barnaby Jones.

I'm iffy about this movie. There's a part of me that would like to see it but there's a part of me that doesn't care to watch it. You can't really have a reunion movie if practically everybody's gone for whatever reason. Jethro's my favorite character so I feel like Max's absence would be felt big time.
Mannixishot JHP 10 months ago
And I honestly sympathize with Jack Burns tbh. That man was set up for failure. It's been awhile since I've watched Andy but I think my attitude towards his character was he was better than nothing. Andy's character turned into a grouch and wasn't funny at all anymore. I don't know what the deal was but there's very few color episodes that were worth watching imo.

Serious question: Did anybody prefer Warren to Barney?
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