"Petticoat Junction" was in a category all its own, possessing a folksy charm - particularly in the first couple of seasons - which aimed not for big laughs or broad humor, but which mirrored small-town and rural values, recognizable characters, and quaint situations. Bea Benaderet, long-time radio and television character player popular on numerous vintage shows, stepped into the starring role of "Kate Bradley," a widow whose grandfather had stubbornly built a small inn situated off the beaten path - and accessible only by a delightfully antiquated train. Smiley Burnette, voted by exhibitors as one of the biggest money-makers at the box office in "B" movies made between the mid-1930s and early 1950s, brought enormous charm to the role of the jovial railroad engineer who is "like a father" to Kate's youngest daughter, Betty Jo (Linda Kaye Henning). Edgar Buchanan, Rufe Davis, Frank Cady, and other solid performers who specialized in doing rural American characters gave the program an air of authenticity. Some early episodes, written by producer Paul Henning and with input from radio legend Don Quinn, are exceptionally charming to view today. While the writing of others was not always of such high caliber, the program - produced on a modest budget - invariably presented a view of rural life which was nostalgic and humorous, in which certain contemporary conditions co-existed with long-outmoded traces of a bygone era. Conflicts arose through the appearances of the comic villain, Homer Bedloe (Chatles Lane), misunderstandings developing between the other lead characters, and the awkward "get-rich-quick" schemes of Kate's grumbling Uncle Joe (Edgar Buchanan). There were other programs set in rural areas or small towns, or featuring characters from such places - until the networks suddenly canceled every series in which the sun shone - but "Petticoat Junction" was unique in its approach: that of presenting characters and situations which were quaint, gently amusing, neither farcical nor serious, and wishing only to share with viewers vignettes of small-town life which reflected a world largely gone by the early 1960s. Such a concept cannot be dated, and the programs are as pleasant to view today as they were at the time of their original popularity on the CBS network.
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