How Green Acres treated its opening credits is perhaps the strangest thing from Sixties TV
Lisa Douglas basically invented Jim's famous move from The Office.
The Beverly Hillbillies. Petticoat Junction. Green Acres. Paul Henning had a hand in all three shows, but one of these things is not like the others.
Green Acres was the third show to involve Henning, who was greenlit to create any show he liked based on the wild success of The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction – without even having to produce a pilot (which could be costly and time-wasting if eventually shot down).
That's just how much trust they put in Henning. Described as an "offer of a lifetime" by Archive of American Television, in an interview, Henning said, "[Then-CBS President] Jim Aubrey said, 'If you will come up with a third series, I guarantee to put it on without a pilot.'"
But Henning didn't really have an idea for another show, and everybody knows Jay Sommers created Green Acres, with Henning as an executive producer. Well, it was Sommers who Henning had written The Beverly Hillbillies with, and he had just the notion of where they could find fodder for more great TV.
Henning said, "He came to me with a bound volume of radio scripts dating from 1950 called Granby's Green Acres. As I recall, it was about a banker or a fellow who worked in a bank in a city, who longed to be a farmer, and I glanced at the series and said, 'I think this will be perfect.'"
All they had to do was change a few names and places, and suddenly "Granby's" Green Acres was easily reimagined to be set in Henning's Hooterville. This saved a lot of money, Henning said, which the studio also really liked. It seemed there was nothing Henning and Sommers could do that could go wrong, so they did what nobody else was quite as prepared to do in the 1960s: They decided to get creative with this third entry in the Hooterville universe, and do some things no other shows were doing, starting with the show's opening credits.
From the second season of Green Acres on, if you sat around through the credits, you would notice that names even viewers at home tend to ignore, like the writers of the episode or the executive producer of the show, suddenly became impossible to ignore. That's because rather than have the credits roll blankly over the opening scenes as nearly every other TV show had done, Green Acres decided to make the credits a necessarily observed part of the scene – by having its characters directly interact with them.
That meant if Lisa Douglas was making breakfast, she'd flip a pancake to see Paul Henning's name crisply printed on its cooked top, taking time to look directly into the camera, then tilt her head and shrug, basically inventing a move that made John Krasinski of The Office so famous. Other times, the credits would come bouncing out of the corner of the screen, attacking characters who ducked and swatted away the names. Episode after episode, the show got more creative with these bafflingly meta interactions, which sound closer to something a modern show would do than a TV classic like Green Acres. Watch the video at the top of this post to see for yourself how creative they got with the credits!
Eventually, these unusual credits became known as "the names" to Eva Gabor's character Lisa Douglas, who would comment on things like the timing of when they appeared, practically making the same observation a casual fan would on the couch. It was nutty stuff, but directly in line with the playful nature of the show, which all started with the head of CBS telling Henning, "As long as you say it's okay, it's okay with me."