Archive for February, 2009

Feb. 11th Actor’s Devotional

Posted: February 13, 2009 in Devotionals

February11

 

Actor’s Devotion

 

“There is nothing so powerful as Truth, and often nothing so strange”

– Daniel Webster

 

It was on this day in 1919 that the star of CBS’s hit sitcom “Green Acres” was born in Budapest, Hungary.  Eva Gabor was probably best known as Eddie Albert’s loveable bungling wife during the shows 8 year run on TV. 

 

The television series Green Acres was about Oliver Wendell Douglas (Eddie Albert), an accomplished and erudite New York attorney who was acting on his lifelong dream to be a farmer, and Lisa Douglas (Eva Gabor), his glamorously bejeweled Hungarian wife, dragged unwillingly from the privileged city life she adored to a bucolic life on a ramshackle farm. The debut episode was a mock documentary about this big-city attorney’s decision to move to a rural area, narrated by CBS newscaster John Charles Daly.

It was Beverly Hillbillies, in reverse, but after the first few episodes the series shifted from a run-of-the-mill rural comedy and developed an absurdist world of its own. Though there were still many episodes that were standard 1960s sitcom fare, the show became notable for its surreal aspects that frequently included satire. They also had an appeal to children for the slapstick, silliness and shtick, though adults were able to appreciate it on a different level.

 

Much of the humor of the series derived from the pragmatic yet short-fused Oliver attempting to make sense of the largely insane world around him. There seemed to be a dual perspective of reality: Oliver versus everyone else.

 

The dishonest and oily salesman Mr. Haney (Pat Buttram), who sold Oliver the Green Acres farm, continues to con his easy “mark” in most episodes.

 

While general store owner Sam Drucker is a reliable Dutch uncle in Petticoat Junction, his character is bent a bit here (keeping plastic pickles in a barrel to appease city-folk). Drucker also serves as a newspaper printer/editor; volunteer fireman; constable; justice of the peace and a postmaster. As editor of the Hooterville World Guardian, his headlines were often decades old. He was a bit slow as postmaster, once delivering a lost 1917 “draft” notice to Fred Ziffel after 51 years, breaking his previous record of delivering a lost 1942 WPA letter to Mr. Haney for stealing a shovel, after 26 years. As justice of the peace, he once let his license lapse, unwittingly sending two supporting characters to a premature honeymoon.

 

In a slap to government bureaucrats and civil service employees, Alvy Moore plays spacey agricultural agent Hank Kimball, who never really seems to know which end is up. Kimball would draw people into crazy conversations, and then lose his train of thought and just walk off.

 

Lisa’s domestic ignorance provides fertile ground for recurring gags – her ‘coffee’ oozes from the pot in a thick, tar like sludge; her ‘hotcakes’ are inedible, and so tough that Oliver repaired his truck’s head-gasket with them. In one episode, hotcake batter is used for fireplace mortar; in another, hotcakes are used to re-shingle a roof. Her sandwiches include such epicurean combo delights as liverwurst and jelly. Instead of washing dishes, Lisa sometimes tosses them out the kitchen window. In the episode “Alf and Ralph Break Up”, Lisa admits that she has no cooking abilities and says her only talent is her Zsa Zsa Gabor imitation.  Zsa Zsa was her real life sister who was also a famous actress.

 

But probably the favorite recurring character was not even human. The Douglas’s’ childless elderly neighbors, Fred and Doris Ziffel, “adopted” a pig named Arnold Ziffel as their “son”. Arnold understands English, lives indoors, and is pampered by everyone. Arnold is an avid TV watcher and a big Western fan. Only Oliver seems to realize that Arnold is just livestock, although he frequently slips and begins treating him as a boy. Arnold makes regular appearances throughout the series, often visiting the Douglas farm to watch their TV.

Although still reasonably popular, the show was canceled in 1971 as part of the “rural purge” when CBS decided to shift its schedule to more urban, contemporary-themed shows, which drew the younger audiences desired by advertisers.

 

Isn’t it odd that when we find ourselves in real community, we also find ourselves in bizarre circumstances?  That’s because community assumes relationships.  In Green Acres, the urban is juxtaposed against the rural, and while the results are undoubtedly amusing they are also quite poignant in showing us a deeper Truth.  That is that if we have a realness, an authentic quality in our world, it will be because we have relationships with real human beings, not automatons, or machines, or great friends on our social network pages.  We will have relationships with human beings.  And human beings can be… well… strange.  But we miss out on so much when we refuse to forgive, and to love, and to build a sort of sacred history together, whenever we have disagreements with those with whom we have close contact…. And that’s the very thing that can make life so strangely wonderful and beautiful.  It’s that butting up against one another, in relationship, in the strangeness, that teaches us to live with one another, bear with one another, and ultimately produces… community.

 

Colossians3:12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.