On the evening of January 8, 1964, tens of millions of Americans tuned their television sets to CBS for an epic matchup. This wasn’t a fight between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston. Instead the main event was a feisty grandmother battling a kangaroo she had mistaken for a giant jackrabbit.
This was the actual premise of an episode of the classic sitcom, The Beverly Hillbillies. Preposterous though it may seem, “The Giant Jackrabbit” episode aired less than two months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In fact, earlier that same day, the new President, Lyndon Johnson, delivered his first State of the Union address to a still traumatized nation.
“And you know here's this little old you know hillbilly lady confused by what a kangaroo is,” Rolling Stone’s chief TV critic Alan Sepinwall explained. “You don't get more escapist than that.”
The Beverly Hillbillies was a juggernaut in the 1960s. Profits soared and CBS greenlit a whole host of new shows like Petticoat Junction and Green Acres, catering to audiences who couldn’t get enough of country themed programming.
But by the end of the decade, the network put the Clampett clan and ALL of their country cousins out to pasture. The even put down Lassie.
In this episode, we’ll tell the story of the rise of the rural comedy craze, investigate what caused the largest slaughter in sitcom history, and meet the man who wielded the ax.