Revisiting 'The Real McCoys'
July 9, 2007 11:03 AM
The first season (1957-58) of "The Real McCoys," the granddaddy of all rural situation comedies, will be released on DVD July 24 by Infinity Entertainment Group.
Pretty much dormant for decades, the series is notable for several reasons, not the least of which is triple Oscar winner Walter Brennan's outstanding characterization of Grandpappy Amos, the grouchy, meddling patriarch of a clan that relocates from West Virginia to California's San Fernando Valley after a relative dies and bequeaths them a farm.
The series, out of the Danny Thomas canon (as were "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Gomer Pyle, USMC"), was shot on black-and-white film by Desilu.
The first episode neatly sets things up: The McCoys—Amos, grandsons Luke (Richard Crenna) and Little Luke (Michael Winkleman), granddaughter Hassie (Lydia Reed) and Luke's new bride, Kate (Kathleen Nolan)—arrive at their newly inherited, broken-down farmhouse in the Valley and encounter Pepino (Tony Martinez), the Mexican farmhand who apparently comes with the place (Amos thinks he's Russian).
Pepino gets to the root of the Luke/Little Luke mystery right away by asking why there are two brothers with the same name; big Luke explains that his (now-deceased) parents were so excited when they had a second son that they forgot they already had the first one. Having never seen the initial episode before, I never realized the two were brothers and, owing to the vast age difference between the two, always assumed that Little Luke was big Luke's son by a previous marriage.
In its brief 23 minutes, the first show also manages to introduce Amos' neighbor and nemesis, George McMichael (Andy Clyde), and his spinster sister Flora (the inimitable Madge Blake, "Batman's" Aunt Harriet and Larry Mondello's mother on "Leave It to Beaver").
The show-which ran until 1963, five seasons on ABC and the sixth on CBS-is creaky here and there, and there's quite a bit of stereotyping (Amos thinks 13-year-old Hassie is an "old maid" because she isn't married yet, and Pepino is straight out of Central Casting), but Brennan's performance, with excellent support from Crenna and Nolan, makes it well worth watching.