The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952–1966)
User ReviewsAdd a Review
In truth it's one of the funniest shows ever on television. It was even cutting edge, for its time: Ozzie and Harriet slept in the same bed, which was unheard of. Ever see anyone on a TV show "break the fourth wall" (start talking to the camera)? This started on O&H - first with Ricky's end-of-show shrugs, and later with full-blown conversations directed to the camera. My personal favorite example of this is when Ozzie pretended to be a mind-reader (who of course no one recognized because of a cheesy goatee). When he gets exposed at the end, just about every character quips something or other straight into the camera.
Do yourself a favor though. Don't start off with the late episodes where the boys are grown up and married. Those can be quite funny, but the show at times was just coasting on its reputation by then. Watch the earlier stuff from when the boys were little, when Thorny still lived next door. Give yourself time to get to know the characters, and you certainly won't regret it!
For the most part, in the very early episodes, little Ricky Nelson is very comical with the wise-cracking one liners. No wonder he was introduced as the "irrepresible Ricky".
As the boys grew up and Rick Nelson's music career took off, the episodes were more focused on showcasing Rick's singing talents, which are great! He is shown at the end of each episode performing one of his hit songs, to a group of peers, which is conveniently worked into each episode.
After Dave and Rick were married in the series, however, you see the downfall as they are now both serious adults. Moreover, Rick's wife Kris is chronically portrayed as extremely snippy and nothing short of intolerable, and it leaves you to wonder with all the nice girls Rick dated in college (in the program), how he ended up with someone like that. In every episode with Kris, she is quick to accuse, quick to jump to the wrong conclusion, quick to display jealousy, and very demanding and extremely insecure - you pretty much see Rick really getting henpecked. One really aggravating episode is when it is Kris' birthday and Rick gets her a puppy. Kris and Rick are at Ozzie and Harriet's and you constantly hear her whine in a demanding tone: "Where's my present? Where's my present?" like a little five year old. Knowing that Kris in real life was anxious to please, she was willing to embarrass herself.
I agree with one of the other reviewers that this program was one of the funniest, until Rick and Dave are grown and married. Prior to this, it showcased a number of twists and turns and keeps you compelled to watch until the end. If you can catch any of the episodes prior to the marriages, you are in for a real treat!
OZZIE AND HARRIET reminds me of that mythical sitcom featured on the movie, PLEASANTVILLE.
Even though Ozzie's character wasn't the most assertive person around, he was still the man of the house and he did keep his family together. He certainly did a far better job as the man of the house than (sad to say) too many so-called assertive husbands today as the number of divorces and dysfunctional households continue to increase.
The plots were funny enough. All those clever one-liners that took place throughout the program, only made what was originally a funny episode, even funnier, yet.
Before jumping to the ignorant conclusion that this show was bland, one must also remember that this show was one of the first sitcoms to feature real rock and roll as later episodes featured Ricky Nelson performing his hits.
This show not only brought rock and roll into American living rooms, it also made it acceptable to parents, proving that rock and roll music would not destroy American society.
One story that was printed long after the series was canceled involved Ricky Nelson and his mother, Harriet. Unlike too many mothers of that era, who thought rock and roll posed a threat to modern society, Harriet commented that when she was Ricky's age, the older generation made the exact same comments (in the 1920s) about jazz.
Another story that was printed involved Ricky Nelson's first encounter with Elvis Presley. Not knowing what to expect from this encounter, Ricky was surprised to discover that not only was Elvis a nice guy, he was also a big fan of THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET.
This show, brought Rock N Roll into peoples living rooms, AND made it acceptable to their parents!! Did you know the Nelson family is the only family in history to have 3 generations become recording stars and win certain awards. (check it out) Ozzie, Ricky, and the Nelsons.
Anyone can do crude humor like Seinfield......but it really takes talent to make people laugh and to be wholesome and safe for the WHOLE family to watch!!
The Adventures and Leave it to Beaver were two of the best shows ever! And still rank better then the garbage they are turning out now, where whoever can shock the most, and show the most non-family friendly things rate highest.
Well, all that traveling' an' one night stands are kinda hard on family life, but since they were now also in the moving' pitcher business, sticking' with the Movies,Radio Show and whatever musical 'Gigs' they got locally, was much better for them as a family.
Like other Show Biz folks, their show morphed from the musical to the family sitcom. Eventually Ozzie would be portrayed as 'going to the office' everyday. But, what was his business? It was insurance, I think! At first some juvenile actors portrayed the boys, but eventually the got to be themselves, so to speak.
So much of the series was preoccupied with family stuff, growing pains, "discovering" girls, music, the malt shop, high school, college, sports, the old "gang", the Fraternity(was it "I-Felta-Thie"?),the Holidays, Golf, Neighbors, etc., etc.,....
Well, that made the years pass and the 'Boys' were getting' on in years themselves. The Chronology sometimes got a little fouled up and sometimes an unusual occurrence would happen. For example: Dave's school buddy, Wally Plumpsted(Skip Young)evolved into Rick's school buddy, Wally Plumpsted. It happened gradually and incrementally so it was barely noticed.
Always in a state of flux, as is any series with such longevity(just check the cast changes that have occurred in LAW & ORDER or E.R.)the Nelsons were always willing to put the Family to work at "the Office". So, when the 'Boys' each took unto themselves a Woman to be his Wife, old Oz put them on. Both David's Wife,June Blair(Woo,woo,woo,woo!) and Rick's Mrs.Krisyin Harmon(again, Woo,woo,woo,woo!)came on as semi-regulars.
And some of the regulars in the Cast over the years were:Mary Jane Croft & Lyle Talbot(Clara & Joe Randolph), Don DeFore('Thorny'), Parley Baer(Darby)Frank Caddy(Doc)and others.
And as for Mr.Oswald George Nelson, what can we say? He had show business in his family background, including Circus Performers! And all he did was Create the Series, Write and contribute to Scripts,Produce,Play the Lead and play a little Saxophone on occasions. He is a most interesting fellow!
Much like Disneyland, we tend to view OZZIE & HARRIET as being unrealistic, too 'Apple Pie',too 'Middle American' and just a tad corny.
But, when viewed again after a hiatus of some years, you were to take a viewing of some of the episodes, your attitude would surely change for the better. How well these episodes stand-up as individual comedies!
Oh, excuse me I have to go to the Office, after a stop at the Malt Shoppe!
One thing you knew when you tuned in, it would be a "wholesome" half-hour. Nothing controversial or serious. For better or worse, never anything about politics, sexual innuendo, or the outside world. Typically, it might be Oz trying to get his lawn-mower back from neighbor Thorny (DeFore) who doesn't want to move his car. True, it was a series basically about nothing. But the entries were nearly always amusing. Maybe not hilarious, but always worth a few head- nodding chuckles. Yes, life's trivial little problems could be entertaining if you were a gifted Ozzie Nelson.
Of course, Harriet was a big part of the humorous situations, always a voice of calm and good sense. Maybe vaguely amused by Oz's latest half-digested scheme. Wisely, I think, the show reserved any ditsy elements for neighbors or friends, a proved formula over the decades. That way the characters could drop in or out as needed. Importantly, however, characters like Clara Randolph (Croft) may be on the ditsy side but they were never exaggerated or mocked. Then too, except for sinister types, it looks like about every supporting player in Hollywood was on the show at one time or another.
At first, the boys-- a reliable David and a wise-cracking Ricky, oops! I mean Rick (as he preferred)-- blended in and out as junior members. But as they grew, the boys became more central, proving adept at the series low-key style. Then, of course, Rick became a teen R&R idol, a real risk for the show, given R&R's controversial influence on teens. Still, Oz proved as adept at handling that touchy phase as any other. In fact, many of us sort of grew up with Dave and Rick. But, I agree with others. Once the boys married, the show had outlived its appeal. Then too, times were changing. By 1966, Vietnam was heating up and so was the youth counter-culture, while a groundbreaking "All In The Family" (1971-79) and a very different kind of TV dad were only a few years off. An era had indeed ended.
Sure, in our own lid-is-off times, the show would likely never fly. For better or worse, it was very much an idealized reflection of its time. I recall even reading about folks who were unhappy because their family was not at all like the Nelsons. In a sense, as entertaining as they were, the TV Nelsons did exist in a societal vacuum, an ideal embodiment of that era. Still, I'm not at all sure that we're better off without it. I do regret, however, that Ozzie never appeared to get the industry recognition his low-key talent deserved. But then that sort of thing never does have a time limit.
You have to view Ozzie&Harriet from a longer perspective. They were on radio for a dozen years before the TV series debuted in 1952. The births of David and Ricky were as much a part of our national folklore as Lucille Ball's most televised birth of little Ricky. And on radio it was known Ozzie was a musician.
It's not like there were any gags or routines on the show and Ozzie was not an idiot father being put down by his kids. Harriet certainly was an All American mom. I wish she had sung a little, she was a great singer in 30s and 40s. Just idealized family life in the Eisenhower years.
The show might have died had it not been discovered that Ricky Nelson inherited musical talent from his parents. He became quite the rock and roll king, but he could never be anything more than a good kid with Ozzie and Harriet raising him. No sullen Elvis Presley like rebellion in a Nelson.
Ricky had a string of some pretty good hits for about 10 years with a built in audience to introduce them. It added a whole new generation of fans for the Nelsons until musical tastes changed.
Change it did, the all American home wasn't playing quite so good in the counterculture 60s. But The Adventures of Ozzie&Harriet still has its place in our cultural history.
Their world did not have maniacs running around shooting or blowing up strangers. The biggest problem Ozzie seemed to have was getting one jump ahead of Harriet and he usually failed at that. Later in the series, there was the added pleasure of watching Rick Nelson's musical performances.
There were slight references to sex. One humorous moment was when David's wife June said, "I really am a good cook" then turned to go in their apartment door with David checking her out as she goes in. He turns, looks directly at the camera and with a slight shrug, says"Who cares?"
Ozzie and Harriet not only slept in the same bed, in one episode, a comedy element was Harriet putting her cold feet on Ozzie's back. This was shown by bumps moving under the covers and Ozzie's outcry followed by Harriet's "Sorry dear. I 'll wait 'til you're asleep".
My favorite episode (so far) is "The Ladder" where Ozzie and Thorny get stuck up on Ozzie's roof. An old gag (characters getting stuck somewhere together on a roof or in a cellar, etc) but this one really made me laugh.
In today's headlines, pettiness seems to dominate the news cycle and there is no humor to be found. I think instead of watching CNN or Fox or reading the newspaper, I'll turn on another episode of Ozzie and Harriet.
The fluidity of Ozzie and Harriet's cast in it's final years is compared with My Three Son's cast; both added wives to the cast, but by the mid 60's, this signaled an end to both of these shows. Also, Skip Young was sort of too old to play a fraternity brother of the Nelson brothers (by 1963 he was "only" 33 years old... kind of too old for an undergrad, but, perhaps, could have been cast at the very least as an associate Professor). By contrast, Leave it to Beaver didn't suffer this flaw; the cast remained the same; Lumpy Rutherford stayed as Lumpy Rutherford and was a contemporary of Wally's. Same deal with Gilbert, Toohey, et al with the Beav.
Secondly, Ward Cleaver's homespun wisdom far outshone that of Ozzie. In fact, Ozzie always looked sort of stilted on camera, so he wasn't as believable as Hugh Beaumont, Fred MacMurray or Robert Young.
However, I am partial here. Leave it to Beaver is by far my favorite family sitcom from this era. Ozzie pales to the likes of the Beav. Sorry.
Then there's Patty Duke's horribly fake British accent and the fact a hot dog would make her lose control. I don't know, I get the picture of her have spasms in the middle of the road twitching uncontrollably while flailing her hands around as shown in the opening. Thank God nobody ever gave her a hot dog.
And worse yet, are the ungrateful self-absorbed kids on Father Knows Best. The oldest daughter Princess, mean and narcissistic, the son Bud ever stupid lacking confidence, and finally the youngest Kitten, forever whining, complaining, and crying.
Sure there were some great shows back then, like The Honeymooners and I Love Lucy. Both had live audiences, so they had to be funny. But the shows with the canned laugh track always contained one or more annoying clichés.
And then there's The Adventures of Ozzy and Harriet. Granted it was free of any annoying clichés, but even worse, it was annoying from beginning to end. A father who never goes to work and who smirks and silently chuckles after every line knowing that's where the laugh track would be inserted. Two sons who act as if they overdosed on sleeping pills. And a supporting cast including Harriet, that apparently were "phoning in their lines" opposite a cue card.
This show is the epitome of bad sitcom via fake laugh track. It set the precedent for all bad sitcoms to follow. Finally, who are these people and how on Earth did they get their own show? I don't know, but there's one redeeming factor. If you ever need to induce vomiting and don't have any mustard and milk, just play Rick Nelson's "Garden Party", you know, the one where he looks like he's about to pass out, and you'll puke instantly.