One of TV's longest-running family
comedies, this program was as much a picture of reality in its own way as the
"relevance" comedies of the 1970's.
The Adventures of Ozzie &
Harriet was the real-life Nelson family
on the air, with all the little adventures that an active and interesting middle-class
American family might have, and two young boys growing up before their parents'
- and the television audience's - eyes. Even the house they lived in was modeled on
the Nelsons' real-life home in Hollywood. About the only liberties taken with
reality, for dramatic purposes, was in Ozzie's role. On TV, he had no defined source of income
and always seemed to be hanging around the house. (However, on at least one
The Drummer", Ozzie referred to his former life as an orchestra leader,
with Harriet as his vocalist). In real-life Ozzie Nelson was a hard worker
indeed, having been the nation's youngest Eagle Scout at age 13, an honor
student and star quarterback at Rutgers, and a nationally known bandleader in
the 1930's. His wife, Harriet, had once been his band's vocalist.
Their two sons were the real
stars of the program. When
The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet
began on radio in 1944, the boys'
roles were played by professional actors, but in 1949, Ozzie finally allowed his
actual offspring to go on the air. From then until the TV version ended. America
watched the two boys grow up. From 1952 to 1966, Ricky went from a crew-cut
11-year-old, to a real-life teenage singing idol, to a 25-year-old husband.
In the early episodes, the
stories revolved mostly around the the four Nelsons, with only a few friends and
neighbors featured - notably Thorny Thornberry, a holdover from radio days, who
regularly offered Ozzie bits of ill-timed advice. Later, as the boys began to
date, a succession of girlfriends and school buddies began to appear. In 1956,
David went off to college, followed four years later by Ricky. In the meantime,
Ricky had begun a show business career of his own, which gave
The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet
quite a boost among younger
viewers. A fall 1956 episode had him organizing a rock 'n' roll band in high
school. Then in an April 1957 telecast, he was drafted to perform with a local
band and sang a currently popular
Fats Domino hit, "I'm Walking" - which, backed with "A Teenager's
Romance," promptly became a real-life, million-selling record
for him. It was no flash-in-the-pan. Ricky went on to become one of the biggest stars of the
rock era, and all of his songs were featured in Ozzie & Harriet episodes,
or in an unconnected short segment tacked on to the end of the show.
time, both David and Ricky were married, and both real-life wives (June
& Kris) appeared on the show. David emerged from "college" as a
lawyer and joined a law office, in which Ricky later worked as a part-time clerk.
Their boss during most of this period was Mr. Kelley, and their secretary, Miss Edwards.
Toward the end,
Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet
became almost a living exercise in
nostalgia, with a number of episodes from the early 1950's being rerun during
the last two seasons. Then final original telecast in 1966 was wistful; it had
Ozzie deciding to buy a pool table and convert David and Ricky's now-vacant
bedroom into a game room - until he met with stiff opposition from Harriet.
For a short time in 1960, the
series ran under the title
The Adventures of the Nelson Family.
In 1973, the senior Nelsons
returned with syndicated series called
With their two sons married and away, Ozzie and Harriet took in two college-coed
boarders - Susie Hamilton (played by Susan Sennett) and Brenda MacKenzie (Brenda
Sykes). In the first few episodes, Brenda's first name was Jennifer. Stories
revolved around the problems of the parents of two sons adjusting to the
presence of two "daughters".