The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet is an American situation comedy, airing on ABC from October 3rd, 1952 through March 26th, 1966, starring the real life Nelson family.

After a long run on radio, the show was brought to television where it continued its success, running on both radio and television for a few years.  The series stars Ozzie Nelson and his wife, singer Harriet Nelson (née Snyder, professionally Hilliard), and their young sons, David and Eric “Ricky” Nelson.  Don DeFore had a recurring role as the Nelsons’ friendly neighbor “Thorny”.

Before the show aired, Ozzie Nelson persuaded ABC to agree to a 10-year contract that paid the Nelsons whether the series was canceled or not.  The unprecedented contract and Ozzie’s insistence on perfection in the show’s production paid off in the show’s remarkable longevity.  The show ran for a total of fourteen television seasons and holds the record as the longest running American situation comedy in television history.

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet premiered on ABC on October 10th, 1952, staying until September 3rd, 1966.  The show strove for realism and featured exterior shots of the Nelsons’ actual southern California home at 1822 Camino Palmero Street in Los Angeles as the fictional Nelsons’ home.  Interior shots were filmed on a sound stage recreated to look like the real interior of the Nelsons’ home.  Like its radio predecessor (which finally ended in 1954), the series focused mainly on the Nelson family at home, dealing with run-of-the-mill problems.  As the series progressed and the boys grew up, story lines involving various characters were introduced.  Many of the series story lines were taken from the Nelsons’ real life.  When the real David and Rick got married, to June Blair and Kristin Harmon respectively, their wives joined the cast of Ozzie and Harriet, and the marriages were written into the series.  What was seldom written into the series was Ozzie’s profession or mention of his lengthy and successful band-leading career.  The popular joke about his career was that the only time he left the house was to go buy ice cream.  According to his granddaughter, actress Tracy Nelson, Ozzie went to Rutgers to study law and when pressed would tell interviewers that the TV Ozzie was a lawyer.

Supporting cast members (some appearing in more than 50 episodes over ten years) included Don DeFore, Parley Baer, Lyle Talbot, Mary Jane Croft, Skip Young, Gordon Jones, James Stacy, Joe Flynn and Jack Wagner.
By the mid-1960s, America’s social climate was changing, and the Nelsons’ all American nuclear family epitomized the 1950s values and ideals that were quickly becoming a thing of the past.  Ozzie, who wrote and directed all of the series’ episodes, attempted to change with the times, but most viewers related the show to a bygone era.  The series cracked the top thirty programs in the Nielsen ratings for the first and only time during its eleventh season (1963–1964), when it ranked in 29th place.  The show finally made the transition from black-and-white to color in its 1965–66 season.  In that season, Ozzie tried to recapture the series’ earlier success portraying a young, growing family by introducing 9-year old Joel Davison and other boys to interact with the Nelsons and create the illusion of a younger family.  Joel appeared in three episodes, but it was too late to reverse the declining ratings, and ABC canceled Ozzie and Harriet in 1966.

 

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