Ozzie Nelson was a big band leader and his wife, Harriet, was a vocalist. They were regulars with Red Skelton and later launched their own show.
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was a very popular TV show from 1952 to 1966. In a lot of ways, it was reality TV. Ozzie and Harriet Nelson and their two sons, Dave and Eric (Rick) played themselves. Their actual house, in Tenafly, New Jersey, was used for exterior shots on the show, and the interior used at the studio was very similar to the Nelson’s house. Some of the episodes were built around events that happened in real life. The world got to watch the boys grow up on TV — in later years, they married and their wives were written into the plot.
The plots were thin, Ozzie tinkered around the house and never seemed to go to work and acted goofy. His wife, Harriet, was wise and kind and generally found a way to save the day. Dave and Rick were clean-cut kids who worried about getting dates.
I watched six episodes on a “best of” DVD.
Fall Guy (Season 1, Episode 4) — Ozzie tells Dave he doesn’t always have to do favors for people, then promises his neighbor Thorny that Dave will take his niece to a dance. Dave turns him down at first, but agrees after meeting the niece.
David’s Birthday (Season 2, Episode 6) — David has a date with Sally, who he thinks is 19. He worries that she will find out it’s his 17th birthday. Harriet shows the kids some family movies that reveal Dave’s age. Sally confesses that she’s just about to turn 16.
David’s Engagement (Season 4, Episode 1) — Ozzie and Harriet jump to conclusions and think that Dave is getting married at the Justice of the Peace. They race to stop him, but find out he’s just paying a speeding ticket.
A Ball of Tin Foil (Season 4, Episode 9) — Ozzie rents a trailer to cart away the family junk, but ends up trading his junk for the junk of other men in the neighborhood. When their wives make them bring it all back, the Nelsons end up with a lot more junk than they started with.
Captain Salty and the Submarine (Season 5, Episode 2) — Ozzie sees a kids’ show on TV and orders a toy submarine to see how it works. The producer, thinking he’s a kid, picks him as the winner of a bicycle. Ozzie goes on the show and says the bike is for a kid in the neighborhood, then finds out his friend Thorny lied about the kid and wants the bike for himself.
Ricky the Drummer (Season 5, Episode 28) — Ricky plays drums for a band that’s performing in town. He also sings a solo and a quartet with his family and does some dancing. It was episodes like this that launched Rick Nelson’s musical career.
I’m not going to rush out and watch all 435 episodes. (It is the longest running sit-com in TV history.) But the Nelsons were likeable, wholesome and occasionally genuinely funny. I was entertained.
Before The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was a TV show, it was on the radio. I listened to one episode called “Be On Time,” which aired on June 23, 1953. Ozzie lectures Ricky about being late and then decides to make the lecture the theme of his speech at Dave’s school. But he forgot to turn the power back on after fixing a light and was late for the speech. Fortunately, it was postponed for some reason.
The family acknowledged that it was Rick’s fame that kept the show around for so long. 53 of his songs made the Billboard Top 100. He was never really able to escape from the role he played on TV. He started a country-rock band called Stone Canyon Band, but it wasn’t very popular. When he appeared at Madison Square Garden in 1971 with long hair and refused to play his popular old songs, he was booed off the stage. He responded by writing “Garden Party” (You can’t please everyone/so you’ve got to please yourself). A series of failed relationships, drug abuse and fights with fellow musicians filled much of the rest of his career before he was killed in a plane crash in 1985.