Friday, March 16, 2012

Classic TV Review: The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet

You know, I've watched most of the TV shows from the fifties and sixties that were both good and pioneering. I can sit own and watch an episode of The Honeymooners or The Burns and Allen Show and still laugh up a storm. But what I cannot for the life figure out is how The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet lasted as long as it did, for it is the most singularly boring program I've ever watched. And I used to like watching Bob Ross paint.

For those who haven't seen it, the situation comedy stars real-life husband-and-wife Ozzie and Harriet Nelson. Ozzie gained some fame as a bandleader in the forties, and both he and his wife Harriet have been singers. Joining them are their real-life sons, David and Rick Nelson. David later received acclaim as a director and Rick had success as a singer and musician. They all played themselves, with David and Rick's real-life wives joining the cast over the course of time. On the show, David ended up as the junior partner of a law firm, and Rick was a performing musician. For some reason, whatever it was that Ozzie did for a living was never revealed on the program. It seemed to have good hours, though, since he could be found out-and-about the town and virtually any hour of the day. (To be fair, the feature film based on the show, Here Comes the Nelsons did finally give Ozzie a profession. What was it? Go rent the movie or buy a TV quiz book.)

From the twenty or so episodes I've seen, there were really only three situations for this comedy: Rick or David had girl trouble, Rick or David had trouble at school or work, or one of the Nelsons or one of their friends was completely confused about something, leading to some embarrassing faux paus that had to be avoided.  Somehow, those three things got them through FOURTEEN years of shows.

Any program does have the occasional good moment. The few moments on the show that approached comedy were usually created by co-stars. Skip Young had a somewhat annoying laugh as neighbor Wally Plumstead, but he had an earnestness about him that showed he wasn't taking himself too seriously. Veteran b-movie actor Lyle Talbot appeared as Ozzie's best friend Joe Randolph, a catalyst that almost created some comedy chemistry now and again.

I fully understand that humor is relative to whatever is going on at the moment, and I've learned to adjust my own sense of humor when I watch old TV shows and listen to old radio shows so I can appreciate them more. Believe me, I'm as big a fan of classic television as you will find. But it is very hard to watch this program now and think it was funny, much less that it was funny enough to last for fourteen years. There's such a white bread blandness about the production; a lot of the dialogue seemed so forced, even though these were family members speaking to each other. Ozzie and Harriet seems to be a portrait of what TV executives and advertisers thought the perfect American family was in the fifties. I think everyone knows that particular institution was always a myth, with the appearance of Bigfoot being less shocking than finding that family dynamic in full practice.

The Cleavers, the Andersons, the Stones, the Mitchells, and even the Partridges got whatever message they were espousing for an episode across to the viewers. But unlike the Nelsons, they did it with a laugh. They didn't proselytize with abject boredom.

1 comment:

  1. Well! I'm putting on my button-down sweater & heading right over to the malt shoppe!