When the discussion of the first Reality TV series comes up, the inclusion of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet can certainly add energy to the conversation. Was it or wasn’t it? Would not a show that is written by, directed by, produced by, and starring Ozzie Nelson as Ozzie Nelson be a reality series? What if it also starred Harriet Nelson as Ozzie’s wife Harriet, and David and Ricky Nelson as Ozzie’s sons David and Ricky? According to Ozzie, all the stories were based on real events. Sounds real to me. Considering that it ran for 14 seasons and held the record for the longest running live-action sitcom in U.S. television history until It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia surpassed it on December 1, 2021, and it still holds the record for most episodes, it sounds popular to me. Was it? Does longevity always equal popularity? Ozzie and Harriet had been quite popular on the radio, so when it was brought to television, Ozzie Nelson persuaded ABC to agree to a 10-year contract that paid the Nelsons whether the series was canceled or not. Considering this contract and the fact that it was never a top-ten hit on the third-rated network, the popularity of the show could be questioned.
I had fond memories of the watching the show (in syndication) as a child, so when I heard that MPI Media Group had announced the June 21, 2022 release of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet: The Complete Season One and Two – restored, remastered, and available for the first time ever on digital platforms and VOD in honor of the 70th anniversary, I thought it would be fun to take a stroll down memory lane. It was not. Watching the first and second season is like watching a radio show. Most of the shows take place in the house, and though there are references to other locations and characters, they are rarely seen.
I could not help but compare the show with Leave it to Beaver, which I still watch occasionally. As it was also a situation comedy revolving around a family consisting of a husband, wife, and two sons, it seemed like a fair comparison. Though Beaver did not start to get into trouble on television until 1957, the humor worked far better than the early years of Ozzie and Harriet.
The stories in Ozzie and Harriet revolved around the character of Ozzie getting into situations that he struggled to get out of. Harriet served as the voice of reason, though Ozzie tended to ignore the input until it was too late. The term “Irrepressible Ricky” was used to describe the younger son whose character was filled with wisecracks. In the early years, the wisecracks were quite annoying and off-putting. Fundamentally, David plays straight man to Ricky, and Harriet served the same role with Ozzie, though both could be counted on to throw in biting comments as well.
The new release looks and sounds great. It would have been nice to have some bonus features, but considering it contains 78 episodes, it’s certainly a lot of material for the price.
I’m going to give this a disappointed Ron’s Rejection. I’m always annoyed when I watch a show recommended by a friend and find that I don’t enjoy the first few episodes, so I bail. When I inform my friend of my decision, the response is always the same: “Oh, you have to watch until the seventh episode of the fourth season and then it really starts to get good.”
Sadly, that is the case here, though I think you’ll be fine to just jump in after the first few seasons. By then the cast/family have hit their stride and the show is much more enjoyable. Ricky grows up to be a rock star, both boys get married, and their real brides join the show as…you guessed it, their brides.
The entire Nelson clan proved to be talented performers through their careers be it in front of the camera or behind. Ozzie built an amazing career behind the mic, in front of a band, and in front and behind the camera. Though we never really knew what he did for a living on The Adventure of Ozzie and Harriet, we knew he worked hard to keep us entertained.