Fifties TV

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet?

Author: Jeff Little

Most lovers of television will tell you that, to say the least, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was by far one of the biggest misnomers in the history of the medium. The series was easily one of the mildest and most uneventful programs to ever make a TV tube glow. But it somehow managed to entertain us all from 1952 - 1966.

It chronicled the "adventures" of the Nelson family (Ozzie, Harriet, David, and Ricky) who, each week, held audiences' attention by going about the business of being wholesome. So wholesome in fact that they made Captain Kangaroo look like Larry Flint by comparison.

While Father may have known best, Ozzie Nelson knew nothing. At least the character he played knew nothing (or next to nothing). In real life, Ozzie knew enough to produce this television legend well enough for it to run for fifteen years.

Oswald George "Ozzie" Nelson started his career as a band leader and eventually married the group's vocalist Harriet Hilliard and the couple had a son, David, a year later. Four years later another son, Eric (known best as "Ricky") was born and the Nelson family was complete.

Originally The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was a radio show that first aired in 1944 and featured actors as the two Nelson siblings. It was 1949 before the Nelson youngsters took up their own parts and played themselves on the radio show and later on TV.

In 1952 the family starred with Rock Hudson (years before homosexuals had been invented) in the feature film Here Come the Nelsons, and later that year they brought their "big bland" brand of entertainment to the small screen. Weekly viewers marveled at how exciting their everyday lives were by comparison, and left the television asking themselves, "What does Ozzie do for a living?" (Even though Mr. Nelson went to work every day, the fifteen years of the series never gave enough clues to even venture a guess as to what Oz did for a living.)

Through the 50's and well into the 60's Ozzie and Harriet were household names. And they weren't alone. David was usually never a topic in most conversations involving television of the day, but Ricky was a different story.

Rick not only co-starred with John Wayne and Dean Martin in 1959's western classic Rio Bravo, he also had an impressive music career. With a string of hits which started in 1957 (Fats Dominos' I'm Walkin'), Ricky became the most famous of the Nelsons, his last musical success coming in 1972 (Garden Party). Years later Eric Hilliard "Ricky" Nelson died in a plane crash in 1985.

Ozzie died of cancer in 1975 at the age of 69 and Harriet passed on in 1994 due to congestive heart failure at the age of 85. But David is still living, as is the legacy left by his family.

The Nelsons may have not been exciting, but they were entertaining. Perhaps real life is where we should look to find the real adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.



The Nelson Family

Rock Hudson

Ricky Nelson

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