The Adventures of Ozzie
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
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
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
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.