Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ozzie and Harriet

Perhaps exemplifying the change brought on by 1966 more than anything else was THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET.

Bandleader Ozzie Nelson and his wife/band singer Harriet Hilliard took a chance at a radio sitcom in 1944 and it turned out to be a hit. Like many radio stars they played thinly disguised versions of themselves, complete with their own names. Their two sons, however, were originally played by actors. As the show reached a peak in popularity, there was a feature film called HERE COME THE NELSONS. When television boomed, THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET with its gentle humor and family values was an easy and successful transfer.

With the boys, David and Ricky, now playing themselves, America literally watched the kids grow up throughout the fifties. By the end of the fifties, the easy-going but savvy Ozzie had allowed Ricky to stretch his chops as a rock 'n' roll singer on the show. The lines of fiction and reality blurred as Ricky became a real-life teen idol at the top of the charts. Into the sixties, both sons married in real life and their real wives played "themselves" on the show.

But even though the Nelsons were America's favorite family, THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET finally came to an end on TV in March of 1966. After 22 years all told. Even some color episodes toward the end couldn't hide the fact that the Nelsons represented the black and white fifties...and by 1966, that was a looong time ago.

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