Thursday, October 8, 2015
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
Today in history: “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” debuted on radio on this date in 1944. 71 years ago tonight.
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet is an American sitcom, airing on ABC from October 3, 1952 to September 3, 1966, starring the real life Nelson family. After a long run on radio, the show was brought to television where it continued its success, running on both radio and TV for a couple of years. The series starred Ozzie Nelson and his wife, singer Harriet Nelson (née Hilliard), and their young sons, David Nelson and Eric Nelson, better known as Ricky. Don DeFore had a recurring role as the Nelsons' friendly neighbor "Thorny". The series attracted large audiences, and although it was never a top-ten hit, it became synonymous with the 1950s ideal American family life. It is the longest-running live-action sitcom in US TV history.
When Red Skelton was drafted in March 1944, Ozzie Nelson was prompted to create his own family situation comedy. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet launched on CBS on October 8, 1944, moving to NBC in October 1948, and making a late-season switch back to CBS in April 1949. The final years of the radio series were on ABC (the former NBC Blue Network) from October 14, 1949 to June 18, 1954. In total 402 radio episodes were produced. In an arrangement that amplified the growing pains of American broadcasting, as radio "grew up" into television, the Nelsons' deal with ABC gave the network the option to move their program to television. The struggling network needed proven talent that was not about to defect to the more established and wealthier networks like CBS or NBC.
The Nelsons' sons, David and Ricky, did not join the cast until the radio show's fifth year (initially appearing on the February 20, 1949 episode). The two boys were played by professional actors prior to their joining because both were too young to perform. The role of David was played by Joel Davis from 1944 until 1945 when he was replaced by Tommy Bernard. Henry Blair appeared as Ricky. Other cast members included John Brown as Syd "Thorny" Thornberry, Lurene Tuttle as Harriet's mother, Bea Benaderet as Gloria, Janet Waldo as Emmy Lou, and Francis "Dink" Trout as Roger.
Ozzie and Harriet has long been one of my favorite radio programs and classic television shows. Corny perhaps by today's standards some might say, but there's a wholesome, genuine quality that really appeals to me.