Ozzie and Harriet

8:30PM Saturdays

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet is an American sitcom, which aired on ABC from October 3, 1952 through April 23, 1966, and starred the real-life Nelson family. After a long run on radio, the show was brought to television, where it continued its success, initially running simultaneously on radio and TV. The series starred Ozzie Nelson and his wife, singer Harriet Nelson, and their sons, David and Eric “Ricky” NelsonDon DeFore had a recurring role as the Nelsons’ friendly neighbor “Thorny”.

Before the television series aired, Ozzie Nelson persuaded ABC to agree to a 10-year contract that paid the Nelsons whether the series was canceled or not. The unprecedented contract and Ozzie’s insistence on perfection in the series’ production paid off in the series’ remarkable longevity.

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet premiered on ABC on October 10, 1952, staying until April 23, 1966; in 1962, it became the first prime-time scripted series on American television to reach the 10-year milestone. The series strove for realism and featured exterior shots of the Nelsons’ actual southern California home at 1822 Camino Palmero Street in Los Angeles as the fictional Nelsons’ home. Interior shots were filmed on a Hollywood Center Studios sound stage recreated to look like the real interior of the Nelsons’ home. Viewers naturally assumed the action took place in Los Angeles since the occasional exterior shots were of actual Los Angeles streets rather than a studio backlot. But for many years the opening credits of each episode noted that the Nelson characters were “played by” the Nelson family, as though taking pains to ensure viewers knew these were not literal true-life accounts. And a 1959 episode titled “Ozzie Changes History” [5] is devoted entirely to the history of “Warfield,” the fictional town where they live. This finally accounted for the small-town atmosphere of the series whereby, like the other main sitcom families of the era (the Andersons and the Cleavers), the Nelson home seemed to be within walking distance of the town center.

Like its radio predecessor (which finally ended in 1954), the series focused mainly on the Nelson family at home, dealing with everyday problems. As the series progressed and the boys grew up, storylines involving various characters were introduced. Many of the series story lines were taken from the Nelsons’ real life. When the real David and Rick got married, to June Blair and Kristin Harmon respectively, their wives joined the cast of Ozzie and Harriet and the marriages were written into the series. What was seldom written into the series was Ozzie’s profession or mention of his lengthy and successful band-leading career. The popular joke about his career was that the only time he left the house was to go buy ice cream. According to his granddaughter, actress Tracy Nelson, Ozzie went to Rutgers to study law and when pressed would tell interviewers that the TV Ozzie was a lawyer.

By the mid-1960s, America’s social climate was changing, and the Nelsons, symbolizing the 1950s values and ideals, were beginning to seem dated. Ozzie, who wrote and directed all of the series’s episodes, attempted to alter the series to fit the times, but most viewers associated the series with a bygone era. The series cracked the top thirty programs in the Nielsen ratings for the first and only time in its eleventh season (1963–1964), when it ranked in 29th place. It made the transition from black-and-white to color in the 1965–66 season. That year, Ozzie tried to recapture the series’s early success by introducing 9-year-old Joel Davison and other young children to relate to younger families. Although Davison appeared in three episodes, the series’ Nielsen ratings continued to decline. In January 1966, ABC moved the series to Saturdays where it completed its 14-season run that spring.

Having run for a total of fourteen seasons, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet which averaged 29-30 episodes per season, remains the longest-running live-action American television sitcom.