CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “Ozzie and Harriet” Origins

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For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

 Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances. 

When one talks about the show that’s the typical, quintessential 1950s “TV family,” you need to look no further than “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” program.

But do you know how this television show came to fruition?

Ozzie Nelson was an orchestra leader who sometimes teamed with Harriet (born Peggy Lou Snyder) for events before both were asked to appear at the same time on a national radio show called “The Baker’s Broadcast” in the early 1930s.  One of the initial hosts of the show was Robert Ripley (remember “Ripley’s ‘Believe It or Not?’ “)

Ozzie and Harriet married in 1935 and decided, as opposed to continuing to work independently, they would see more of each other by working the same gigs.

Featured appearances on some of the top radio programs in the 1940s included “The Red Skelton Show,” “The Fred Allen Show” and “Suspense,” which led to their own radio vehicle.

When Skeleton was drafted in 1944, Ozzie was left to create his own family situation comedy on Red’s program, giving him valuable experience he would need a couple years later to develop his own television show.

The Ozzie and Harriet radio program actually switched networks, from CBS to NBC and finally to ABC, who was significantly behind the other two networks in the Hooper ratings that were used at that time. In the late 1940s, all three networks started looking at existing radio shows that could successfully make the transition to television.  Because ABC was desperate to hold on to their talent and not lose them to the other two networks, they pretty much offered the Nelsons carte blanche when it came to creating their own television program.

First of all, Ozzie and Harriet never had to produce a pilot episode for ABC. Instead, the couple’s successful movie, “Here Comes the Nelsons,” was used to convince the network that America would fall in love with this real-life family.

Also, before a single episode aired, Ozzie convinced ABC to guarantee them a 10-year contract.  This meant that regardless of whether or not the series would ever be canceled, the entire family would still get paid for a decade–a virtually unheard of television contract concession, even to this day.

The contract actually turned out to be a godsend for the network and not as much for the Nelsons as the show became an instant hit and easily surpassed the 10-year contract, making it the first weekly prime-time scripted television program ever to last for more than a decade.

In all, the series would go on for a record-setting 14-year sojourn on television alone.

We’ll have more on this program’s legacy coming up in a future blog post.

In the meantime, you can visit with the Nelsons yourself.  “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” airs weekly on Sunday afternoons at 1 p.m. on RCN-TV.

Plus…we’re hosting an “Ozzie and Harriet” mini-marathon this Monday evening starting at 9 pm on RCN-TV.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Michael About Chris Michael

Chris handles play-by-play for RCN sports events, including baseball, football & basketball games and produces/hosts the station’s 60-minute live call-in show. Among Chris’s other responsibilities include reporting on local news & sports stories, conducting “Take 5” interviews with community and political leaders, producing commercials, voiceovers and promos; and generating blog entries and videos on the internet. Click here to listen to the weekly Sports Talk podcast.

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