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Series / The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet

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From left to right: Ozzie, David, Harriet, and Ricky.

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet is an American sitcom that aired on ABC from 1952 to 1966, and starred the real-life Nelson family: bandleader Ozzie Nelson; his wife, singer Harriet Nelson, and their sons, David and Eric "Ricky" Nelson. While it was classic Dom Com comparable to Father Knows Best or Leave It to Beaver, the show's setup was an unintentional bit of Postmodernism: the Nelsons played fictional versions of themselves, with the show's house set based very precisely on the Real Life Nelson house, right down to the same furnishings.

Notable for being the longest-running live-action American sitcom, until It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia surpassed it in 2019.

This series features examples of:

  • Aftershow: The show had one in Ozzie's Girls, which aired in First-Run Syndication in 1973-74. An attempt to do the show without the Nelson brothers (though David was heavily involved behind the scenes), it was basically "Ozzie and Harriet do a Lighter and Softer All in the Family", with the empty nester Nelson parents renting out Rick and Dave's old bedrooms to two young women (a Black college student and a white hippie), while the old-fashioned Ozzie tries to cope with the changing times. It ended after one year when Ozzie's health started declining. Trivia footnote: Mark Harmon (Ricky's then-brother-in-law) had his first acting gig in the episode that ended up being the series finale.
  • Catchphrase: "I don't mess around, boy!" for Ricky in the early years.
  • Dom Com: Practically every episode took place at the Nelson house and had the family dealing with the basics of family life. It's been pointed out as an exemplar of a sitcom that was much more focused on "situation" than "comedy".
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first years of the radio show focused on Ozzie and Harriet doing an ersatz Fibber McGee and Molly, with only occasional mentions of their sons. Then they decided to add David and Ricky as characters, but had professional child actors play them. After the real Nelson boys begged to play themselves, Ozzie had them do some test shows, and finally added them full-time in 1949.
  • Fat Best Friend: Wally Plumstead, Ricky and David's fraternity brother, very much in the Big and Brash category.
  • Happily Married: Ozzie and Harriet (or at least the fictional versions thereof), are arguably the ultimate TV version of this trope, being a caring couple who was very understandable of each other, in a Standard '50s Parents sort of way.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: One of the most famous aversions, as David and Ricky started the series as adolescents of 15 and 12, respectively, and ended it as married men of 29 and 26, having attended college along the way.
  • Obliquely Obfuscated Occupation: Ozzie's job involved hanging around the house a lot, although he was, nominally, a bandleader, as he was in real life, though Nelson, who studied law in college before turning to music full-time, reportedly also told interviewers that Ozzie was a lawyer. His seeming One-Hour Work Week was a stock joke for people who grew up in The '50s much the same way that "did anyone on Friends ever go to work?" would be for later generations.
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot: Season 10's "The Fraternity Rents Out a Room" was one for a Spinoff that was going to center on Wally Plumstead, which would also feature the professor played by the episode's guest star Wally Cox. The plan was to have Rick bounce between both shows. ABC wanted to pick it up, but Ozzie had second thoughts and decided not to do the series.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: In the later seasons, the marriages of Ricky and David were written into the show, and their wives Kristin and June joined the cast.
  • Sarcastic Title: Not only did most of the show happen at home, the "adventures" were often built around mundane premises. The IMDB synopsis of one season 5 episode is typical: "Ozzie makes a fishing lure out of a feathered ornament from Harriet's new hat."
  • Sound-to-Screen Adaptation: The show actually began on radio in 1944 before moving to the small screen in 1952, after the release of the theatrical film Here Come the Nelsons (which also had an early role for Rock Hudson), meant to test the waters for the family jumping to a visual medium.
  • Standard '50s Father: Ozzie is probably one of the best known examples on television. Happily Married, loves his children, upstanding citizen...
  • Teen Idol: Ricky Nelson parlayed his TV fame into a legitimate music career, and carried on his family's tradition (Ozzie was also a huge star, but as a bandleader in the 1930s and 1940s).