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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Best of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
The Best of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
Shout Factory // Unrated // May 1, 2007
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Paul Mavis | posted April 27, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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I wonder if the decades-long impact of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet has finally started to wane. After all, nostalgia for vintage sitcoms from the '50s, such as The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Father Knows Best, The Donna Reed Show, and Leave it to Beaver reached a fever pitch back in the 1980s, back when all their original viewers, the "Baby Boomers," were in their thirties and early forties - a prime age for starting to look back to the past, as well as a prime age for marketers looking to capitalize financially on all those treasured memories. Channels like Nick at Night and TVLand were filled with black and white memories from the 1950s and 1960s, while The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet played successfully on The Disney Channel.

But look at those channels today. They've moved on. Color dominates their line-ups. Nothing from the Eisenhower era except Lucy plays there now during prime-time. Those channels are the homes of Cosby, the Olsen Twins, Jack Tripper, and Uncle Jesse. Obviously, the TV marketers have moved on from the aging Boomers, and pushed their chiaroscuro world of crinoline-dressed housewives, cardigan-clad dads, and flat-top teens off the airwaves to silently fade away on the all-consuming, ever-feeding pop culture's back-burner. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet ended its original run when I was a year old, and I don't remember it playing in my local market that often, so I haven't a strong emotional connection to the show. Legendary, of course, from a historian's perspective, this U.S. record-holding live-action sitcom of fourteen seasons (I still don't count the animated The Simpsons as its record holder successor) was known to me from my studies - along with all the endless scrutinizing of its politics and sociology - but I don't think I caught it on a regular basis until it appeared on The Disney Channel.

Watching the show today, I'm less interested in the reams of analysis and criticism that The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet generated (yes, 1950's TV was a land of conformity and blandness, with never a trace of strife, poverty, minorities or dissident thought; we've all heard that enough times), than in the manner in which this criticism and analysis was, and is, delivered. Invariably, analysis of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet comes from a negative perspective. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet lacked reality, they say. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet perpetrated a false worldview that was harmful to viewers, you may read. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet lied to us by presenting the Nelson family off screen and on screen as the exactly the same family, when no family could achieve the happiness and harmony of the on-screen Nelsons.

Frankly, I've never understood criticism like that, particularly when the analysis is thinly-veiled venom. There's a real sense of hatred coming off modern critics for The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, as well as other shows like it from 1950s TV Land; a mantra of disappointment and scorn at a business that could perpetrate such a phoney worldview on an innocent, unsuspecting, and most importantly from the critics' perspectives, gullible audience. Well, I've never cottoned to the idea that TV audiences are all that gullible. That's a conceit shared by ivory-tower intellectuals who like to think that the "common folk" are a little too common and a little too stupid to pick their own politics, their own religious beliefs, and their own TV shows. And along with that conceit comes their firm conviction that whatever the rubes see on the boob tube, they believe. They cite instance after instance of viewers coming up to actors like Rick Nelson, years after The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet ended, sobbing that they couldn't match up their own families with the Nelsons -- that indeed, the show had hurt them. The critics, as Norman Bates would say, click their thick tongues, and ruefully conclude that a deceit was foisted on the public.

Where that venom comes from is anybody's guess (I suspect it stems from the same hatred in academia for anything perceived as "the norm," or "positive," or "traditional" -- or for anything so identifiably "American" as the Nelsons), but it usually blinds the critics to the other, more sensible side of the argument. Of course, these critics never detail the millions and millions of fans who would never approach Rick or creator Ozzie with a sob story like that, because they enjoyed the show for what it was: an idealized, simple comedy that proved a solid laugh-getter for audiences who only looked for that end result - and expected nothing more. No sociology, no politics, no mirror on their supposedly tortured souls. Those are the people that shook the real life Nelsons' hands, and said simply, "Thank you for a great, funny show."

Of course, the real irony of sociological and political TV analysis comes from critics who praise a "relevant" show such as One Day at a Time because it supposedly mirrored real life - and hence its enormous popularity -- and yet damn an equally popular show like The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (which coincidentally doesn't match their politics ) as being somehow totally fake. If One Day at a Time was liked by most people because it was funny, and because they saw a slice of life that they recognized as true being portrayed on the small screen, why isn't the same true for a show like The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet? It may come as a shock to some TV historians, but there were actual families like the Nelsons - and there still are. Of course, these families fight, and have crisis after crisis, and go broke, and have deaths in the family -- all the things you'll never see on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. But these real-life families also find true enjoyment in spending time with each other; they make efforts to be polite and considerate of each other, they have simple, lovely adventures of everyday life and living together, and they laugh with and at each other - just as the Nelsons do. And that's what audiences responded to in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet for fourteen long years. Far from being science fiction, as most critics and historians would have you believe, the Nelson family embodied many of the traits and characteristics of social mores and practices that 1950s and early 1960s America actively strived for. They certainly didn't achieve the Nelson's results, but then again, the vast majority of the audience already knew they wouldn't. You see, they were just watching television, not real life.

Watching The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet now, what comes through far more strongly - after decades of change on the TV screen have rendered its political and sociological ramifications quaint - is what a genial, smart, funny sitcom it was. And truly, that's the only really important legacy any comedy show should have: is it still funny? There are episodes in this four-disc collection, The Best of the Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet that play just as surrealistically, just as wittily, and just as bizarrely, as the best episodes of Seinfeld. And really all the credit for that belongs to its creator, Ozzie Nelson. A virtual one-man band of TV production, Ozzie wrote, produced, directed and starred in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, exercising total artistic control over his baby during an era when the networks and the sponsors allowed no auteurs on their airways (his absolute control was such that he even pioneered showing Harriet and himself sleeping in the same bed, years before any other TV series, back when that was big deal on television).

On several of the bonus features for this disc set, the rather amazing story of Ozzie's creation, from successful radio show in 1944, to TV show in 1952 until its cancellation in 1966, show a workaholic who, when told he had his finger on the pulse of what America thought, politely corrected the observer, and simply stated that he just wrote what he thought was funny. And in that context, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet finally makes sense. If the show was somehow just a reflection of what Ozzie thought America wanted (which seems to be the general feeling from critics), it would have been off the air much sooner than its phenomenal 14 year run. If the show was, as some critics would have you believe, just a thinly veiled whitewash of the real Nelson family plights, it would have run out of steam rather quickly (the rich, show business Nelson family were not an average American family in that sense). But if you look at the series as an epic-length artistic creation by one man, a powerhouse like Ozzie Nelson, who wrote and wrote and wrote only to please himself, then The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet makes sense. And watching it today you can prove Ozzie right or wrong. Is it still funny? Yes, it is. At times, wonderfully, charmingly, bizarrely so.

There's a justifiably famous episode included in this "best of" boxed set, Tutti Frutti Ice Cream, which aired in 1957, that's a perfect example of the marvelously calm, almost fey hysterics that Ozzie could expertly build into each of his episodes. The story is simple. Ozzie is on a diet, so the Nelsons as a family support him by skipping their nightly dessert. Of course, denied what he wants most, Ozzie begins to talk about the good old days, when they really knew how to pack a pint of ice cream, making him long for his favorite, Tutti Frutti ice cream (there was a picture in Ozzie's evening paper of a lost boy at the police station, enjoying a cone of Tutti Frutti, that started this whole memory). Going to bed, he dreams he's back in those old days, playing the banjo as Harriet (who still has sensational legs) does the Charleston. Waking up, Oz decides to go to his next door neighbor, Darby (Parley Baer), to see if he has any Tutti Frutti ice cream. Darby, understandably annoyed, waves him off, but Harriet joins Oz' quest, going so far as to go downtown to a drug store to see if they sell it (the druggist thinks she's pregnant and has a craving). Going back home, Harriet tries to recreate the unique flavor of that ice cream, but fails. Soon, Darb is back at Oz' house; it seems he's obsessed with having some of the ice cream, too. And off the two go, into the night again, on an increasingly convoluted and bizarre trip, just to have some of this Tutti Frutti ice cream.

Naturally, after reading that description, you could substitute Jerry, Elaine, and George, and have a Seinfeld episode. This is the quintessential episode about "nothing," but of course, it is about something - many things. Perhaps most striking about this show, and all the episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, is the gentle quality of the humor. This is true observational comedy. If you're looking for screeching laughs, forget The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet right now. You won't find them. What you will find are episodes such as this one, where Ozzie expertly builds up the comedy situation, and lets the natural, recognizable humor come from the characters inevitable snare-ups within the mechanism. It's very much like old silent comedy, but without a lot of sight gags. There's an emphasis on the structure of the story to bring out the comedy, not the other way around, like many of today's sitcoms, where one-liners are thought up first, and jack-hammered into nonsensical, non-existent plots. And most importantly, it's gentle comedy that we can all understand and related to.

Repetition of plot mechanics can occur throughout the various episodes, with characters often on some kind of chase that inevitably leads back home after numerous mix-ups, but even with similar stories, Ozzie is consistently clever and resourceful at working out the physics of the situational comedy. There's a serene calm to the proceedings (which some critics take as slow and unfunny) which again, harkens back to the real-life persona of Ozzie and indeed the rest of his real-life family. While many critics find it annoying that nobody raises their voices in anger on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, I find it refreshing, to say the least, particularly when you take it as a part of an artistic choice and expression on Ozzie's part. Ozzie was expert at writing for himself and his family, knowing their metier for performance, and his low-key, gently humorous scripting and pacing are perfectly attuned to the performers. Quite often, I've read that Harriet played straightman to Ozzie's cut-up, but watching these episodes, I'm perplexed by that assessment. Harriet, far from setting up Ozzie, often delivers her own wry punch line to Ozzie's set-up. They're a nicely matched comedic pair, their act honed no doubt for years on radio. Ozzie is perfect as the perpetually young, easy-going, good-natured, tolerant father, and Harriet is delightful as a quick-witted smarty-pants, who's able to come up with a funny comment for any of the crazy situations her husband finds himself in. There's an utterly beguiling, charming moment at the end of the episode, Top Gun, where Ozzie sends off his male friends, pretending to be a western sheriff, warning them off as if they were outlaws. They leave, and the camera holds on Ozzie, as he starts a dramatic lament about the plight of a fast gunslinger. And you start to wonder where this is all going; he's doing a straight monologue, rather well, but you can't figure out what's happening within the context of the episode. Then, all of the sudden, you hear Harriet off camera declare, "Ham." Ozzie, startled by she said, realizes that she's speaking about a ham that she bought at the store, and Ozzie laughs at the joke on him. It's a marvelously self-deprecating moment for Ozzie the performer, and you receive an instant, warm connection with him, and with Harriet the jokester. There are so many moments like that for Ozzie and Harriet in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, that it's not surprising America looked up to them as the embodiment of the tolerant, kindly, good-natured, fun-loving American parental ideal.

Of course, Ozzie and Harriet's two children, David and Ricky, were integral factors in the longevity of the series. America had a particular fascination in watching a real family literally grow up on television before their eyes. While never a Top Thirty hit in the Nielsen ratings (which had to do with ABC not achieving full coverage over the country), The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet still managed to pull in over 10 million teenagers each week watching David and Ricky go from gawky adolescents to confident, accomplished adults. This self-reflexive aspect of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet adds endlessly fascinating layers to the viewing experience, certainly best illustrated by the rise of Ricky Nelson into a full-fledged musical legend. Ricky, billed as "irrepressible" Ricky when he was still young, proved to be an adept child comedian when the show first aired. As he matured into his teenaged years, he gradually withdrew into a more mysterious, silent attitude on screen (you can actually track this development on this DVD box set, which samples episodes chronologically from all fourteen seasons). Compensating for this loss of the show's "break-out" star, Ozzie eventually saw the marketing possibilities of letting Ricky - who was a huge rock and roll fan - perform his own music on the show. Essentially anticipating MTV decades before its inception, Ozzie cannily showcased Ricky performing "safe" rock 'n' roll (back when it was considered the "devil's music" by some in America) hits, driving young girls at home wild with desire, while the ratings shot back up, ensuring years and years of additional episodes. David, unfortunately shuttled off to the side once Ricky's musical career skyrocketed, came off as the surprise for me here. A stolid kid at first, clearly uncomfortable on-screen, he eventually comes into his own quite nicely off, projecting a sensitive, solid leading man type of image. Largely unnoted by others, though, David has a very nice way at throwing out a sharp comedic jab at his brother. It rarely happened; Ozzie gave most of the jokes to Ricky, but when David got the chance, he had a bit of a pleasant snarl to him (although, it was a Nelson snarl, and therefore, nicely cleaned up). David, perhaps recognizing early that performing in front of the camera wasn't his forte, quickly took to working behind the scenes, becoming one of the series' most dependable directors. He learned his craft well from Ozzie.

Watching the transformation of this family as it ages over a fourteen year period, it's clear that the later episodes, although still technically polished and still amusing, lack the necessary family core that made up the best moments of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet show. Once David moved out and married, to be followed by Ricky, the family dynamic was altered, even though Ozzie made sure that Ricky and David were over at the house for almost every episode. Like with most situation comedies, the audience came to expect the cast to stay the same, with the same interpersonal relationships dominating the plots. When growth and change come, as they inevitably do in real life, the feeling from the audience changes, as well. There's an almost sadness to the later episodes, a feeling of loss that must have struck many in the audience not only from their own experiences at having their children leave the nest, but also a loss from seeing two little boys that they grew up watching, leave the Nelson family.

Now we come to the part of the review I've been agonizing over for weeks now: do I recommend this DVD box set or not. Because you see, the episodes included in The Best of the Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet are edited. These are the 22 minute, edited versions that were used for syndication purposes back in the 1980's. Each episode ends with a 1985 title card slapped on, indicating Harriet as the trustee of these syndicated versions. During the celebrated openings of most episodes, where "America's favorite family" walk out onto the yard to introduce themselves, these openings have been shuffled in the syndicated versions. Often, a much older Ricky steps out on the lawn, only to be immediately replaced in the actual episode by a Ricky five years younger or more. As well, end credits for actors and crew are missing from some of the shows, and one particular episode, Top Gun, is missing the first few vital minutes, making the story nonsensical.

Two factors weigh against my automatically giving this box set a "skip." First, the box clearly states this collection comes from, and is endorsed by, the real Nelson family. David clearly was involved in the DVDs' production, lending his commentary to four of the episodes, along with personal home movies and other special clips related to the show. Second, Shout Factory, who's releasing this box set, usually has a sterling reputation for putting out the best possible elements for vintage TV shows. Are the truncated syndication versions the only versions still available? Are the original vault materials of the original episodes unavailable, or in poor shape? Wouldn't the Nelson family have wanted the very best presentation of their signature show to go out on DVD?

These are all tough questions to ask oneself when considering what kind of recommendation to give The Best of the Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet box set. Vintage TV is a passion of mine. I believe it's as important and worthy an expression of art and commerce as classic motion pictures that are being restored and preserved. That's why it pains me to see the syndicated versions of Adventures used here. If I give a "pass" for the box set, am I helping send a message to the makers of these DVDs that's it's okay to put out any old edited episodes they want, without trying to find better masters? If I say skip The Best of the Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, did I do so unfairly, because the original elements may not exist anymore, or perhaps because by recommending a skip, buyers won't show up for any future offerings from the Nelson family? It's an impossible situation for a reviewer who truly loves and cares about these old shows.

That being said, the only fair rating I can give The Best of the Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet box set is to rent it. I can't, in good conscience, go ahead and say buy this set because the episodes really are hacked apart, and put back wrong. As terrific as the shows are, as funny as they still are, and as important as the show is from an historical significance, I can't ignore the fact that these edited segments are presented here in a manner not the way the careful, methodical Ozzie would ever have wanted them shown. I just can't believe, considering all the carefully collected extras that appear on the set, that Ozzie didn't provide some kind of storage for the original episodes in their original state. If that fact is wrong, then my recommendation is wrong. You should buy the set, because that would mean these edited versions are all that's left of the show. But something just keeps nagging at me that there are better, more complete versions out there, and that the show - and Ozzie's efforts - should be respected with their release, and not these mangled, syndicated versions. Of course, ultimately, it's going to be up to you. If The Best of the Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet is an important, vital show to you that you must own, then by all means, buy this set. I'm keeping mine. But renting seems the most prudent way to go, considering the fact that important bits of the original shows are missing here in this The Best of the Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet box set.

Here are the 24, 22 minute edited episodes of the four-disc box set, The Best of the Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, as described on their slimcases:

DISC ONE:

The Fall Guy
Original airdate: 10/24/1952: Season One
Ozzie advises David to stand up for his rights and not to let people take advantage of him, but the advice backfires.

David's Birthday
Original airdate: 10/23/1953: Season Two
David has an unexpected visitor at his seventeenth birthday party. Commentary by David Nelson and Sam Nelson.

David's Engagement
Original airdate: 9/23/1955: Season Four
David has matrimonial plans with his steady. Ozzie and Harriet realize that David will get married someday, but think that he is too young to tie the knot.

A Ball of Tinfoil
Original airdate: 11/25/1955: Season Four
Harriet decides there is too much junk accumulated in the Nelson garage, attic and cellar. Ozzie rents a trailer to haul the stuff away to the junkyard but discovers this is only the beginning of his problem.

Captain Salty and the Submarine
Original airdate: 10/10/1956: Season Five
Ozzie finds out that a kiddie program, Captain Salty and the Submarine, holds a great deal of interest for adults as well. It is not at all surprising that several other fathers in the neighborhood share his enthusiasm.

Ricky the Drummer
Original airdate: 4/10/1957: Season Five
This is Ricky's night. He gets to play drums in a name band, do a bop dance with a party girl, ans sing a rhythm and blues recording to an enthusiastic audience. Ricky performs for his first time on the show. Ricky sings: I'm Walking.

DISC TWO:

Tutti Frutti Ice Cream
Original airdate: 12/11/1957: Season Six
Recollections of Ozzie's high school days bring on a sudden urge for tutti frutti ice cream. Commentary by David Nelson and Sam Nelson.

The Trophy
Original airdate: 1/1/1958: Season Six
David has an unexpected visitor at his seventeenth birthday party. Ricky sings: Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On.

Closed Circuit
Original airdate: 3/26/1958: Season Six
Ricky sets up a closed circuit television studio in his basement.

Top Gun
Original airdate: 4/2/1958: Season Six
Ozzie regales the neighborhood kids with his story of his great-grandfather "Six-Gun Nelson." They corner Ozzie into a shoot-out with TV Western star "Tex Barton" at a supermarket opening. Ricky sings: Believe What You Say.

Rick's Riding Lesson
Original airdate: 11/19/1958: Season Seven
When Ricky meets a beautiful riding instructor at the local stables, he decides to take some riding lessons. There is much fun at the Chuck Wagon party where the gang sings "Cindy." Ricky sings: Trying to Get to You.

David, the Law Clerk
Original airdate: 10/21/1959: Season Eight
David applies for the position of clerk in a law office. However, when Ozzie, Harriet and Ricky try to be helpful, they almost cost Dave the job.

DISC THREE:

The Circus
Original airdate: 1/27/1960: Season Eight
David's duties as a law clerk take him down to the circus where he becomes more than slightly interested in one of the circus glamour girls. Commentary by David Nelson and Sam Nelson.

His Brother's Girl
Original airdate: 10/19/1960: Season Eight
Fraternal bonds between David and Ricky are suddenly threatened when Dave finds himself attracted to his brother's girl. The situation is further complicated when the young lady in question shows her true feelings.

Rick Counts the Ballots
Original airdate: 12/28/1960: Season Nine
Rick's ability to keep a secret is put to the test when he finds himself in charge of counting the ballots for the "Campus Queen Contest" -- especially since his girlfriend, one of the leading contestants, is determined to learn the results. Ricky sings: You Are the Only One (duet with Linda Bennett) and I'm Not Afraid.

The Newlyweds Get Settled
Original airdate: 10/12/1961: Season Ten
While David and his new bride June (played by his real-life bride, June Blair) are away on their honeymoon, Harriet, with Ozzie's assistance, decides to fix up their apartment for them.

The Fraternity Rents Out a Room
Original airdate: 10/19/1961: Season Ten
When the best room in Rick and Wally's fraternity is vacated, they vote to rent out the room to take in funds for their fast-dwindling treasury. Wally Cox guest stars as the professor who disrupts the easy-going fraternity life.

Making Wally Study
Original airdate: 2/22/1962: Season Ten
Rick and his friends decide to enforce good study habits on Wally when they realize his grades area threat to the scholastic standing of their fraternity.

DISC FOUR:

Publicity for the Fraternity
Original airdate: 3/281963: Season Eleven
Rick and his friends decide their fraternity is sadly in need of publicity and go on a campaign to gain some campus recognition. Commentary by David Nelson and Sam Nelson.

The Swami
Original airdate: 1/8/1964: Season Twelve
When Rick successfully enlivens a fraternity party by disguising himself as a swami and telling fortunes. Ozzie and his friend Joe decide that the same act would prove a huge success at the Women's Club dance.

Rick and Kris Go to the Mountains
Original airdate: 10/7/1964: Season Thirteen
When Rick, Wally and some of the fraternity members decide to hold a poker party at Kris's folks' mountain cabin over the weekend, Kris assumes she is invited.

The Ballerina
Original airdate: 11/4/1964: Season Thirteen
Rick and some of his fraternity brothers consent to put on a comedy ballet act for the Women's Club Annual Children's Show. However, when the fellows get discouraged, Kris comes to the rescue by volunteering to perform the real thing. In a dream sequence, she and Rick present an expertly performed excerpt from Swan Lake. Ricky sings: Just a Little Bit Sweet.

The Prowler (color)
Original airdate: 10/13/1965: Season Fourteen
When Ozzie tries to get out of playing bridge with his neighbors, Joe and Clara Randolph, by pretending to go on a fishing trip, his scheme backfires and an embarrassing and hilarious situation is the result.

The Game Room (color)
Original airdate: 3/26/1966: Season Fourteen
When Ozzie decides to buy a new pool table and convert David and Ricky's old bedroom into a game room, he meets with some opposition from Harriet. This was the last episode made in the series.

The DVD:

The Video:
Many of the vintage episodes here from The Best of the Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet box set look fairly good, considering their age. Sure, there are scratches and rough edits (from when they were chopped up for syndication), with a couple of episodes looking a little contrasty, but overall, quite nice.

The Audio:
The English mono soundtrack mix accurately reflects the original broadcast presentation. Close captioning is available.

The Extras:
There are several intriguing extras available on The Best of the Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. First, there are four commentary tracks by David Nelson and Sam Nelson, the youngest son of Rick Nelson. Sam is an obvious enthusiast for the series, and he plays well with his uncle David on these commentaries. It's a warm, affectionate give-and-take, and provides some good insight into the behind-the-scenes production of the series. On disc one, there's a fascinating featurette, The Story of Ozzie and Harriet: The Road to the Show, which gives great background for the series' inception. As well, there's a complete audio recording of one of the original radio programs of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, from February 20, 1949, entitled Dinner Invites. And there's a feature where you can watch the clip of Ricky singing I'm Walking. On disc two, there's a short home movie made by Ozzie, from April 1937 entitled Doing Right by David, that's a real curiosity. And there's a feature where you can watch the clips of Ricky singing Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On, Believe What you Say, Trying to Get to You, and Cindy. On disc three, there's a fascinating home movie showing David working out on the trapeze, along with Rick, in preparation for their episode The Circus. David in particular was a fantastic athlete, and it's cool to see the boys doing all their own, extremely dangerous stunts. There's also a promo for The Circus episode, hosted by Ozzie, where he emphasizes that the boys indeed did all their own stunts; no doubles were used. And there's a feature where you can watch clips of Ricky singing You Are the Only One (duet with Linda Bennett) and I'm Not Afraid. And finally on disc four, there are two fun trivia quizzes - one for Ozzie and Harriet, and one for David and Rick - which feature audio sound bites of the stars either congratulating you on a correct answer, or commiserating with you on a wrong one. Get them all right, and two special bonuses play: an original trailer for the Nelsons' first movie, Here Comes the Nelsons, and an on-set surprise birthday party celebration for Ricky. All in all, a terrific set of bonuses for this box set.

Final Thoughts:
I feel like I'm kicking America's favorite family right in the teeth. I absolutely adore The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Not only is it an important show in the history of television sitcoms, it holds up amazingly well today, with show creator, writer, director and performer Ozzie Nelson delivering some surreal, gently hilarious episodes that stand against the best of modern sitcoms like Seinfeld. Unfortunately, the episodes collected in The Best of the Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet DVD box set are edited versions used in syndication, and too much damage has been done to the original intention of the episodes for me to recommend to the casual buyer that they purchase this set. Fans of the show, enticed no doubt by the marvelous extras, will buy this set -- I know I'm keeping mine. But it pains me that either the original elements are missing, or that no one bothered to secure them for this important first DVD release sanctioned by the Nelson family. Make your own mind up, but I can't in good conscience recommend buying a seminal TV series like The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet in this altered form. Therefore, I regrettably recommend that you rent The Best of the Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet first, before you decide if you can tolerate the edited episodes.


Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.

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