Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Iconic Television Family
“The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” premiered on ABC in October 1952 and ran until September 1966. Ironically titled, the series focused mainly on the Nelson family at home, dealing with run-of-the-mill problems. Many of the series’ storylines were taken from the Nelsons’ real life, which accounted for the surreal banality of the program. Still, television historians consider the “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” the basis for many other, though seemingly unrelated, hit shows.
“‘Seinfeld,’” claims Tremaine Weldowhether, professor of media studies at San Narciso College, “is essentially the same thing -- a show about somewhat inconsequential people, where nothing much happens. Except that with the advances in film writing and directing, the creators of ‘Seinfeld’ managed to introduce humor.”
But Weldowhether says the series most influenced by the Nelson family is the AMC blockbuster “Mad Men.”
“Think of it this way, Ozzie Nelson’s job was never discussed much in the show, but it was made clear that he worked as an advertising executive responsible for promoting a line of women’s underwear. That’s the same premise we see with Don Draper and his colleagues.”
Other historians agree. In fact, they say a great deal of Ozzie Nelson’s scenes at work were edited out in post production because they came across as too risque for the overall mood of the 1950s nuclear family.
One famously deleted clip is rumored to have inspired one of the most famous pieces of dialog from “Mad Men.” In it, Ozzie Nelson is shown downing a glass of bourbon mixed with room temperature soda pop and telling his secretary, “What you call romance was invented by people like me to sell knickers and Valentine’s Day candies.”
The show plummeted in ratings as the mid-1960s introduced a stark change in values and audience demographic. The Nelsons portrayed the typical post-war, suburban family: white, middle class, perfect lawn, picket fence, Christian but not Catholic, and corporate. They embraced the values of 1950s America -- nicotine, alcohol, sexism, adultery, homophobia, racism, and antisemitism. But with the liberalism of the 1960s, which saw the rise of feminism and equal rights, audiences became disconnected with people like the Nelsons.
Harriet Nelson, just before the demise of the series, allegedly told Barbara Walters, “When audiences took to ‘I Love Lucy,’ a show featuring an interracial marriage and a communist -- I mean, she married a Cuban -- I knew that our days were numbered. Jews running the studios, Cubans in bed with white women, what’s next? A show about a colored family in living a tenement or a junkyard? Single parents? I shudder to think.”
Mysterious Plane Crash of Ricky Nelson
David’s brother, Ricky, did not share his family’s aversion to America’s changing dynamic. He managed to make a career out of the new attitudes and went on to become a musical sensation after the end of the series. However, the 1970s found Ricky Nelson struggling through a long battle with alcohol and drug addiction, which led to divorce and near financial ruin. Ricky Nelson eventually managed to turn his life around and began touring again in the 1980s. His life was tragically cut short by a plane crash in December 1985. His legacy was even more tragically tarnished when his androgynous twin sons formed the band “Nelson” and presented audiences with watered-down glam metal, most often criticized by industry insiders as having “all the power and might of foil.”
“Nelson” most recently orchestrated a tribute to their late father called “Ricky Nelson Remembered.” Wendell Maas, music critic for The Bennington Vale Evening Transcript, said of the performance, “I think if I were Rick Nelson, I would’ve called that sonic water-boarding ‘Some Things are Best Left Forgotten.’”
But the circumstances surrounding Ricky Nelson’s death have long posed concerns and unresolved questions. The investigation conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) lasted an entire year. At its conclusion, NTSB officials released the disturbingly vague assessment that “the crash was probably due to mechanical problems.” They also discovered that the access panel to the gasoline cabin heater was unlatched.
Even stranger, Ricky Nelson’s remains were lost in transit from Texas to California, delaying the funeral for several days. Conspiracy theorists continue to aver that the remains in Nelson’s grave are those of actor Henry Blair, who originally performed the role of Ricky as the Nelson children were too young to act at that time.
State forensic specialists in Texas also stated that one of the ill-fated passengers had scrawled the word “Osmo” in her own blood before expiring.
Hollywood has seen its share of dead child stars, all shrouded in uncertainties and conjecture. The most recent cases involve Gary Coleman and Corey Haim, both of whom died suddenly and unexpectedly. And while autopsy reports cited health and drug problems, police investigators continued to describe the presence of unexplained messages in their files. In the case of Coleman, an unopened Alice Cooper CD was found. At the scene of Haim’s demise, detectives recovered a sealed pornographic film featuring the late John Holmes.
Ernest Higges, a private detective with San Narciso’s Few and Shue Security, thinks there’s a connection.
“They don’t want to raise the alarm on such high profile deaths,” Higges said, “but I think they’ve connected the dots. If you take the three incidents you’ve talked about -- Rick Nelson’s plane crash, Gary Coleman’s death, Corey Haim’s overdose or whatever -- there’s a definite pattern. ‘Osmo’ could be short for Osmond. But not the Donny and Marie kind. I’m talking Ken Osmond, who played Eddie Haskell on the Beaver show. Do you remember the urban legends about him, that he grew up to be Alice Cooper or John Holmes? Well, there you have it. Osmond was a cop in Los Angeles, but his career ended when he was found shot three times. There were no witnesses. Each round somehow made it around his bullet-proof vest. He never radioed for back up. And many people I know think the angle and trajectory of the bullets suggest self-inflicted wounds. And now Tony Dow is being moved to a safe house by police? LAPD is restricting access to David Nelson? I think all the answers are right there in front of us.”
*Correction: The original posting of the article had referred to David Nelson as the youngest child. This was incorrect, and the error has been duly corrected. Special thanks to Jim Hall for pointing out the mistake. Also, we'd like to remind readers that this story, as all stories in the BVET, is satirical. Tony Dow is neither involved nor under police protection. Ken Osmond, as far as we know, is not stalking former child actors.