Passport Video // 1964 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // January 5th, 2005
Guilty of sending me into sugar shock with its syrupy sentiments!
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet first debuted as a radio show back in 1944. It hit the television airwaves in 1952 and lasted until 1966. It has the distinction of being the longest running sitcom show on television...ever! Basically, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson were a real married couple, and the kids on the show were their real kids, sons Ricky and Dave. It reeks of reality TV, doesn't it? Well, the relations are where the reality stops, my friend. The Nelsons were the perfect '50s nuclear family. There have been only a dozen or so volumes of their shows released on DVD, and I hear they were badly edited to omit any of Ricky Nelson's song performances (due to rights issues). Here in Christmas with Ozzie and Harriet they did manage to get the clearance to show you Ricky's musical rendition of "The Christmas Song." So Merry Christmas from the Nelsons! (And yes, those blonde guitar geeks called Nelson are related, in case you wondered.)
This set holds two Christmas themed episodes from 1964 (from what I can tell). The problem is this: the Nelsons flash back to other episodes from the Fifties, so the precise time of these shows is impossible to discern. You get "Busy Christmas," where Ozzie finds out he has overbooked himself to do too much over the holidays. He has to play Santa to some orphans, play Scrooge in a community theater production, and sing bass with some community carolers. Also on his "to do" list is stringing lights, buying a tree, shopping for his family, and coming up with a cure for cancer (okay, I made up that last one). He gets frazzled, and his family has to come to the rescue. Everybody has a great holiday, and all is fine. In "Late Christmas," Ozzie wonders if his boys know the true meaning of Christmas. Then they stumble on a recently widowed woman and her three charges, and the boys get into the giving mood of the season. Everybody has a great holiday, and all is fine.
The episodes are wonderful if you like syrupy sweet holiday tales. For some, this will be a great nostalgic romp back to the '50s, but for me it was like putting heaps of sugar on a bowl of Lucky Charms. I was ready to get all Scroogey and hurl the Nelsons into my fireplace, but burning DVDs smell hideous. I know this show has its fans, but honestly it seemed way too nice to be real. Leave it to Beaver looks like a dark, twisted David Lynch ride after watching the Nelsons. If you dig it then good for you; this disc will bliss you out. Maybe my cynical '80s and '90s upbringing has properly immunized me from catching the '50s happy family virus. No wonder people felt so inadequate back then trying to live up to these ideals! It is a fantasy world where mom and dad are always right, and the kids always do the right thing at the right moment. I think this is best viewed over a glass of milk (has to be whole -- no skim) and some huge homemade chocolate chip cookies (still warm, and they have to be from scratch -- no Toll House premade stuff working here). Oddly enough this has the original '60s commercials included, for Aunt Jemimah pancake and waffle mix and natural gas (a new wonderful concept). The pancake spots seemed downright racist in some odd way. Maybe it was the image of a black woman in a kerchief making pancakes slammed up against Harriet Nelson that gave me the icky vibe -- they really don't say anything you could misconstrue.
This is one of those bargain priced Passport Video releases, so some of you know exactly what I am going to say here in the technical evaluation. It's bad. VHS run through an airport x-ray machine bad! You could hardly see the picture at time through the scratches and grain. Caterpillars were crawling on my screen at one point (that's the closest I can come to describing the amount of interference with the picture). The sound is a badly stunning mono. It hisses and pops and fools you into thinking your speakers have been hijacked by the '50s. The sound mix is as wretched as the video presentation. Why do they keep torturing me this way? The menus have this really annoying music group singing "It's Christmas time!" over and over like crazed crack monkeys. Two minutes of it, and I can't get it out of my head for weeks on end. Be warned -- they are somehow on every Passport holiday release this year.
I have some friends who adore this show. They think its awesome, and they watch it smiling and without any irony. Maybe they wish they could live in the Nelsons' world of 1950s perfection. Maybe they just like goody-goody sweet entertainment. For them, Christmas with Ozzie and Harriet is perfect, and will wind up in one of their stockings. It's definitely a Christmas feast of sentimentality run rampant. Not my bag, but it's here if you want it. Family friendly fare? Absolutely. But don't blame me when you gaze across the living room on Christmas morning and your family seems dishearteningly dysfunctional when you compare them to the Nelsons. Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Passport Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 1964
MPAA Rating: Not Rated