Hazel (TV series)

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For the British television series of a similar name, see Hazell (TV series).
Hazel
Title Card to Hazel (TV Series 1961–1966).jpg
Shirley Booth as the main character, Hazel Burke
Genre Sitcom
Created by Based on a comic strip by Ted Key
Directed by E.W. Swackhamer
William D. Russell
Starring Shirley Booth
Don DeFore (1961-1965)
Whitney Blake (1961-1965)
Bobby Buntrock
Ray Fulmer (1965-1966)
Lynn Borden (1965-1966)
Julia Benjamin (1965-1966)
Theme music composer Jimmy Van Heusen (music)
Sammy Cahn (lyrics)
Opening theme "Hazel"
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 5
No. of episodes 154 (List of episodes)
Production
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time 26 mins.
Production company(s) Screen Gems Television
Distributor Screen Gems Television (1967-1974)
Columbia Pictures Television (1974-1984, 1988-1996)
Colex Enterprises (1984-1988)
Columbia TriStar Television (1996-2002)
Sony Pictures Television (2002-present)
Broadcast
Original channel NBC (1961-65)
CBS (1965-66)
Picture format Black-and-white (season 1)
Color (seasons 2-5)
Audio format Monaural
Original run September 28, 1961 (1961-09-28) – April 11, 1966 (1966-04-11)

Hazel is an American sitcom about a fictional live-in maid named Hazel Burke (Shirley Booth) and her employers, the Baxters. The five-season, 154-episode series aired in primetime from September 28, 1961-April 11, 1966 and was produced by Screen Gems. The show aired on NBC for its first four seasons (in black-and-white for all but one episode of the first season and in color for the next three) and then in full-time color on CBS for its final season. The show was based on the popular single-panel comic strip by cartoonist Ted Key, which appeared in the Saturday Evening Post. It currently airs on the digital classic TV network Antenna TV.

Synopsis[edit]

Seasons 1–4[edit]

Hazel is a competent, take-charge, live-in maid in the home of the Baxter family. George Baxter (Don DeFore)is a partner in the law firm of Butterworth, Hatch, Noll and Baxter; Hazel calls him "Mr. B". George's wife, Dorothy (Whitney Blake), is an interior decorator, whom Hazel nicknames "Missy". Their son Harold (Bobby Buntrock) is dubbed "Sport" by Hazel. The family dog is Smiley. Hazel had worked previously with Dorothy's family, and has a close relationship with her. The series humorously dramatizes Hazel's life with the Baxters and her friendships with others in the neighborhood such as postman Barney Hatfield (Robert Williams), taxi-driver Mitch Brady (Dub Taylor) and Rosie Hammaker (Maudie Prickett), another maid in the area. Johnny Washbrook, formerly of My Friend Flicka, guest starred as Hazel's nephew, Eddie Burke. Many episodes focus on the perennial contest of wills between Hazel and her boss over issues around the house; "Mr. B" usually concedes defeat and grants Hazel's wishes when she tortures him by serving meager portions of her mouth-watering desserts. Some episodes take Hazel outside the Baxter house and follow her life in the community. In the first episode, for example, she spearheads a drive for the construction of a neighborhood playground. Hazel's life is sometimes complicated by George's snobby Bostonian sister Deirdre Thompson (Cathy Lewis) and his gruff client Harvey Griffin (Howard Smith). Dotty neighbors Herbert and Harriet Johnson (Donald Foster and Norma Varden) often call upon Hazel's expertise in household matters.

Network change and final season[edit]

In the show's final season, George and Dorothy depart for the Middle East in conjunction with George's work (as a result, DeFore and Blake were dropped from the cast). Harold and Hazel move in with George's younger brother, Steve (Ray Fulmer), a real estate agent, Steve's wife Barbara (Lynn Borden) and their daughter Susie (Julia Benjamin). Hazel provides housekeeping services for her revamped family. The new Baxters reflected a desire for younger demographics (CBS said that Blake was not available after NBC's cancellation, although DeFore noted that he found out about the change while reading the newspaper). Ann Jillian, who was then a teenager, was also added to the cast as Millie Ballard, Steve Baxter's receptionist, who later went on to star in her own series, It's a Living and numerous television movies.

Production notes[edit]

Don DeFore, Bobby Buntrock, Whitney Blake from the first season episode, "Hazel's Secret Wish"

The series was filmed at Columbia Sunset Gower Studios, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California. Exteriors were shot at the Columbia Ranch in Burbank. The facade used as the Baxters' was later home to Sally Field as Gidget. From the driveway, the house next door is recognizable as that of Darrin and Samantha Stephens from Bewitched. The episode "What'll We Watch Tonight," in which Hazel purchases a color TV, is the only first season episode shot in color and appears to promote color television sets. NBC, which aired the series, was owned by RCA, the largest seller of color television sets, during the period when most viewers still had black-and-white TVs. In July 1963, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) announced that unless the show added an African-American to the off-camera technical staff, the organization would begin a boycott of the show's sponsor, the Ford Motor Company. Two months after the announcement, the show's producers announced that a black production executive had joined the show.[1]

Theme song[edit]

While the weekly show began with an instrumental theme song by the team of Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen, the closing credits during the first eight shows of the inaugural season played the song with lyrics sung by The Modernaires. There were different arrangements of the theme song as the series progressed, including a later version by Howard Greenfield and Helen Miller.

Sponsors[edit]

During its first four seasons, Hazel was sponsored by Ford Motor Company, which had earlier underwritten Tennessee Ernie Ford's comedy and variety show, The Ford Show. As a result, Ford vehicles, including the Mustang when it was introduced in 1964, were often prominently featured on the series, even as a part of the storyline (an example of product placement). During season four, Bristol-Myers co-sponsored Hazel. In its final season, Procter & Gamble and Philip Morris were the sponsors.

Reception[edit]

The show was considered to be an instant hit when it debuted, and its first season was fourth in the 1961-1962 Nielsen's ratings. Shirley Booth received two Emmys (1962 and 1963) for Hazel, and a nomination for her third season (1964). Booth also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best TV Star (1964) and two nominations for the TV Land Award, Favorite Made-for-TV Maid (2004 and 2006). In its first season, Hazel won such ratings as to force the cancellation of its principal competitor, the new ABC sitcom Margie, starring Cynthia Pepper, set during the Roaring Twenties.[citation needed] ABC loosely copied the Hazel theme in the 1962-1963 series Our Man Higgins as an English butler to a suburban American family. Stanley Holloway played the lead role, along with Audrey Totter and Frank Maxwell.[2] At the end of the 1963-1964 season, the ratings had slipped from #15 the previous year to #22. By the time NBC canceled the series in the spring of 1965, Hazel had fallen out of the top 30 programs. CBS picked up the sitcom for the 1965-1966 season, however there were a number of cast changes made. Buntrock remained in the cast as Harold Baxter, however, DeFore and Blake were dropped and replaced with Fulmer and Borden, respectively. Child actress Benjamin was added to the cast as Susie Baxter. CBS scheduled Hazel on Monday nights at 9:30pm ET in September, 1965 as part of a powerhouse lineup of programming which included The Lucy Show and The Andy Griffith Show. The series received decent ratings and CBS was planning to renew Hazel for a sixth year, but Booth was ill and tired and decided not to continue the program when the season ended. As a result, in the spring of 1966, Hazel ended its primetime network run. The story of how Hazel came to be a maid is told for the first time in Love Is The Reason For It All...The Shirley Booth Story by Jim Manago, with radio research by Donna Manago, and foreword by Ted Key. BearManor Media, ISBN 978-1-59393-146-9 In October 2014, according to Playbill, Cabaret performer and stage actress Klea Blackhurst was cast in the New York City reading of Hazel, a musical based on Ted Key's cartoon character as well as the 1961-66 TV sitcom of the same name. Lucie Arnaz (They're Playing Our Song, Pippin) directed the AEA reading that featured Blackhurst as Hazel in a cast that as well as Paul Shaffer as George Baxter, Jessica Keenan Wynn as Dorothy Baxter, Colin Crest as Harold Baxter, Warren Kelley as Bonkers Johnson, Ava-Riley Miles as Benedetta Bomicino, Bonale Fambrini as Scotty Fuyu and Ethan Khusidman as Reuben Steuben, along with Lance Roberts, Romelda Benjamin, Gerard Salvador, Erin Sullivan, Sharone Sayegh and Kevin Spirtas as the Narrator/Newscaster. The musical, which was first announced to be in development for Broadway in 2010, is written by composer Ron Abel (the musicals Rockwell: Life on a Palette, Twist of Fate, Blame It on the Movies) and lyricist Chuck Steffan (the musical Is This Your Life?). Lissa Levin, a Kleban Award-winning playwright and Emmy-nominated producer, wrote the book. The industry presentations took place Oct. 24 and 25 at the June Havoc Theatre. Here's how the musical is billed: "Hazel is based on one of the most beloved and enduring characters in American popular culture. Hazel, a saucy maid with a wry sense of humor, timeless wisdom, and a heart of gold, was created by cartoonist Ted Key and has been adored for over 60 years. She first appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1943 as a single-panel cartoon and continued to delight readers of all ages until the magazine went out of print in 1969. Hazel was also brought to life by the inimitable Academy Award winner Shirley Booth on a TV sitcom of the same name, and ran for five well-received, award winning seasons. Hazel’s humanity, common sense, and warmth will touch all audiences as a musical, as it has from the beginning."

Syndication[edit]

Hazel was seen in syndicated reruns on local stations for much of the 1970s and 1980s. On cable, Hazel aired on Superstation WTBS from 1980 to 1986, followed by a brief run on WGN Superstation in 1994. Hazel also aired on TV Land from 2002-2003. As of January 2011, reruns of Hazel currently air on Antenna TV.

Episodes[edit]

DVD releases[edit]

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released the first season of Hazel on DVD in Region 1 on August 1, 2006. On February 18, 2011, Shout! Factory announced that they had acquired the rights to the series (under license from Sony) and would be releasing season 2 on DVD in 2011.[3] They have subsequently released seasons 2-4 on DVD.[4][5][6] The fifth and final season has been released on January 14, 2014.[7]

DVD Name Ep# Release Date
The Complete 1st Season 35 August 1, 2006
The Complete 2nd Season 32 February 21, 2012
The Complete 3rd Season 32 May 15, 2012
The Complete 4th Season 26 December 11, 2012
The Complete 5th Season 29 January 14, 2014

References in pop culture[edit]

  • In episode 313 of Seinfeld, "The Subway," George Costanza references the show: "You know, my mother used to walk around in our apartment just in her bra and panties. She didn't look anything like you, she was really disgusting, really bad body. If you could imagine an uglier and fatter version of Shirley Booth. Remember Shirley Booth from Hazel?"
  • In episode 25 of That 70s Show, "The Good Son," Eric calls Hyde "Hazel" because he is doing dishes and cleaning up after himself.
  • The Hanna-Barbera series The Jetsons featured a lovable robot maid named Rosie who referred to George Jetson as "Mr. J." It premiered a year after Hazel and was influenced by Hazel's references to her boss as "Mr. B."
  • In an episode of Barney Miller, Inspector Luger refers to the 12th Precinct night cleaning woman as "Hazel."
  • In episode 19 of The Sopranos, "The Happy Wanderer," Silvio Dante is getting increasingly agitated during a losing night of poker. He finally explodes after an underling sweeps up crumbs near him, yelling at Tony Soprano: "This moron's playing Hazel?"
  • In an episode of Mad Men that aired on May 5, 2013, Ted tells Peggy he is "trying to watch Hazel" in his office.
  • In episode 2 of Mr. Belvedere, when butler Belvedere is told by a young girl not to spill a drink on her dress and he replies that he wouldn't think of "spoiling such a lovely party dress," she replies "Don't patronize me, Hazel."

References[edit]

External links[edit]