There was a time when no one knew what Ozzie's career was on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
Image credit: The Everett Collection
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet stayed on-air for a total of 14 seasons between 1952 and 1966. Fans of the series followed along with Ozzie and Harriet each week as they raised their two sons, both on-screen and in real life, for everyone to see.
Ozzie and Harriet were the parents of the year — or parents of the decade — during the '50s and '60s.
The dynamic duo, who were married in real life, dealt with teenage dating problems, tackled hard topics with their teens, and touched on many other common problems American families faced at the time.
TV viewers grew to learn so much about this family's life through the 14 seasons, but there was one tiny detail many fans didn't know: What does Ozzie Nelson do for a living?
Throughout the series, fans saw Ozzie leaving the house each morning and would often be seen returning, but with no mention of where he was going. The actor Ozzie Nelson did his job well, but the character Ozzie Nelson was a bit more blurry.
Ozzie was unlike many other TV husbands who would never let viewers forget that they were working men. He was family first and questions later.
Everybody knew that Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) worked in TV and that Sam Malone (Cheers) was a bartender. Their occupations were part of their everyday TV lives.
In a 1954 interview with Springfield News-Sun, Ozzie Nelson explained why his career was never mentioned in the series.
"We've never explained what kind of work I do in the TV show," Nelson said. "Very few people have ever wondered about it. We never show the kids going to school, either, and the show is presumably happening on a Saturday. I think it's better that way. It might limit me if I had to portray a plumber or something every week."
Ozzie was the envy of every American husband and dad; he had his whole family working. The series attracted a large amount of fans over the course of 15 years. Many believed the Nelson family was the most authentic family on TV at the time.
"We work at staying natural," Nelson said. "I think we might come over better than most family shows because the kids are believable. They don't have the polished reading that child actors have."
Nelson said the family wouldn't sweat over trying to memorize the lines. He said it usually took the family 14 takes, but it still came off as natural every time.
There were many other family shows on TV at the same time as The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Leave It to Beaver, The Donna Reed Show, My Three Sons, The Waltons and more all gave different perspectives into the life of an American family.
But the Nelsons were a real family and that natural comfortability could be seen on-screen.
"I think you get a different kind of recognition when you're in TV," Nelson said. "People may be awed by movie stars, whom they see in a variety of roles. It's different when you come into their homes every week and play in a family show. They feel friendly towards you, as though you were a member of the family."
The kids were David Ozzie Nelson and Eric Hilliard Nelson. According to the interview, despite their fame from an early age, the two boys remained unspoiled youngsters. Both of them attended public school and didn't let acting stand in the way of hanging out with friends, studying and being a teen.
"I don't want to plan ahead because I don't want to decide the boys' future for them," Nelson said. "They can do whatever they want to. In fact, their deal with ABC is unilateral; they can bow out whenever they want."
That was said like a true Dad of the decade. The actor Ozzie Nelson knew exactly what he wanted to do in his career. And for those still wondering what the character Ozzie Nelson did for a living on the series?
"Only once in a great while do we get letters asking what I do for a living. My only reply is: I'm a bum," Nelson said.