I loved “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” one of the most enduring sitcoms from the early days of television. Ozzie Nelson, bandleader turned radio and then television personality, played “Ozzie Nelson,” perpetually genial but often befuddled suburban father. His wife Harriet and sons David and Ricky played not themselves but television versions of themselves. The show ran from 1952-66 and we all felt we grew up with the Nelsons, as Ricky went from cute kid to pop idol to married man. When David and Ricky got married, their wives joined the cast. And the house on television was the real house they lived in. But it was far from a reality series; it was a light but very scripted comedy, with episodes about the usual mix-ups, misunderstandings, and gentle arguments that exemplified middle-class America’s aspirational sense of itself in the Eisenhower era. A baseball mitt that didn’t arrive in time, Ozzie gets a cold, David has a crush on a girl at school — and no one ever figured out what Ozzie did for a living.
David Nelson, who died today at age 74, was the last of the Nelson family. He began producing and directing while still on the show, and continued to work on commercials and in television. He also appeared in John Waters’ “Cry-Baby” with Johnny Depp. He — and the sweetness and innocence of the stories his family brought to us — will be missed.