Shirley Booth as the main character, Hazel Burke
|Created by||Ted Key|
|Based on||The Saturday Evening Post character|
|Directed by||E.W. Swackhamer|
William D. Russell
|Theme music composer|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||154|
|Running time||30 mins.|
Sony Pictures Television
|Original network||NBC (1961-1965)|
|Picture format||Black-and-white (season 1)|
Color (season 1, episode 6; seasons 2-5)
|Original release||September 28, 1961 -|
April 11, 1966
Hazel is an American sitcom about a live-in maid named Hazel Burke (played by Shirley Booth) and her employers, the Baxters. The five-season, 154-episode series aired in prime time from September 28, 1961, to April 11, 1966, and was produced by Screen Gems. The first four seasons of Hazel aired on NBC, and the fifth and final season aired on CBS. Season 1 was broadcast in black-and-white except for one episode which was in color, and seasons 2-5 were all broadcast in color. The show was based on the single-panel comic strip of the same name by cartoonist Ted Key, which appeared in The Saturday Evening Post.
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 neighborhood. Many episodes focus on the perennial contest of wills between Hazel and George 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 meals and 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, of which they seem ignorant.
For the show's final season, in an effort to appeal to a younger audience, DeFore and Blake were dropped. The departure of their characters was explained in that they were in Baghdad, Iraq for George's work. Harold (who did not depart with his parents so he wouldn't miss any school) and Hazel moved 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 the same housekeeping services for her revamped family. (CBS said that Blake was not available after NBC's cancellation, although DeFore stated that he was never informed of the change and found out about it while reading the newspaper). Ann Jillian, who was then a teenager, was also added to the cast as Millie Ballard, Steve Baxter's receptionist; she later went on to star in her own series, It's a Living and numerous television movies.
The series was filmed at Columbia Sunset Gower Studios, Hollywood, California. Exteriors were shot at the Columbia Ranch in Burbank. This movie ranch facade used as the Baxters' house had previously been seen in several Three Stooges films, and was used as the home for the Lawrences on the sitcom Gidget. From the driveway, the house next door to the right, 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 a Negro person 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.
While the weekly show began with an instrumental theme song composed 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.
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.
During the run of the series,the activity in the opening credits changed. In the first season, we see Hazel pulling a tray of cookies out of the oven and admiring them. Next we see George, Dorothy, and Harold Baxter catching whiff of the cookies and making a beeline to the kitchen. The next series of opening credits we see Hazel coming out of the front door smiling and waving. She is waving at the Baxters who have just returned from a trip. Hazel runs to the car and gives them each a hug. Next series, the first in color, we go back to Hazel baking cookies. Harold's scene is changed slightly. One season shows the family out by the convertible, ready to leave. Shows Hazel unable to find the car key, then George, then Missy checks her purse, no car key. Harold raises a finger in realization; he dashes over to his little pedal car and pulls out the convertible key. Next, we see Hazel cradling an object while riding in the back of a convertable with confetti pouring down. George and Dorothy come out of the house smiling and it's revealed that Harold is throwing the confetti. We come to realize that Hazel was cradling a football as Harold's football team is cheering around the car for Hazel. On the door of the car is a sign that says "Hazel our coach!" Next series had Hazel returning from a grocery shopping trip and the Baxters coming out to help her bring the groceries in. Even Smiley lends a paw!
The show's first season placed fourth in the 1961-1962 Nielsen's ratings. Shirley Booth received two Emmy Awards (1962 and 1963) for Hazel, and garnered a nomination for her third season (1964). Booth also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best TV Star (1964) and two posthumous nominations for the TV Land Award, Favorite Made-for-TV Maid (2004 and 2006).
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.
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 it up for the 1965-1966 season, and made a number of cast changes. Buntrock remained in the cast as Harold Baxter; DeFore and Blake were dropped and replaced with Fulmer and Borden, respectively. Child actress Julia Benjamin was added to the cast as Susie Baxter. In the spring of 1966, Hazel ended its primetime network run.
In 2014, according to Playbill, actress and cabaret performer Klea Blackhurst was cast in a New York City reading of Hazel, a musical based on Ted Key's cartoon character as well as the 1961-1966 TV sitcom. Lucie Arnaz directed the AEA reading that featured Blackhurst as Hazel in a cast that included 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 had first been announced to be in development for Broadway in 2010, was written by composer Ron Abel and lyricist Chuck Steffan, with a book by Lissa Levin. The industry presentations took place October 24-25, 2014, at the June Havoc Theatre.
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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. Hazel also aired on TV Land from 2002-2003. As of January 2011, it airs on Antenna TV. Since 2015, Hazel airs weekday mornings on FETV - Family Entertainment Television.
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. They have subsequently released seasons 2-4 on DVD. The fifth and final season has been released on January 14, 2014.
|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|