Chasing “Ozzie and Harriet,” “Punky Brewster,” And Other TV Classics

A Retro Active Perspective Across Television Time Slots And Real Life

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“Is it real or is it Memorex?”

Remember that phrase?

If you’re over 50, you probably do. And maybe you’ll recall it even if you’re over 40.

But 39 and under?

Probably not.

The term is actually a slogan from a television commercial for Memorex audio cassette tapes. From a time when TV commercials were a few minutes long, told stories, and were fun to watch, as opposed to being annoying to the core in every which way, as they are today.

Commercials of TV’s past which may be viewed somewhere on YouTube (like everything else in the multi-communicative world) were and remain unmistakably remarkable. Pre-YouTube, however, great commercials would actually be inserted and run between episodes of great TV shows such as the following family, mother-and/or-father-based, non-supernatural sitcoms (initially filmed in black and white) from the 1950s and early ’60s, each of which remain unique unto themselves, with their own individual brand of humor and perspective:

Leave It to Beaver, My Three Sons, The Donna Reed Show, Father Knows Best, The Andy Griffith Show/Mayberry R.F.D., or The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, to name a few, with the latter being a personal favorite.

Originally airing on ABC from 1952 to 1966 (a then-unprecedented 14 years following a solid radio run!), The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet starred Ozzie Nelson, a famed former bandleader, his real wife, Harriet, and their two sons David and Ricky (who would be a superstar teen idol). One of the most underrated and under-appreciated TV classics in history (that will hopefully one day be released on DVD), the show, like other TV comedy classics, including I Love Lucy and Our Miss Brooks, and dramas and westerns, for that matter, such as Gunsmoke), began on the radio.

Any beloved TV show like those mentioned, or be they action-adventure, medical, and police/detective series, if given a chance to find an audience and remain on the air (or streaming) for any lengthy period of time, invite reflection whenever viewed.

As I look back on my life, which I frequently tend to do however humble my beginnings may have been by past and present worldly standards, it’s always clear to me just how blessed I was to have been raised in a simpler TV-time, surrounded by a loving family, immediate, and extended. We never had a lot of what this world calls secure, but man o’ man, we were rich beyond compare in countless ways that surpass any dollar amount. And somehow, someway, we all lived the Ozzie & Harriet/Beaver/Mayberry life-style.

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Yes, I understand how important it is to embrace the present, today, and the now, and always look forward to the future. But it’s also important to comprehend how we can build our future in productive ways by remembering to appreciate our individual or collective past, and understood just how much it all can help us to shape our yesterdays and tomorrows.

The nostalgic coziness of it all can sometimes be overwhelming, each time I think of the good ‘ol days — and how great they were…but also in relation to our how wonderful today is because of the past.

I must admit, while I’m writing this, I’m feeling butterflies galore, as various memories from all former decades that I experienced first hand both intermingle and soar simultaneously in my heart and mind.

I remember once, for example, in the “Big ‘80s,” attending the wedding of two dear friends. After the reception, they told me how they gathered their gifts and perused their cards. Upon opening one card, which was filled with a gift of only $5.00, the newlywed husband turned to his newlywed wife, and exclaimed, “$5.00???!!!”

He was shocked, to say the least. Certainly, we all give what we can for such gatherings…but $5.00?! I mean, come on, man: a wedding gift even in the ‘80s should have been the very least be 25 bucks.

That said, a few months after this particular wedding ceremony, I was working at NBC as a page…and during one assignment, while stationed in the “Ticket Office”, it was my job to answer phones from incoming callers who inquired about tickets availability and access for various TV shows.

With a consistent, sometimes repetitive response to the caller, I would go down the list and mention The Tonight Show, Wheel of Fortune, etc. And during this one call, I said, Punky Brewster, which was an NBC sitcom starring Solei Moon Frye (who will soon be back in a new reboot of the show).

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The cast of NBC’s “Punky Brewster” from the ‘80s

But the person calling in misunderstood me and asked incredulously, “LUNKY GOOF?!” I bit my tongue, held back my laughter and replied, “No — PUNKY BREWSTER.”

It was very funny because he said, “LUNKY GOOF?!” with the very same inflection that my newly-married friend had said, “$5.00?!” in learning of his, uhm…modest…wedding gift.

Some thirty years, on another night, I’m watching a DVD of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. At the close of an episode titled, “The Pennies,” Harriet turns to the camera (for reasons expressed throughout the episode), and lip sinques, “$5.00?!” There was no sound, and the response had to do with her husband Ozzie spending $5.00 in a relatively exorbitant manner (for the time, which was the 1950s).

But when I saw Harriet say that (again, actually lip-cinque that), I couldn’t believe it. It so much reminded me of the “$5.00”/Punky Brewster scenario that I, as it turned out, had just shared with someone only the night before (which only added to the irony of it all).

Truth is, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was clearly much more sophisticated than most give it credit for in the history of pop-culture. It’s warmhearted but never schmaltzy. Some have even referred to as the Seinfeld of its day, as its plots tend to focus and expand on one simple everyday life occurrence. But the show also happens to be likable, self-deprecating, and FUNNY!

Just like real life — and “$5.00?!!”

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Written by

Herbie J Pilato writes about pop-culture, stays positive, and hosts THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, a TV talk show on Amazon Prime and Amazon Prime UK.

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