It’s the everlovin’ end of Ozzie and Harriet, and I may have finally lost my everlovin’ mind.
The Other Other OTHER Nutter Butter Christmas episode: “Piano for the Fraternity”. Original Broadcast: 12/21/1960.
It’s the week after that Emporium nonsense with America’s Favorite Family, and the guys, who are in the same fraternity, are trying to figure out some frat boy Christmas stuff. The usual plan is to throw a Christmas dance, but this year they decide to sing carols around a piano. But OH NOES! they have no piano at all! And the most obvious one to borrow is tied up with a Christmas play or something. So the frat brothers, who seem like they’d rather get back to poker, nominate Dave and Ricky to check out their options. Our Boys rope Wally in, because y’know, whatever.
Yeah! Wally’s back! And you know I’m pretty far gone when I start rooting for the return of the doughy guy.
In the music store, the rental is within the budget, but the transportation fees are where they’d really get hosed. Harriet then nudges the plot forward by pulling out the want ads and finding a used upright for $40. But OH NOES! the entire fraternity budget is half of that!
(…and this is where I sarcastically advise you that THE REST OF THIS SUMMARY CONTAINS SPOILERS, since I’ve got a few issues I need to work out with this story.)
Our Boys, along with Some Guy whose name I can’t place, decide to pour on a sob story to get a better deal, but doggonnit, when they reach the Stevens house, the old guy is a regular fella and the old lady baked cookies and everything! All their children are grown and she just happens to have fresh homemade cookies out of the oven. So the boys eat the cookies…
Last known photo.
…and one by one grasp their throats and pitch forward. The old man’s genial smile darkens considerably as David gasps for breath, grasping at their old copies of Liberty as he goes down one last time. End of series. All the seasons after that were reruns, because ABC was that desperate for a hit.
Oh fine, not really, but would it have killed Ozzie the head writer/director/producer to throw us a bone once in awhile?
What really happens next is that David feels guilty about haggling with these sweet old empty nesters and wants to give them the full price somehow. Then the old folks reenter the room with an offer of their own: they’re not selling the piano after all. (Okay, now we’re talking! I can see the rest of the show unfolding now! Silly scams! Tension! COMEDY! Oh wait, they’re not finished…) They’re giving it away to the fraternity!
(…oh, just stop it…)
So the next scene is back in the frat house (not even a bit of hauling the piano comedy…Laurel and Hardy would’ve been disappointed), and Our Boys are still all warm and sentimental over their benefactors, so they decide “Why not invite our folks and Mr. and Mrs. Stevens to the party, too?” So that’s exactly what they do. And we wrap up our show with a bunch of Christmas songs.
Y’know, that’s what the 1960s is going to be about…old and young coming together and getting along forever! Whaddya mean “look up ‘counterculture’ on Wikipedia, you idiot”?
And that’s where we take our leave of America’s (one-time) Favorite Family. Even if it’s as phony as a $3 bill, it’s a cozy enough life. All your problems dissolve as soon as they’re exposed to the open air, there’s always a plate of cookies when you come home to your always tastefully-overdressed mom, and all the jokes are understated to the point that you wonder if they’re there at all. Still, there has to be something in this that regular folks responded to back in the day. I’m just not patient enough to track it back to the main tributary. Not yet, anyway...
Our (Non-)Holiday Lesson For Today: If you really want to get a fix on the beating heart of the 1950s, start with The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit instead.
But Don’t Take My Word For It: This time, in HD! (well, sort of…)
Next: Back to firmer comedy ground with Abbott and Costello!