DVD Review ‘Hazel: The Complete Second Season’: Colorful comedy

Imagine the relief of Hazel fans when Shout! Factory set a Feb. 21 date to issue Hazel: The Complete Second Season on DVD. After all, it’s been 5 1/2 years since the first season appeared, that time from Sony. So give a big shout out to Shout! Factory: Thanks!

The beloved Emmy-winning show deserved a better fate than that of too many series, with earlier episodes being issued digitally but later ones forgotten. (My Favorite Martian Season Three, anyone?)  And this 32-episode batch is a special treat, since it’s the first prime-time sitcom in TV history to be presented in color–and boy, does NBC go for the tints and hues, from Mrs. Baxter’s (Whitney Blake’s) scarlet inside-and-out convertible to Hazel’s (Shirley Booth’s) red hair and little Harold’s (Bobby Buntrock’s) blond locks.

The “Peacock Network” had teased color status in Season One, when one episode — about buying a color TV — aired in color, with the rest in black and white. But for 1962-63’s second season (three more would follow), the upper-middle-class homestead of lawyer George Baxter (Don DeFore) can be seen in each episode with all its comfy, materialistic splendor, down to the bright blue breakfast nook in the family’s oversized kitchen stocked with the latest appliances in bold turquoise. (And you thought The Beverly Hillbillies had a big space for cookin’ and eatin’.)

After a big-hit Nielsen rating of #4 in the first year, Hazel is punched up in other ways, too, for Season Two. Episodes have a livelier, fuller feel, as in Rosie’s Contract, when both Hazel and Mr. B have elaborate dreams about the pros and cons of Hazel — essentially a family member — being retained with such formality. And the lavish opening credit sequence is a show-stopper for a show-starter.

Booth’s Hazel is as busy-bodying as ever, forever forcing issues in unsubtle ways and leaving poor Mr. B only thinking he’s the head of the household, when its true chief and leader lives in a room off the kitchen. It’s like a micro-sized Downton Abbey or Upstairs Downstairs for early-’60s American affluence and modernity, while nurtured by the good-intentioned decency of Hazel’s simpler sensibilities.

Like Mr. B, I find Hazel exasperating at times. The jokes she tells as knee-slappers often aren’t that funny, and she wears her feelings on her maid’s sleeves a bit too much. But that’s Hazel — big-hearted and thus big in her love for her family, the Baxters, which almost should adopt her.

Heck, in a way, they did.

— Bruce Westbrook

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