DVD Review: ‘Hazel: The Complete Third Season’

Three seasons and 99 episodes down, two seasons and 55 episodes to go. That’s Hazel, the 1961-66 family sitcom about the titular live-in maid (Shirley Booth) who was the busiest of busybodies yet still was  beloved by her adoptive Baxter family and every curmudgeon she stared down with her down-to-earth advice.

The formula continues for 1963-64’s Season 3 from NBC, whose 32 episodes are new on DVD Tuesday from Shout! Factory.

There are no new extras, but the shows do have a new look in part, thanks to new opening credits ( a family photo shoot in the front yard), a new hairstyle for “Missy” Dorothy Baxter (Whitney Blake), new model Thunderbirds on the street and still more bright colors to exploit the “Peacock” network’s march toward TV’s future. (Though its first season was in black and white, Hazel’s second season marked the first prime-time sitcom to be aired in color.)

Rolling up her sleeves and rolling over the alleged man of the house, lawyer George Baxter (Don DeFore), Booth’s Hazel still can be as exasperating to the viewer as to her employer, yet usually manages to ingratiate herself and prevail by pluck, common sense, tasty cooking and good intentions.

Too, Booth was a superb actress. An Oscar and Tony winner for Come Back, Little Sheba, she was 63 years old when Hazel premiered yet as full of energy as any kid in a ’60s family sitcom (including Hazel’s Harold, overacted  by Bobby Buntrock).

There’s now one more season with the original Baxter family, as the clan changed when Hazel switched to a new network for its fifth and final year. With Shout! Factory’s superb track record of finishing what it starts, you can expect to see both families under Hazel’s rule in the coming months.

BTW, try watching this after seeing the delicate upstairs-downstairs chemistry of servants and masters in PBS’s Downton Abbey. If ever Brits needed a bold distinction between their dignified reserve and our brash impetuousness  — if not impertinence — Hazel is it. Americans!

— Bruce Westbrook

 

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