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Thursday, November 29, 2012

'Hazel' S4: Maid to Perfection



Shout Factory's December 4, 2012 release of the DVD set of "Hazel" S4 is the latest example of Shout earning deity status among hard-core sofa spuds for releasing sets of previously abandoned shows every few months.

This classic '60s sitcom revolved around the titular character, who was a live-in maid/busybody for successful attorney George Baxter and his nuclear family. Plots typically involved either Hazel, who was played by legendary actress Shirley Booth, undermining "Mr. B's" authority, trying to manipulate him, or interfering in the lives of her friends and neighbors.

Much of the humor came from Hazel's common sense and street smarts succeeding where Mr. B's "book learnin'" failed.

The nice thing about the fourth season was that the overall friendly disputes between Hazel and Mr. B. had toned down significantly since the more rancorous, but highly entertaining, first season.

One episode had Hazel surprisingly obey Mr. B's order to only respond "yes," "no," or "maybe" if the visiting governor of their state asked her a question. Similarly, the Thanksgiving episode included a scene in which Hazel encouraged Mr. B. to eat a piece of pie in contrast to scenes from earlier seasons in which she vigorously and stubbornly denied him sweets.

Similarly, the well done Christmas episode had Hazel gently encouraging Mr. B. to buy his wife Dorothy a relatively inexpensive gift in response to his declared war on the commercial aspects of the holiday. First season Hazel would have likely charged an expensive gift to the Baxter account and shamed her employer into accepting that outcome.

On the other side, Mr. B. was less harsh regarding Hazel and seemed more sensitive to her feelings.

This "kinder gentler" tone helped make S4 very tasty television comfort food. Like a well-made macaroni-and-cheese, each episode satisfied without making an unduly strong impression.

These episodes also offer a nice reminder of the "good old days" when families seemed to get along better than they do now, people sat down for dinner together, neighborhoods were real communities, and people were not isolated in the forms of constantly being glued to their cell phones, iPods, iPads, or other electronic devices.

One of the better of a good lot of episodes had Hazel getting Mr. B. provide the family's wonderfully daffy and aristocratic neighbors badly needed financial planning. Mayhem regarding missing bearer bonds was very amusing.

Another especially good episode had Hazel and lady of the house Dorothy team up to convince Mr. B. to pay to have the kitchen remodeled. Their chosen technique was much more subtle than the (perhaps literal) sledgehammer approach that Hazel likely would have used in the first season.

Further, S4 Mr. B. was a very good sport. S1 Mr. B. likely would have drawn the line at buying a new toaster.

It is worth noting as well that this was the final season in which Hazel worked for George and Dorothy Baxter. Those unfamiliar with the show must wait until Shout releases S5 to learn of the new format.

Shout's extras for the S4 set are entertaining vintage promos for the series.

Anyone with questions or thoughts regarding "Hazel" is encouraged to email me.