Sunday, April 20, 2014

Radio Greats: Easter Sunrise Service (The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet)

Ozzie and Harriet Nelson are easily in the running for being the king and queen of situation comedy. Their radio sitcom was a major fixture from 1944 to 1954 and was one of the radio shows that easily made the transition to television, where it ran from 1952 to 1966, making them, as their tagline always was, "America's Favorite Family". The first few years on radio their children were played by various actors, but eventually David and Ricky Nelson began playing themselves; and the television show eventually show launched Ricky Nelson's music career as a teen idol.

The basic premise of the show was modern suburban family life, with lots of humor, but always put in a positive light; it was intended to be a comic, rose-colored-glasses version of the Nelsons' own family life. It was such a major fixture that many of the aspects of sitcoms that we regard as formulaic or cliched were developed by the show and just became standard.

Great situation comedies tend to be characterized by consistently OK or good episodes rather than by any particularly great episodes. But sometimes special-occasion episodes do stand out as both combining the basic features of the series and doing something a little different with them. The "Easter Sunrise Service" episode (also just known as the "Easter Show"), from April 1949, is an example; Easter-themed classic radio episodes were not very common, unlike Christmas episodes, which would have made it a rare treat -- and it was actually a relatively popular episode in part because of this. It also captures a lot of the rather lighthearted and easygoing humor of the series, and it's late enough that the entire Nelson femily is on the cast.

You can listen to the show online at My Old Radio.

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