Monday, April 18, 2011

The shocking final season of "Hazel"

Well, it's shocking to ME to see good ol' domestic engineer extraordinaire Hazel serving someone other than the Baxters. Oh, they call themselves "the Baxters," this 3-piece family Hazel and Harold move in with for the series' fifth and final season, but they are a weak substitute for the real deal, George, AKA Mr. B; and Dorothy, AKA Missy.

As Antenna TV winds up its first complete cycle of the series, I think it's fair to say that fifth season ain't getting any better. I've seen a good batch of these episodes, and while I enjoy them because it's still Hazel and because I've never seen them before, it just isn't the same. I find myself watching Mr. B's brother Steve, his wife Barbara, and their non-entity daughter Susie, and demanding the return of MY Baxters.

Susie is not the problem, as she means very little one way or the other, though in one episode I saw, she was terrorizing the family cat, wrecking Hazel's meals, and generally showing signs of a budding young sociopath. As for the women of the show, well, Lynn Borden as Barbara is gorgeous; Whitney Blake as Dorothy is...Meredith Baxter's mom. Fact is, the show never gave Dorothy much that was interesting to do, so she isn't conspicuous by her absence.

The REAL loss of season 5 is, of course, Mr. B. Nobody does "taken aback" like Don DeFore, and his quiet exasperation at Hazel's antics led to a handful of great sitcom actor "takes" in every single episode. As Steve Baxter, Ray Fulmer has a pleasant enough Dick-Sargentesque presence, but compared to DeFore he is--forgive me--a scrub.

One of the worst things about the "transition" from season 4 to season 5 is that the Baxters (the real ones, that is) leave off camera, and it's left to Hazel to tell the audience, via a convo with her busybody friend Rosie, what happened to force this jarring change. It's kind of funny, actually, because one by one, the two Sunshine Girl cohorts cover just about all the questions the audience has about what's going on. I know because my wife sat down with me to watch this one, and when I told her what was going to happen, she started peppering me with queries. I'm not saying Hazel answers them in a satisfying way, but she does answer them.

George and Dorothy, we learn, went to the Middle East for business. As far as Hazel knows (or is willing to tell Rosie), Mr. B is doing big-shot corporate lawyer stuff, blah blah blah. Personally, I believe he is conducting covert ops for a quasi-governmental "security" organization, which explains why he leaves the States so quickly and ditches his son. Ostensibly, Harold stays behind to "finish his schooling," and I realize American-style schooling may not have been as sophisticated in the 1960s as it is today, but still...COME ON! Harold's not in some kind of fast-track advanced college prep system, and he's not exactly Albert Einstein, besides, so one wonders why the Baxters are so eager to strand him in the USA. Perhaps after years of sharing living quarters with an inquisitive boy and an intrusive maid, George and Dorothy just want a little "us" time. Mr. B, you DOG, you!

For her part, Hazel stays behind because she can't bear to leave little Harold...or the Baxters threatened to auction her to a decrepit emir's harem if she tagged along, take your pick. Now, after hours of research at the Paley Center and the Library of Congress (not really, but that sounds better than "I looked at an online message board), I have discovered that behind the scenes, the Baxters were basically canned for financial reasons, and Shirley Booth soldiered on for this one last year before ending the show due to her own declining health. Even in season 5, we see an attempt to shift attention to some other characters, and we see less of Hazel's superhuman feats of skill, like kicking a football or bashing a gangster over the head with a frying pan.

This all makes more sense than the notion that someone thought it was a good idea creatively to replace DeFore and Blake, or that Booth pulled a power play and replaced them with some nonthreatening, less interesting players. Looks like it was just one of those stupid decisions. CBS did get one more season out of "Hazel," and because of Booth's health, any more would have been unlikely, anyway. That fifth season is easily the weakest, but it's worth a look just for the novelty value.

The unrecognizable Ann Jillian (only recognizable because I saw her in the cast listing) has a regular role, too, as realtor Steve's secretary. George's annoying sister shows up again as a foil for Hazel, too, which points out one of the show's problems at this point: The chemistry between Hazel and Steve just isn't there, which is of course in stark contrast to the Hazel/George relationship which drives previous seasons. There is a half-hearted attempt early on to position Steve Baxter as someone who will go toe to toe with Hazel, or at least try to, but predictably he fails, and Hazel soon becomes "one of the family." This was true with Mr. B, too, and no one ever really thought the two were truly at each other's throats, but at least they went through the motions and enjoyed playing the game. Steve isn't even in the same league.

So without DeFore, without even the way-overexposed Mr. Griffin, season 5 strains to provide that ol' Hazel magic. It's probably best that it's the last season. I would like to see a sixth season in which Mr. B dramatically returns and announces the family must go underground to avoid a congressional subpoena, but that will have to remain a figment of my imagination.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very nice commentary! You answered many of my questions. The only thing I'm having difficulty with is finding Hazel season 5!! It doesn't seem to be anywhere. Where did you find yours? Thanks for the nice overview. photobee@yahoo.com

Rick Brooks said...

Thanks for the comment! I would expect Shout Factory to get around to releasing season 5 of Hazel on DVD sometime later this year, but I watched it on Antenna TV, which shows all the show's seasons as part of its rotation.

jerry c said...

It was sponsored by Ford the first 4 seasons, then after the cast change for season 5 they drove everything. Did see a season 5 episode I liked on 6-10-13. Hazel bought a 1959 plymouth Fury in mint condition for 525.00. Man I wish I had a time machine!

Rick Brooks said...

How about it? I guess the Ford sponsorship explains the opening sequence of them piling in the family automobile. Didn't know that about the change in season 5. I'm about to dive back into season 1 and watch the black and white episodes...

Walter said...

Wow. (Expression of shock). I'm currently watching this show via DVD's from the local library and that's seriously a downer.

While most would not like to have a spoiler like that known before-hand,it actually helps me to know this information.

Before late july,I had never seen an episode of Hazel,it simply was never run here in Phoenix (to my recollection). So now,this evening,I'm into disc 2 of Season 3 and I can already see the cracks of repetition showing in the series.

Whitney Blake isn;t in a few shows,Harold doesn;t seem to be aging at all after 2 years,Mr. Griffin is becoming tiresome,as is the tension betwen Hazel & George's sister.

No Baxters except Harold huh? Oh,well. I'll stil watch all the way to the end but yes,taht a BIG goof on CBS's part back then. I don;t see Shirley Booth doing a "power play".

Besides,given what the world became a short time later and how TV changed between '66 and 1970,"Hazel" would have been finished anyway.

Rick Brooks said...

Thanks, Walter, for the thoughtful comments. In fairness to me, it becomes clear early on what the deal is with season 5, so you would have known right away.

I'd still recommend sticking it out even though you nailed two of the most tiresome characters/elements of the series: Griffin and George's sister.

Season 5 is worth it just for "My Son, the Sheepdog." You make an interesting comment about how the world changed as the series progressed--just wait till you see that episode's hopelessly square take on rock and roll.

Cool that your library stocks the DVDs!

Abbott said...

"My Son the Sheepdog" episode is only a slight exaggeration of how
I was treated in 1966 when I stopped using Brycreem and combed my hair in bangs at age 8. As ridiculous as the episode plays, it's very real to the way my Father
and the school teachers of the day
reacted to things at that time. My
Father called "Drums" which I wanted to play, "Hippie". He would
brush his hair to his forehead with
his hand and say, "Man I'm Cool".
That Does make the season 5 worth wanting just to re-witness this
absurd truth of 1966.
Also, I believe that Hazel's poem
in that episode may be the source
of the band name "Deep Purple".
And looking at their (DP)success shows
just how short-sided the parents were about the lucrativeness of kids starting a band.

Rick Brooks said...

Well, as we now know, season 5 IS confirmed for January 2014, and I'm tempted to buy it just so I can get "My Son, the Sheepdog" and see it again!

Jimmy Combs said...

Your comparsion of Steve Baxter to Dick Sargent's drab take on Darrin Stevens is absolutley bang-on. Steve Baxter immediately comes off as "missing something" that his brother had. At the same time, I enjoyed Barbara Baxter just as much as Dorothy Baxter. They are both attractive blondes and have very friendly personalities. Unlike Harold, Susie Baxter is pointless to the show. In the intro she just stares forward like a zombie and then suddenly smiles as if the director yelled out "Somebody tell that brat to smile." No wonder Harold continued to hold the spotlite in many episodes. Still though, it's Hazel and it wasn't too bad. Even the episodes with the original Baxter's was losing its flair by season 4. Still thought, this is one of my top ten favorite television shows of all time!!!

Jimmy Combs said...

Your comparsion of Steve Baxter to Dick Sargent's drab take on Darrin Stevens is absolutley bang-on. Steve Baxter immediately comes off as "missing something" that his brother had. At the same time, I enjoyed Barbara Baxter just as much as Dorothy Baxter. They are both attractive blondes and have very friendly personalities. Unlike Harold, Susie Baxter is pointless to the show. In the intro she just stares forward like a zombie and then suddenly smiles as if the director yelled out "Somebody tell that brat to smile." No wonder Harold continued to hold the spotlite in many episodes. Still though, it's Hazel and it wasn't too bad. Even the episodes with the original Baxter's was losing its flair by season 4. Still thought, this is one of my top ten favorite television shows of all time!!!

Jimmy Combs said...

Your comparsion of Steve Baxter to Dick Sargent's drab take on Darrin Stevens is absolutley bang-on. Steve Baxter immediately comes off as "missing something" that his brother had. At the same time, I enjoyed Barbara Baxter just as much as Dorothy Baxter. They are both attractive blondes and have very friendly personalities. Unlike Harold, Susie Baxter is pointless to the show. In the intro she just stares forward like a zombie and then suddenly smiles as if the director yelled out "Somebody tell that brat to smile." No wonder Harold continued to hold the spotlite in many episodes. Still though, it's Hazel and it wasn't too bad. Even the episodes with the original Baxter's was losing its flair by season 4. Still thought, this is one of my top ten favorite television shows of all time!!!

Jimmy Combs said...

Whoops, sorry. I thought the comments weren't posting!

carol kroll said...

I,like my predecessors,agree that the show in its final season wasn't nearly as good without Don Defore and Meredith baxter. Once again artistic decisions are based uPon monetary decisions--the old bottom line,which may be good for the stations that run the show but not for the audience. thank you. B

TampaZeke said...

Me TV is airing the fifth season of Hazel now.

cadillac pat said...

always wondered what happend to Mr. and Mrs. B. cheap cbs. 5th year is on ch. 82 on the dishnetwork at 2pm ps time. still love hazel.

@Dragonfly3k1ds said...

You can watch season 5 (and all the seasons) on antenna tv.

Rick Brooks said...

Hazel season 5 endures! I should write a review of the DVD set for ClassicFlix one of these days.

Anonymous said...

Hello.....

Yes, season 5 starts on Friday, February 19th, on Antenna TV!

The last episode of season 4 and the first episode of season 5 will air back-to-back, here in Cleveland, OH.

I agree with you that Don Defore was a great actor in this series.

People now a days dismiss Hazel as being not true to life. Those folks probably don't remember rotary phones, b&w television sets, console record players, or leaded gasoline.

Ahh, nostalgia!

Great post. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Great show!

You are correct, season 5 was kinda a stinker!

Most t.v. series progressively get worse. The plots get weaker and the writing uses recycled ideas over time.

Two weeks from today, Lynn Borden passed away a year ago. (3-3-2015). Sad. :o(

Ray Fulmer and his t.v. daughter are the only ones left!

Anonymous said...

The last network broadcast of Hazel was on April 11, 1966. That will be 50 years ago.

It is amazing that the show, regardless of the season, is being shown today. I didn't even know about Hazel until I started watching it on Antenna TV a few years ago. My mom watched this show with my grandmother when she was a little girl.

I agree with the other comment that most shows get worn out over time. MASH is a great example. Once BJ grew his moustache and started to wear converse shoes, red suspenders, and a pink undershirt with an army shirt with the sleeves removed, I lost interest. Anything past season 6 is terrible.

Ray Fulmer isn't as bad as Dick Sargent's character on Bewitched. Ironically, Dick was on Hazel as Mr. Griffin's nephew in season 2.

Regardless, the older shows no matter what season are better than anything on tv today. "For Pete's sake."

Unknown said...

I'm retired and drive a School Bus and one of my young riders is a cute little girl named Hazel. As she sits up front waiting to get off I've often gotten into conversations with her telling her that I watch a show named after her, Hazel. She finds that weird and funny every time I bring it up. It's a strange name to me and one you don't hear anymore, I mean who would deliberatly name there child Hazel? I recall watching the shows when they first appeared. I try and explain this character to her along with some of the episodes and the strange looks on Hazels face are priceless. There's really no point to my story other than I find a little girl named Hazel in today's world funny.

Me said...

I'm retired and drive a School Bus and one of my young riders is a cute little girl named Hazel. As she sits up front waiting to get off I've often gotten into conversations with her telling her that I watch a show named after her, Hazel. She finds that weird and funny every time I bring it up. It's a strange name to me and one you don't hear anymore, I mean who would deliberatly name there child Hazel? I recall watching the shows when they first appeared. I try and explain this character to her along with some of the episodes and the strange looks on Hazels face are priceless. There's really no point to my story other than I find a little girl named Hazel in today's world funny.

Karen Jones said...

Thanks for filling in the blanks for me. I appreciate the research you did. That's what I'm doing now - searching for clues as to why Hazel is with Steve and wife in a string of episodes I recently watched. HAND!

Rick Brooks said...

I love the fact that this post still gets comments! Pardon the plug, but I make a reference to the show and that fifth season in my new ClassicFlix piece at http://classicflix.com/TV-TIME-Mothers-Day-Mommy-Awards-ar-226.html

pat mulei said...

Ironically, Season 5 will begin on Wednesday, June 8th at 9:30am on Antenna TV...I can't wait! :)

Anonymous said...

Hazel: SEASON 5 was released on JANUARY 14,2014. It was nearly $30.00 when it was first released. I finally bought a copy from AMAZON on JUNE 28,2014. I had bought Season 1 for CHRISTMAS OF 2013. Then I bought Seasons 2-4 in FEBRUARY in 2014. I only bought it because it was LAST SEASON OF THE SERIES. I dislike unfinished Television Shows. They should have had HAROLD TO HAVE REUNITED WITH HIS PARENTS. THEY SHOULD HAVE FINISHED HAZEL'S CHARACTER. HOW ABOUT MARRYING HER OFF. THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN GREAT. NANCY GOT MARRIED, BUT TO WHOM? COULD WE ASSUME IT WAS TO EDDY BURKE? AND THE BLAKES JUST DISAPPEARED FROM NEXT DOOR. THEY SHOULD HAVE SENT STAN BLAKE OFF INTO THE SUNSET WITH A WIFE. And I just recently learned that the CHILD ACTOR PAUL ENGLE, WHO PLAYED "DON BLAKE", THE OLDEST OF THE "BLAKE CHILDREN", (Actually the Actress Brenda Scott, who played "Linda Blake" was older than Paul),has past away. I thought it was so neat that ALL OF THE "BLAKE CHILDREN" were still alive. I don't think that there is a TELEVISION SHOW AROUND THAT IS FIFTY OR MORE YEARS OLD THAT HAD MORE THAN ONE CHILD AND AT LEAST ONE OF THEM HASN'T PAST AWAY. Needless to say I was in shock. I think that everyone by now know that BOBBY BUNTROCK HAS BEEN GONE FOR OVER FORTY TWO YEARS. THAT HOLDS ITS OWN TRAGEDY. I didn't learn about that until 2011, when I was looking up the Actors on "HAZEL". I knew about SHIRLEY, DON, AND WHITNEY, BUT NOT BOBBY. It's to bad that there couldn't have been a "HAZEL REUNION MOVIE", LIKE THE "ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW" AND "GREEN ACRES" DID. It would have been great to have seen what everybody looked like twenty-to-twenty-five years later. I don't think that the audience would have accepted a different ACTRESS playing "HAZEL". Remember, they tried that on those "GILLILAND ISLAND MOVIES" and everyone wanted TINA LOUISE?! Well, WHITNEY BLAKE didn'T like her character anyway, but hopefully that wouldn'T have stopped her from doing a REUNION MOVIE. EVE PLUMB DIDN'T LIKE DOING THE "BRADY BUNCH", BUT IT DIDN'T PREVENT HER FROM DOING "REUNION SHOWS".

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is if a show is in jeopardy and THE NETWORK KNOWS IT, THEN WHY NOT "FINISH THE SHOW"?! FINISH UP THE CHARACTERS AND THE LOOSE STORYLINES. WHY leave them open and unfinished. I refuse to believe that they could not have finished "HAZEL". The writers are paid to write. WHY didn't they? Okay, let's fast gorward. I know that this is "2016" and three of my favorite shows ended that year: "HAZEL", "PERRY MASON", AND "THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE & HARRIET". With that said, it doesn'T explain how come they didn'T try to bring back the "MAIN PARENTS". To me it looks as if they simply left "HAZEL AND "HAROLD" indefinitely with "GEORGE'S BROTHER "STEVE" AND HIS WIFE, "BARBARA". I think the audience could have accepted the "GONE TO ARABIA" bit, if they had of returned the parents, which they didn't. Even in real life people take trips and ask relatives to take care of various family members, but to just leave them seems like "abandonment". I bet they could have afforded to have brought back DON AND WHITNEY for a handful of episodes. Maybe they didn't think that anybody would still be viewing this show so far into the future. I was so young when this show came out. And I'm still young. I'm certainly not older than any of the ACTORS WHO WERE IN THE MAIN CAST, unless the "babies" are considered. But we are the audience of all of those wonderful old shows. We're the ones who remember them and are introducing them to our families. I would dislike a novel that ended this way, unless a sequel was in the works.

Anonymous said...

This comment is really to correct something that "CAROL KROLL" said. She said that the final season was not the same without "DON DEFORE" AND "MEREDITH BAXTER". YOU HAVE THE WRONG ACTRESS. "MEREDITH BAXTER" IS THE REAL LIFE DAUGHTER OF ACTRESS "WHITNEY BLAKE" WHO WAS THE ACTUAL ACTRESS ON "HAZEL". SHE IS THE ACTRESS WHO PLAYED "DOROTHY BAXTER". I'm really surprised that no one has noticed your goof but me. That was more than a TYPO.

Anonymous said...

What is this real stuff? Of course shows like "HAZEL" weren't/aren't real. They weren't supposed to be "real". FICTION IS NOT REAL EVEN IF A CHARACTER IS BASED ON A "REAL PERSON". "HAZEL" began as a CARTOON STRIP IN THE "SATURDAY EVENING POST". THE CREATOR "TED KEY" SAID HE DREAMED OF "HER" AND IMMEDIATELY GOT UP AND DREW A PICTURE OF HER. Television and Movies were not originally designed to be "REAL". SPECIFICALLY DURING THE WAR YEARS. PEOPLE WERE AFRAID. SO MOVIES ESPECIALLY COMEDIES AND MUSICALS WERE DESIGNED TO DISTRACT PEOPLE FROM THAT REALITY. TV WAS NOT AROUND YET. BUT IT WAS NOT DESIGNED FOR REALISM EITHER. WHO WANTS REALISM IN MOVIES AND ON TELEVISION? DON'T WE HAVE ENOUGH REALISM IN OUR LIVES???? THE EVERY DAY GRIND, PEOPLE WITH SILLY USELESS ISSUES THAT SPILL OVER INTO OTHERS LIVES. ILLNESS, MURDER, UNEMPLOYMENT,AND ON AND ON AND ON. WOULD ANYBODY REALLY WANT TO SEE THAT ENDLESSLY ON TELEVISION? Well, there are enough REALITY SHOWS around these days. Will those do?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Anonymous said...

I've checked to see which Actors are still around. As most fans know, the entire "BAXTER FAMILY" is gone. So are most of the "RELATIVES". I was watching the Episode: "EVERYBODY'S THANKFUL BUT US TURKEYS" recently. In an early scene when everyone is standing at the door it hit me that I was looking at a scene with all deceased people in it. They passed away in this order: "Harold", BOBBY BUNTROCK, "Hazel", SHIRLEY BOOTH, "Tom", WILLIAM BAKEWELL, "George", DON DEFORE, "Dorothy", WHITNEY BLAKE, "Aunt Phyllis", BEVERLY TYLER (HER BIRTHDAY WOULD HAVE BEEN ON JULY 5, AND SHE WOULD HAVE BEEN 89 YEARS OLD), and "Uncle Bob", CHARLES COOPER. Other "RELATIVES" who are still around are: "George's Niece" - "Nancy Thompson", DAVEY DAVISON, his "Brother" - "Steve Baxter", RAY FULMER and "Niece" - "Suzie Baxter", JULIE BENJAMIN "Steve's Daughter", and their "Cousin" - "Charlene", DIANA LADD. "Hazel's Nephews: "LeRoy Burke", WRIGHT KING, and "Eddy Burke", JOHNNY WASHBROOK. The "BLAKE Family", though they weren't related to "The Baxter's", lived next door. "Stan Blake", JOHN NEWTON, "Linda Blake", BRENDA SCOTT, "Stevie Blake", KIM TYLER, and "Mavis Blake", JUDY ERWIN WHITNEY, are all still alive. Only "Don Blake", PAUL ENGLE, HAS PASSED AWAY, ABOUT EIGHT MONTHS AGO. When I look at "HAZEL" it doesn't seem that that show went OUT of PRODUCTION FIFTY YEARS AGO. HERE'S TO A GREAT SHOW! MAY IT LAST ANOTHER FIFTY YEARS!

Goliath_62 said...

Thanks for the blog Mr. Brooks. I found Hazel by chance one day while flipping through the channels. I started watching it and enjoying most of it except the last season when Mr. B was not Don DeFore he had been replaced as was his wife. I didn't see the episode where Hazel explained what happened to Mr. Baxter so I just tried to figure out why Mr. B and Missy were replaced by these pod people and had left their son behind. Well, now I know. I'm glad to see they are starting the series over again at season one. Me thinks I'll have to watch again cuz Hazel is one of the "nicest and prettier ladies I know." ;-)