DVD Review: Hazel – The Complete Fourth Season

The reviewer paces back and forth in front of the table on which Hazel: The Complete Fourth Season rests, trying to come to terms with the continuing atrocities from this series. He is not a war veteran, he has never been through a war, but some things in life come close.

Here’s the thing. I know it’s not Shout! Factory’s fault. Sometimes I come close to blaming them, but I know how DVD sales work. If it keeps selling, then keep selling it, keep releasing further seasons of a TV series until there are no more, and in between, package certain episodes in themed sets, alongside other shows with the same theme. I get it. And yet, I don’t. Why? Why do you insist on this torture?

Four-Disc DVD Set: (No response)

Hazel 4It’s not Shirley Booth’s fault. She got a plum role with this. She far outshines Don DeFore, who can’t do anything else as George Baxter but be frustrated with Hazel horning in on other people’s business. After however many years Hazel has worked for him, doesn’t he know this already? Hasn’t he been through enough of her good-hearted attempts to understand that that’s who Hazel is? If he can’t stand it, why doesn’t he just hire Elsa Lanchester’s Katie Nana from Mary Poppins and finally be happy to have a maid in his household who’s just as much a grump as he is?

DVD set: (Still no response)

I know, I know. Katie Nana was Jane and Michael’s nanny, not meant to be a maid, since that was left to Hermione Baddeley and Reta Shaw. Not to mention that Mary Poppins took place in 1910, while Hazel spread its poison throughout the 1960s, a last gasp of conformity in the face of significant upheaval in the country. But how were they to know that back then, anyway? In hindsight, it’s obvious, but maybe it wasn’t so obvious to them back then. And yet, Mary Poppins was released in 1964, so it wouldn’t have been such an unbelievable switch. But I don’t think Walt Disney himself would have stood for such garbage writing.

DVD set: (Does this guy not realize that DVD sets do not have throats or vocal cords?)

I can’t entirely blame Don DeFore, and yet there he is on the screen, acting from a script from writers that can never change. I’ll bet they were excited to be part of a show based on a single-panel Saturday Evening Post cartoon. They didn’t have to do any real work. They knew who Hazel was, who George Baxter would be in response, and who cares about the wife and the son? Whitney Blake and Bobby Buntrock had equal amounts of nothing to do on this series. After all, Hazel’s the star. And if having Shirley Booth as the star means that it comes with a steady paycheck, why rock the boat? Don DeFore certainly didn’t.

DVD set: (What has this guy been eating? Taco Bell?)

Look, I love Shout! Factory. I love that they are careful guardians of pop culture history and that they do have to release titles like Hazel in order to make money to bring in bigger titles. And there are people who like Hazel, though I can’t wrap my mind around that without getting a headache. I know why I agreed to see what the fourth season had. It’s the same reason I reviewed the third season: I was hoping for an episode like “Hazel’s Day Off” from the second season. But the third season didn’t deliver, so why should the fourth?

The reviewer finally sits down after pacing the distance from Boulder City, Nevada to Plantation, Florida, hoping that maybe some clarity will come by having his butt in a chair.

It almost seems like the fourth season is reaching out a bit further. George is a lawyer and so he has connections in the legal profession, which undoubtedly led to his household hosting lunch for the governor of his state in the episode “Luncheon with the Governor.” But then, he didn’t think of the idea. Hazel did. And while he was worried yet again that Hazel would make a mess of things, so much so that he forbade her to speak more than “Yes,” “No,” and “Maybe,” to Governor McGuire, everything turned out ok. As it always does. Every time. I almost feel sorry for you being here. You should be in some other household that might actually enjoy this dreck.

DVD set: (Yeah, no kidding. How much longer is he going to go on?)

I mean, it’s the same thing every single episode! In some way, George perceives that Hazel is going to muck something up and by the end, she has made things better. There’s George, admitting that things have gone well at the end of “Luncheon with the Governor,” and then there he is in “Mind Your Own Business,” so frustrated with Hazel’s meddling that he makes a rule that everyone should mind their own business, and that includes Hazel. This is the fourth season! Fourth season! And he still wants to turn Hazel into a stone statue. Even though Hazel started out in the Saturday Evening Post, a TV show is not a single-panel comic strip. There must be consistency. That they couldn’t develop anything further, make more out of this sitcom, shows a severe lack of imagination and creativity on their part. If they had, I know I would have actually enjoyed this more, and you wouldn’t be sitting here, no doubt already uncomfortable with the fact that I seem to want some reason from you about why all this is the way it is.

DVD set: (What is this guy on? What’s in movie theater butter anyway?)

If I had the time to go deeper into the fourth season, I know I’d find the same thing. Now you might ask me if I’m perhaps missing out on the possibility that one of those episodes might be just like “Hazel’s Day Off,” and maybe I’m robbing myself of the chance to find out. But how much more do I have to go through? I can’t stand what I’ve already been through! One episode out of countless 25-minute blocks of boredom! I don’t think there’s anything else I can do. You know, I try a different frame of mind when I’m reviewing a series I don’t like and sometimes it works, considering something a bit differently and finding a different avenue of thought that wasn’t apparent when I started watching it. That sometimes helps the boredom. But I couldn’t do that here at all. Not one minute. Not one situation. Not one instance of watching George scrunch up his face in frustration for the billionth time. I know what they were thinking when they put Hazel on the air because of how popular the comic strip was, but why couldn’t they have thought harder during the run of the series?

DVD set: (If this guy wants a response, he should piss someone off in any Internet forum. Even gardening.)

You know the one thing I got out of this season? Just one thing? Every time I saw the name “William D. Russell” appear under “Directed by” at the end of the opening credits, I could only think of Henry Fonda’s character in the movie The Best Man, and I wish I could have been watching that instead. At least that has smart dialogue and better-drawn characterizations. But that seems a bit extreme, comparing Hazel to Gore Vidal. I need to do something, though, to get this off my mind!

(DVD set: How about not talking about it anymore and moving on?)

There’s only one thing that could make this torture worthwhile: Some of the money that Shout! Factory has made on this title should be put into getting the DVD rights to the entire run of Beakman’s World, that ‘90s kids science show I worshipped when I watched it, when I was one of those ‘90s kids. Like any other fan, I only have The Best of Beakman’s World on DVD and I want more. If that happens, I think that’s the only way I could appreciate Hazel, just like I appreciate the promotional booklet featured on the last disc of this set, a rare look into how the series was sold. I will never like this series, but I do like glimpses into the hidden crevices of TV history, and that’s worth reading for a few minutes.

The reviewer slouches in his chair, exhausted at having been through the fourth season of Hazel, and relieved that it’s over.

I don’t know if I’d do this again. There’s one more season to be released on DVD. If it comes to me, should I hope for “Hazel’s Day Off” again? The final season of Designing Women was bad enough, but then, what came before that, long before, when Delta Burke was part of the cast, was sitcom magic. At least it once thrived. Hazel never thrived. It’s a split feeling. I’m always happy to see the Shout! Factory logo on a DVD case, but when it’s attached to this, there’s that queasy feeling.

DVD set: (Like listening to you go on and on.)

But at least it’s over. On to hopefully better DVDs. Come to think of it, anything has to be better than this.

DVD: (Good. Finally. He’s done. I’m out of here.)

The reviewer bolts up in his chair as he watches the DVD set jump down from the table and heads for the door. Instead of wondering how the DVD set came alive, he walks to the door and opens it so it can get out. And now it’s gone. He can move on.

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