Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Another Tuesday with very little of interest in the way of new DVD releases. One thing being released today is the complete first season of the early-to mid-sixties sitcom Hazel. This utterly bland offering starred Broadway legend Shirley Booth (this was her best known non-stage role, poor thing) as a busybody maid, plus the less than charismatic Don DeFore and Whitney Blake as her employers. Why this is even coming to DVD at all, I don't know, as it was the sort of disposeable, generic offering that used to run endlessly in syndication back in the early seventies, but was never watched by anyone I knew, and it hasn't been shown in years, and is probably best forgotten.

Except...it did inspire an absolutely brilliant parody in Mad magazine, entitled "Strange Interlude With Hazey" which imagined this dull suburban sitcom as it might have been written by Eugene O'Neill, the stilted dialogue and innocuous situations a mask for the seething rage just below the surface. When I read a reprint of this piece (written by Stan Hart and illustrated by Mort Drucker) as a kid, it opened my eyes to what was really going on, not just on Hazel, but other shows as well. Was Fred Mertz abusive towards his wife? Was Lumpy Rutheford gay? Did the Professor and Mary Ann have something going on?

This is what Mad did for kids. It taught them that things were not always as they seemed, so question everything. Politicians lie, your neighbors are hypocrites, and that new movie that everyone says is so great? It's crap. Mad also planted a lot of Yiddish into the mouths of goyish children everywhere, and showcased one of my all-time heroes, the cartoonist Don Martin.

Mad still exists, and still seems to be aimed at eleven year olds of all ages. I don't read it anymore, and obviously it is staffed by different people these days (though Mort Drucker still draws the occasional movie or TV parody), and the vibe just isn't the same. Stll, if it is still able to convince just one kid to be skeptical of everything, it still serves a purpose.