Hazel is a competent, take-charge, live-in maid in the home of the Baxter family. George Baxter (Don DeFore) is a partner in the law firm of Butterworth, Hatch, Noll and Baxter; Hazel calls him “Mr. B”. George’s wife, Dorothy (Whitney Blake), is an interior decorator, whom Hazel nicknames “Missy”. Their son Harold (Bobby Buntrock) is dubbed “Sport” by Hazel. The family dog is Smiley. Hazel had worked previously with Dorothy’s family, and has a close relationship with her.
The series humorously dramatizes Hazel’s life with the Baxters and her friendships with others in the neighborhood such as postman Barney Hatfield (Robert Williams), taxi-driver Mitch Brady (Dub Taylor) and Rosie Hammaker (Maudie Prickett), another maid in the area. Many episodes focus on the perennial contest of wills between Hazel and her boss over issues around the house; “Mr. B” usually concedes defeat and grants Hazel’s wishes when she tortures him by serving meager portions of her mouth-watering desserts.
Some episodes take Hazel outside the Baxter house and follow her life in the community. In the first episode, for example, she spearheads a drive for the construction of a neighborhood playground. Hazel’s life is sometimes complicated by George’s snobby Bostonian sister Deirdre Thompson (Cathy Lewis) and his gruff client Harvey Griffin (Howard Smith). Dotty neighbors Herbert and Harriet Johnson (Donald Foster and Norma Varden) often call upon Hazel’s expertise in household matters, of which they seem ignorant.
I wrote this Hazel Holiday Retrospective back in 2017, and it was shortly after that when thanks to Google’s ineptitude, my blog went belly-up. Blog or no blog, I re-watched this monstrosity the other night just as I do every year because you have to see it, to believe it.
I don’t know if there were any households such as this back in the great void of 1961. Well, maybe at the Kennedy White House. But there wasn’t anything like this in our home. By 1962, there were eight Harold Baxter’s in our household, and generally my mom dished up the Turkey while Papa climbed out of his second home, his bed, to grace us with his presence and carve the thing.
Other than watching parades and football on TV, there isn’t much I remember about it. But if our Thanksgivings had been a whirlwind of excitement such as this, I surely would have memories that last forever. So here we are again, another Thanksgiving, and it’s time to open the holiday season with the Baxter Family Snob Fest.
Stuff Up the Turkey! It’s Thanksgiving Day!
As our Thanksgiving Fun Fest opens, that’s exactly what Hazel is doing. Shoving stuffing up a turkey’s ass for a family fun meal under the watchful eye of Harold, aka Sport, and Smiley aka Ugly Family Mutt. There’s a TV sitcom 50’s and 60’s rule that the family dog has to be a stray ugly lazy useless Mutt, and Smiley keeps that tradition going beautifully by spending most of this episode lying on the floor, raising his head just long enough to let us know he’s still alive.
In the 60’s they hadn’t yet invented Stove Top, the stuffing mix for every occasion. So easy, even Dorothy Baxter who is clueless in a kitchen could whip some up. Years later, in the 90’s, Roseanne would turn cooking Stove Top into an art form until she left Langford to become a deranged Trumpanzee on Twitter.
As Classic TV series go, Harold isn’t the most annoying kid on the block although my 27 year old son would have been happy if Hazel had stuffed his ass up inside the turkey. Honorable son was grunting noticeably every time Harold open his mouth, which in this episode is quite often.
Harold was the type of TV Kid every parent hoped for but mostly never got. You know, perfect, lovable, clean cut, smiling, never getting into major catastrophe’s like climbing up a billboard into a bowl of soup (Leave It To Beaver Season 4 Episode 32). A real goody two shoes this kid is.
Right off the bat we get our first holiday tear drop moment when the phone rings and it’s a long distance call from Hazel’s family.
You remember long distance calls don’t you kiddies? That was where the Ma Bell companies charged you $5 a minute to call your Aunt and Uncle when they lived just 30 miles down the road. You know, the good old days. That’s why they wrote the song Over the River and Through the Woods. Hell of a lot cheaper to hitch up the old nag or hop in the old Nash Rambler and ride out to Grandma’s House then spending a month’s salary giving her a ring on the phone. And besides, Grandma was always willing to cook up a storm which was great because most people couldn’t afford a Hazel to hang around and do it for them on the Holidays.
This whole bit of Hazel not being with her family and feeling obligated to stay and whip up dinner for the Baxter Clan has always been problematic for me. Even more so by the end of the episode. But Hazel doesn’t belong to a maid’s union and is loyal to the core.
I guess if they had places like Honey Baked Ham or the local Supermarket where you can order Thanksgiving Dinner in advance in those days, then the Baxter’s could have managed without Hazel but don’t make book on it. It quickly becomes obvious that in the Kitchen, Mrs. Baxter doesn’t even know how to turn on the stove to reheat the dinner, let alone boil a pot of water. Left to “Missy” Baxter (Hazel’s Nickname for her), this family of three would starve.
But after some thought and having seen this numerous times, I finally figured out why Hazel chose the Baxter’s over her own flesh and blood.
Harold then proceeds to almost lose his skate key in the turkey stuffing, but not really. Dorothy waltzes in to help Hazel, her help being to suggest Hazel take a break and rest for a few minutes. But if she does, be sure to punch out on the time clock.
Instead, Hazel shoos her out of the kitchen telling Dorothy to go play with her nuts. No, not those nuts. This is the early 60’s after all.
Aunt Phyllis checks in with a phone call and tells Hazel to put Dorothy on the extension. Yep, three way phone calling the old-fashioned way. Although just about every house I was in at the age of eight had one phone and one phone only. Nobody in my neighborhood could afford an extra extension because Ma Bell would sock it to you. But some old hag up the street from us did have a color TV. The Baxter’s have an expensive color set and so does Hazel somehow but you’ll have to watch Season One, Episode Six for that explanation.
Whiny Aunt Phyllis (Beverly Tyler) (as she will now be known) is calling to ask if it’s okay for her husband Bob’s brother Tom to tag along over to the Baxter’s for the best dinner any freeloader could hope for. Missy is fine with it, and Hazel is ecstatic about it probably because she gets an extra $25 for any unexpected guests. Whiny Aunt Phyllis cant stand Tom:
”You remember Tom, the pompous one? He just dropped in out of the blue and Bob doesn’t want to desert him on Thanksgiving Day. Some day this is going to be! Frankly Dorothy, I think this is the last Thanksgiving Bob and I may be together.”
That bit from a woman who is heading over to get a free meal herself cooked by the Baxter’s not so free maid. Of course, we know
Whiny Aunt Phyllis is practically starving because it turns out she’s like Sister-in-law Dorothy. She can’t cook a lick either and since her and Bob can’t afford their own Hazel, the marriage is in desperate straits. As George tells it:
“They both married an illusion. Bob wanted a wife who would be happy whipping up a plate of fried chicken every Sunday and Meatloaf on Monday.
WhinySister Phyllis wanted a rich guy like me who would hire a maid to do the cooking for her. Sort of like I hired Hazel for you because you may not be able to cook, but you’re hell on wheels in the sack and that makes up for it! Phyllis is DOA in the kitchen AND the bedroom from what Bob tells me”
Okay, so maybe that isn’t exactly what he says but I’d be willing to bet that’s exactly what old George was thinking.
Meanwhile, back in the kitchen we have a visitor and another freeloader. It’s the maid, Phoebe from next door! And she’s come to hit Hazel up for the cab fair to get to her brother’s house. Phoebe (Maida Severn) works for the Johnson’s (Donald Foster and Norma Varden), the elderly clueless couple that lives next door. Phoebe, unlike Hazel, feels no guilt at all about leaving two elderly old dolts to fend for themselves. We are not given a clue as to what the Johnson’s did for the previous 50 or sixty Thanksgiving holidays before this one. But we do get our second subplot in a 25 minute episode.
Having found the kitchen again, Missy comes in just as Phoebe is telling Hazel that she feels no obligation to hang around and cook for the Johnson’s and that Thursday’s are her regular day off and by golly jumbo she’s going to take it.
Phoebe’s visit spurs Missy to finally thank Hazel for giving up her day off and being Chef Boy-ar-dee for the day, just in case Phoebe’s little speech causes Hazel to rebel and head out the door. She needn’t have worried. There’s still fourteen minutes of show left.
Missy also tells Hazel she’s just like family and offers to once again help Hazel fix the dinner. Hazel will have nothing to do with that idea because Missy doesn’t know a toaster from a coaster. As for being part of the family, we’ll save that for the big wrap-up at the end.
Hazel heads over to the Johnsons, where Phoebe has left a turkey, all stuffed and ready to go. All the Johnsons have to do is shove it in the oven and turn up the heat. Hazel informs them they also have to baste it every half hour, a chore that becomes a major obstacle for Harriet Johnson to overcome when she goes to look up the word “baste” in the dictionary and comes up with the wrong definition.
Am I exaggerating? Only a very tiny bit.
Whiny Aunt Phyllis and husband Bob (Charles Cooper) with his brother Tom (William Bakewell) show up after what we can assume was a commercial break. They needed time to change clothes. Sport changes from his normal clothes into his weeny suit and tie, Mr. B dismisses with his sweater, shirt, and tie, dons his fancy duds, and Missy changes from her nice dress into a different nice dress, although the first one was fine with me.
This is also where we begin to cut
Whiny Aunt Phyllis a little bit of a break. It turns out, she wasn’t kidding. Tom, the brother-in-law, is a pompous overbearing jerk. He takes it upon himself to educate every one to the fact that they shouldn’t eat too much because there was enough gluttony in the world already. “People stuffing themselves as if they’ll never eat again,” is how he puts it. What the hell does he think Thanksgiving is for anyway? If he feels that way about it, he should have stayed home and ate a spam sandwich instead of tagging along to mooch off the Baxter’s.
Bob wastes no time heaping an abundance of praise on Hazel over her culinary skills, pretty much implying he’s the one who has been stuck eating the cheap bologna on rye sandwiches at home. At this point, I almost feel compelled to dispense with the
Whiny (thus all the strikethroughs) Aunt Phyllis label and initiate tacking the Male Chauvinist Pig Mark of Shame onto Bob (Charles Cooper). If some of you young un’s wonder by, this is 50’s and 60’s TV values at it’s worse. It is also Republican values carried through to 2020. Now you know why so many white men and women voted for Trump Monster. Get in that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans.
I guess the rule of thumb in many red states is that the woman of the house is responsible for all the cooking, cleaning, child raising, and sex on demand to satisfy their own version of Male Chauvinist Bob. And they’re probably also required to hold down a full time job to boot. a few examples of this but not exclusively the province of are Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina, and parts of Kentucky.
Maybe Mr. B didn’t say it exactly that way, tactfully leaving out the part about the cheap maid. But don’t let him fool you. That’s exactly what he was implying.
While the Johnson’s next door continue to try to figure out what basting is, Mother Baxter (Harriet E. MacGibbon) arrives just in time to let us know that nobody ever phones her or comes to visit and that she wants to just feel useful to somebody even if it’s cooking in the kitchen with the hired help. But Mr. B and Missy insist that Mother Baxter do just what she’s been doing since Old Man Baxter bit the dust: Sit on her ass and do nothing. Even if Hazel says it’s okay because unlike Dorothy and The Johnsons next door, Mother Baxter knows the difference between a pot, a pan, and a spoon.
But Hazel, if nothing else, is a wise old bird. In an obviously phony gesture she tells the Baxter’s she’s quitting because she’s tired of slaving in the kitchen all day long for a room full of ungrateful snooty rich people who don’t know the difference between a potato peeler and a potato masher. It’s all a ruse, of course, to have Mother Baxter join her in the kitchen.
Mother Baxter brightens up. Mr. B, Missy, and Phyllis see that nothing pleases Granny Baxter more than boiling water and tossing a salad. But Male Chauvinistic Pig Bob says it’s a fine kettle of fish to have his mother cooking in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day and uses it as another opportunity to jab at Phyllis’s lack of expertise with a cake mixer. My advice to Phyllis at this point is to go ahead and divorce the jackass. Who’d want to be married to this overbearing jag off?
Everybody’s miserable except Mother Baxter who is making biscuits and Hazel, who is doing everything else while calculating her triple overtime paycheck in her head. But, as always in the land of TV Sitcoms, time is short so the writers decide to wrap things up rather quickly because they need to sell some more Ford Trucks.
Rather than watch her husband’s stinky card tricks that he trots out at every family get together, Phyllis takes refuge in the kitchen. All knowing and all wise Hazel brings up a joke about goats that the late Father Baxter used to tell at family gatherings. They all have a good remembrance, Granny Baxter says, “I must have heard that story a hundred times or more.”
Phyllis says, “But you always laughed every single time.”
Grandma Baxter says because she loved him at which Phyllis hangs her head in shame because she’s complained about husband Male Chauvinist Bob doing the same old same old ace up his sleeve time after time after time.
Hazel: Why don’t you go in and watch Bob’s card tricks.
Phyllis: I don’t thinks so, Hazel. Mother, Bob thinks I’m a terrible cook.
Granny Baxter: That’s a shame.
Hazel: Are you?
Phyllis: Certainly not (then once again hanging her head in shame) Maybe I guess I am. Mother, why didn’t you ever teach me how to cook.
Granny Baxter: If you’ll remember, you weren’t very much interested.
Phyllis: I guess I just wanted to have fun. (Cue Cyndi Lauper Music)
Hazel: Too late now.
Phyllis: Why is that?
Hazel: Who’d have time to teach you?
Granny Baxter (raising her hand and jumping up and down): I’ll teach you Phyllis. I have lots of time.
And just like that all the problems are solved thanks to Hazel’s penchant for being the world’s greatest buttinsky. Granny has something to keep her occupied besides watching Leave It To Beaver or Gunsmoke, Phyllis finally learns how not to burn the standing rib roast, and Bob gets to do his card tricks while continuing to be an overbearing asshole in the process. (We never get to see Bob’s card tricks so we don’t know if he’s the next Harry Houdini, David Copperfield, or just the shlub Phyllis knows he is.)
Oh but what about the Johnson’s? How did their dive into Turkey roasting turn out? Not so good. Hazel runs over to check on them only to find out the Turkey has barely cooked. But we know what she doesn’t know which is that Mrs. Johnson has been basting the bird with a teaspoon because a tea-spoon is the only one she knows about. So you baste twenty minutes, cook for ten, then baste again for twenty minutes. So what to do, what to do?
Guess who’s coming to dinner?
All problems solved. Everybody is seated at the table except Hazel who is standing nearby. They ask her to say Grace as some sort of reward for having cooked her ass off all day and probably some the day before that we haven’t seen. Yet, when the prayer is over she turns towards the kitchen to leave the Baxter Family to their Turkey Day Gluttony when George Stops her telling Hazel she forgot something.
Hazel looks around starting to wonder what it would be when Male Chauvinist Husband Bob gets up, brings another chair in, and George tells her yes, on this one day of the year, Hazel gets to sit at the dining room table instead of sitting in the kitchen by herself. Hazel gets all gooey eyed, tells Mr. B he’s a doozy and that’s that. Except every time I watch this episode all I can think of is WTF?
This is one of my favorite early 60’s episode, not because it fills me with warm Holiday feelings but because it’s like watching a 60’s train wreck. The goings on here are so unbelievable that it plays like a misplaced episode of The Twilight Zone.
Did people really behave like this back then or was it only wealthy snobs like The Baxters? Or is this some pea-brained comedy writer’s perception of life in America?
Then there’s the other cliché’s. A woman’s place is in the kitchen cooking her ass off unless she’s the pampered wife of a wealthy lawyer in which case her place is to sit on her ass while the family maid does all the work. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with cooking your ass off if you really enjoy it, but when it’s broil that steak or be burned at the stake if you don’t it becomes hellishly problematic.
Then there’s poor Phyllis, whom I was so hard on initially I had to go back and strike out all the Whiny descriptions. I didn’t scratch out Boorish Male Chauvinistic Pig Husband’s Bob’s description. Really, what a piece of work that guy is! The way he treats Phyllis is abominable, and if I were her I’d pack his suitcase, throw it out on the lawn, and hit him up for all the alimony payments she could for all eternity. Anybody who puts up with Bob deserves to be as whiny as they can be. Phyllis could do better than this clown. But not according to the writers of this monstrosity who want us to believe Phyllis is the big incompetent nincompoop of a villain. And to think I almost fell into that trap.
Then there’s the Johnson’s. If all filthy rich people are as clueless as these two, it’s a wonder they even survived into old age. And if they aren’t, all the millionaires should have gotten together and filed a class action suit against the writers for defamation of character. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be funny, but when you start to think about it at all it’s really kind of appalling. All their lives the Johnsons have been catered to by servants and from the way they talk about it, I guaranteed you that their ancestors or great great Grandpappy Johnson owned slaves.
And the Widow Baxter Lady, can’t find fulfillment after her husband dies except by giving cooking lessons? Ouch.
Then there’s that ending which is the biggest Hoo-hah of them all.
Apparently, although Hazel is supposed to be like one of the family and has given up her holiday so the Baxter’s could enjoy theirs, she has to get a special invitation to sit down in the fancy shmancy dining room and eat the dinner she cooked. And apparently this invitation is so rare, it brings tears of joy to her eyes that after years and years of slaving for this Baxter Family, and Missy Baxter’s parents (Where the hell did they spend Thanksgiving?) before that to find out what it’s like at the big kids table. Wow, just wow.
So how do I rate this holiday smorgasbord? I only give it two and a half turkeys out of five. Nothing here remotely made me feel like wiping a tear, or left me with a warm holiday glow forcing me to put up the Christmas tree. But it has that aforementioned train wreck thing going on that keeps drawing you back to it with your mouth agape at the proceedings every single November. You really have to look this up on MeTV or Antenna TV or whomever might be broadcasting this mess because seeing is believing.
And I hope you all have as good of a holiday as the Baxter’s and Hazel and that you too are invited to sit at the big kids table. Just leave the farts in the kitchen.