Not a full Nelson, but it's a start

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The TV-DVD boom has resurrected hundreds if not thousands of classic TV shows from the 1950s and '60s. So has the rise of TV Land and other nostalgic cable-television blocks.

But one classic has been conspicuously absent: "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet," the feel-good sitcom about the real-life Nelson family. Once the longest-running live-action situation comedy on American television, "Ozzie and Harriet" aired on ABC from 1952-66 after a long run on radio. Ricky Nelson, the younger of the Nelsons' two sons, became a pop star in the late 1950s, scoring more than a dozen Top 10 singles, including the No. 1 hits "Poor Little Fool" and "Travelin' Man."

Even so, "Ozzie and Harriet" hasn't been seen in syndication since the '80s, and its DVD presence has been limited to public-domain budget discs of questionable quality.

Now, the Nelson family has partnered with independent DVD supplier Shout! Factory to produce an elaborate four-DVD boxed set featuring 24 of the series' most beloved episodes. "The Best of the Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" ($34.98) hits stores May 1. Each episode has been digitally remastered; the set also features a wealth of bonus materials, including a featurette on Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, a documentary on Rick Nelson's singing career, early radio show episodes, vintage home movies and even a trivia game.

"The way we see it, the show has been out of the market and out of people's consciousness for so long that it really is time to get it back out there," said Sam Nelson, the youngest son of Rick Nelson, who died in a plane crash Dec. 31, 1985.

Shout! Factory president Garson Foos agreed, saying he was motivated primarily by a personal love for the show. He calls the boxed set "a passion project. 'The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet' was one of my favorite TV shows from childhood."

At first, Foos recalled, he was put off by the many public-domain DVD compilations of the show that kept popping up in dollar stores.

"When Shout! Factory first entered the DVD business, the series immediately went to the top of our list of TV shows we thought deserved the deluxe treatment," he said. "The problem was that the marketplace was flooded with cheap, low-quality public-domain DVDs. Video companies were dubbing VHS tapes -- sometimes just taped off of the TV -- and chucking them out on the market with bad artwork and no extras."

That's why Shout! Factory waited until it could get the Nelson family on board to help produce a deluxe DVD collection of the show's finest moments.

"With so much competition in the marketplace, we had to set the bar very high for ourselves," Foos said.

Sam Nelson is glad Shout! Factory did. "It's such an important show," he said, "and a real piece of Americana."
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