DVD Release Date: December 11, 2012 (Shout! Factory)
Color / 1964-1965
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 26
Running Time: approx. 648 minutes
Running Time of Features: N/A
Audio: English mono
Subtitles and Captioning: None
Special Features: Images from Promotional Booklet
America's favorite maid, Hazel, returns to DVD once again with Shout! Factory's release of Hazel - The Complete Fourth Season! The four disc set brings 26 more episodes (the last ones to air on NBC and to feature the entire original cast) to DVD for the very first time. The series, based upon the Saturday Evening Post comic strip by Ted Key, follows Hazel (Shirley Booth) and her everyday dealings with the Baxter family, George (Don DeFore), Dorothy (Whitney Blake), and Harold (Bobby Buntrock). In this batch of episodes, we see a protest erupt when the Baxters attempt to host the Governor at their home, George proposing a mind-your-own-business rule (any guesses as to why?), Hazel getting thrown into the slammer, and more!
The fourth season begins with "Never Trouble Trouble," where George drives his freeloading cousin out of the house. The Baxters host the Governor at their home in "Luncheon with the Governor," but there are protestors waiting outside. Hazel tries to end a feud between businessmen in "Ain't That a Knee Slapper?" Hazel tries to bring George's secretary and her boyfriend back together in "Marriage Trap." In "The Flagpole," Hazel buys a thirty foot flagpole for the front yard, and George is less than pleased. The Baxters' nephew has just been discharged from the army in "Welcome Home, Kevin," but he brings his marital problems to the Baxter home. In "Mind Your Own Business," a new rule hits the Baxter home to control a rather large problem.
George helps a couple with their financial troubles in "High Finance Hits a New Low." In "Just Me, Harold, and the Universe," Hazel enters a housekeeping contest, but does she have what it takes to win? Hazel arranges to sell a neighbor's house in "Mix-Up on Marshal Road." In "A Lesson in Diplomacy," a Thanksgiving guest, a diplomat from Russia, is not exactly going over well with Hazel. Hazel and Dorothy scheme to get George to remodel the kitchen in "To Build or Not to Build." George's law partner and his new wife move in next door in "Better to Have Loved and Lost," and Hazel gets to mediate their first fight. Hazel mediates another marital squabble between George's sister and her husband in "Hazel Squares the Triangle."
In "Just 86 Shopping Minutes to Christmas" Dorothy discovers a mink coat and believes it is her Christmas present from George... but it isn't. Hazel misplaces the prized golf clubs of Tony Lema (guest starring as himself) in "Champagne Tony." Hazel and the Baxters have to devise a plan to get rid of unwanted houseguests and their untrained dog in "It's a Dog's Life." In "Love 'Em and Leave 'Em," Harold trades his prized football for a date to a school party. Hazel must deal with a hot-tempered Italian woman (and client of George) in "Temper, Temper." In "Bonnie Boy," Hazel buys George a winning sweepstakes ticket for his birthday. A ham radio operator is causing TV reception problems for the Baxters in "Stop Rockin' Our Reception."
Mr. Baxter's new client is convinced that his office is being bugged by a competitor in "What's Buggin' Hazel?" Hazel ends up in jail for defacing public property in "Hazel's Day in Court." In "Hazel's Inquisitive Mind," Hazel tries to recruit a new neighbor as a client for George. One of George's clients proposes marriage to Hazel in "George's Man Friday." The season ends with "The Investor," where Hazel buys 25% of a bakery... and begins to moonlight there.
Once again, there is a bit of confusion on the edited vs. unedited status of the episodes on this set. Most of the episodes run around 25:30... but for some reason, the episode "It's a Dog's Life" runs about a minute shorter than the rest. Nothing appeared to be missing from this episode, but in timing the opening credits, I noticed that they ran a bit faster on this episode than on the rest. So, I'm thinking that the issue here may just be a time compressed print of the episode... but I can't say this with 100% certainty. Another interesting note comes with the episode "Champagne Tony," which contains different closing credits than the rest of the season... and it ends with a Screen Gems logo from the later part of the '60s as opposed to the one used during this particular season (that logo, by the way, is on the remaining episodes). It isn't a big deal, but it is an interesting difference. Runtimes for all episodes are as follows:
1. "Never Trouble Trouble" (25:31)
2. "Luncheon with the Governor" (25:29)
3. "Ain't That a Knee Slapper?" (25:30)
4. "Marriage Trap" (25:26)
5. "The Flagpole" (25:30)
6. "Welcome Back, Kevin" (25:18)
7. "Mind Your Own Business" (25:23)
8. "High Finance Hits a New Low" (25:31)
9. "Just Me, Harold, and the Universe" (25:29)
10. "Mix-Up on Marshal Road" (25:27)
11. "A Lesson in Diplomacy" (25:31)
12. "To Build or Not to Build" (25:29)
13. "Better to Have Loved and Lost" (25:24)
14. "Hazel Squares the Triangle" (25:27)
22. "What's Buggin' Hazel?" (25:27)
23. "Hazel's Day in Court" (25:32)
24. "Hazel's Inquisitive Mind" (25:31)
25. "George's Man Friday" (25:30)
26. "The Inventor" (25:29)
The packaging for this set is similar to the previous releases, using a standard Viva case once again (and using the same artwork style that began with Sony's release of the first season). The cover has a cast photo with a pink/purple background, and on the back, we have several episode snapshots along with a brief description of the season. Inside the case, you'll find the four discs, with seven episodes on each of the first three discs and five episodes on the fourth disc. The disc artwork is the same as the cover art on the package. You'll also find printed inside the case a listing of the episodes, original air dates, and descriptions of the episodes.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus on the set are in line with the previous releases from Shout! Factory. On the main menu, we have a cast photo (same as the cover art), and options of Play All and Episodes. Additionally, Disc 4 has a Promotional Booklet option on the main menu (this is discussed further in the Special Features section). The theme song plays in the background of the main menu, but only once (none of those annoying loops here). When you select Episodes, you get a listing of all of the episodes on the disc. The episodes play once you select them. Chapters are placed at all of the appropriate places throughout each episode.
Video and Audio Quality:
The video and audio quality on this set is on par with the previous sets. I've mentioned before that I feel like Shout! Factory has been taking way too much criticism over the quality of the episodes... some perfectionists out there would like for people to believe that this looks like something run on some low power TV station that airs public domain material. They've even been pushed to the point of putting quality disclaimers all over the menus on the set. That is not true at all. While this doesn't look as crisp as something like Bewitched, for example, the episodes really do look about as good as something from the era should look with the most basic restoration. There is some grain and debris, and the colors are too dark on some episodes (and too bright on others), but I don't think it really looks any worse than what is aired on Antenna TV. The audio, presented in mono, is fine... just a little dull, and has varying levels from one episode to the next. But again, this isn't much different from what is seen on Antenna TV. Unfortunately, the episodes are neither closed-captioned nor subtitled.
Finally, we have something in the special features department! It isn't a whole lot, but it is still nice to see some effort here. On Disc 4, you'll find a promotional booklet, which is supplied by Peter Key (son of Hazel comic creator Ted Key). This was something that was put together to solicit advertisers for the series. I'm glad to see that Shout! at least managed to put something on this set for special features, but I'd still like to see more.
It seems that there are a few more bumps with this release, but if my suspicions are correct, then it isn't as bad as the syndicated episode that was included on the last release. I still don't understand the complaints about the "poor video quality" on these sets... I think that Shout! is doing as well as they can with these episodes without going through costly (and likely with no payoff) complete restoration. This series truly is one that, while it has plenty of fans out there and is an excellent show, is beginning to fade into obscurity and probably won't have much of a fan base growth as time goes on. It is also worth noting that this is the last season of the series as it aired in the original format. While the series did last one more season when it moved to CBS, Don DeFore and Whitney Blake did not return for that final season (it was explained that they moved to the Middle East for business reasons... much different place in that time, obviously), and it morphed into a much different series for that final season. But now, we at least have all of the series as most fans loved and remembered it, and I'm reasonably pleased with what we have. Fans of the series, as well as fans of series from the '60s are certain to enjoy this set.