May 27, 2020

Eddie the Noun

This week we feature the first contribution to It's About TV! from Steve Harris, but readers of the old In Other Words blog will recognize the name from his many hilarious "This Just In" pieces, as good as anything you'll read in The Onion. In addition to being one of the nicest (and funniest) people I know, Steve is also one of the most gifted writers I've ever read. Hopefully, he won't be a stranger here.

by Steve Harris

Ken Osmond, who played “Eddie Haskell” on Leave It to Beaver, passed away last week at the age of 76. That sad news took me back to an early ‘60s ritual in our home. Every Saturday night I’d watch TV with my grandparents and older brother. I was little so they always chose the shows. Always the same: Lawrence Welk, Gunsmoke, and Leave It To Beaver. The first two didn’t grab me (until Janet Lennon caught my pre-pubescent eye, making things a bit more intriguing.) But the Cleavers—Ward, June, Wally and the Beave—were a hit with everybody.

Except for the same comment my grandma would make after every episode. “Those boys are so nice,” she’d say to my brother and me. “Look how nice they treat each other. Why can’t you boys be more nice like them?”

Nice was apparently a big priority for Grandma. Cleaver-nice was the bar she was setting. Not sure why. My brother and I, despite occasional scuffles, got along fine. What exactly were the Cleaver brothers doing that we needed to do?

The show had one redeeming quality—one character, really—that helped me keep this in perspective. His name was Eddie Haskell, Wally’s friend. Even at my young age I could see through Eddie. He was slick and conniving, hypocritical and selfish. Courteous to Wally’s parents to their face, snide behind their backs. In a funny way, of course. But I knew I was nicer than Eddie Haskell. That made me feel better. So there, Grandma.

Eddie Haskell may have been one of the great, early TV characters. Iconic, even. Even today (to people of a certain age) say “Eddie Haskell” to someone and you both recognize instantly the personality traits you’re talking about. His very name became short-hand. A noun, even. “You just did an Eddie Haskell.” (That happened a bit later with Don Knotts’ Barney Fife on Andy Griffith. That’s a “Barney,” you could say. Jerry Seinfeld once described Barney Fife this way. “You knew him by his sniff.” Exactly).  I hope Ken Osmond was proud of the character he created—he should have been. A fine piece of work.

He can be even more proud of the fact that when he passed his son, Eric, said that “…he was an incredibly kind and wonderful father.” So, Eddie Haskell was nice after all. Good to know and may he rest in peace. TV  

1 comment:

  1. 100 years after I shuffle off this planet, there will be a time when the Names "Lucy Ricardo", "Barney Fife", "Alan Brady", comments like "Yada Yada", "get out of Dodge", and "The Peanut Galery" will have passed on to invisible ether, But Eddie Haskel - that name and reference will still be around. Thank you Ken - You were good, and you did good !


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!