Ozmoe. With emphasis on the first syllable. OZ-moe.
What kind of a name is that?
Is it some sort of a nickname for osmosis?
If so, does it refer the classical scientific definition for the process of equalizing concentrations of a solution?
Or maybe it involves the nontechnical version of the process; someone learning by gradually or unconsciously assimilating knowledge?
Maybe it’s derived from Osmosis Jones, the semi-successful movie from 2001 combining live action and animation?
How about it being a portmanteau of part of a famous movie combined with the first name of one of the Three Stooges?
That movie could be The Wizard of Oz or, God forbid, Zardoz.
Wait… hang on!
Since this name appeared for a reviewer in Stereogum’s The Number Ones column, the person might have been a fan of The Osmonds.
So, this was a clever way to hide his obsession, right?!
Oh, if only one of those explanations were true. The real answer is rather prosaic.
Like the recent user name origin story by rollerboogie, my screen name comes from a rather obscure entertainment vehicle.
Does anyone here remember Ozmoe, a children’s show airing live Tuesdays and Wednesdays in late afternoon on ABC from March 6, 1951, through April 12, 1951?
Hmmm. Maybe I should change “rather obscure entertainment vehicle” to “huh?” instead.
This is how I came across Ozmoe The Series:
Back in the mid-1990s I was working on my first book, The Encyclopedia of Daytime Television.
During my research I came across this show, which aired a mere six weeks in the relatively early days of TV.
The setup was that Ozmoe was a young simian who liked to monkey around (sorry, couldn’t resist!) with his pals in Studio Z, the storeroom of the fictional sub-subbasement at ABC’s TV studios in New York City.
His chums included:
- Rhoderick Dhon’t, a leprechaun
- Misty Waters, a mermaid
- Horatio Q. Quigley, a caterpillar
- and Throckmorton, a sea serpent.
Five actors voiced the characters off camera.
I learned more details about the show a few years later when I interviewed one of its actors, Bradley Bolke.
He told me that Ozmoe and the other regulars were manipulated by gears, not strings like other live TV characters of the time like Howdy Doody.
“The characters were stationary,” he said. “They couldn’t move too much. Rods moved their heads and mouths. It was not a marionettes or puppet show.”
(Actually, there was an exception for Throckmorton, which was a wooden puppet. But who’s going to remember something like that nearly 50 years later?)
Bolke got the job by auditioning for Henry Banks, who with his wife Dorothy moved north from Georgia to Levittown in New York in November 1949 with the idea of using latex in puppets for greater facial expression. Henry first sculpted and engineered Ozmoe, an 18-inch monkey, but it took nearly a year and a half before a director at ABC convinced the network to air the show.
Still, the series lasted only a few weeks, in part because no advertisers could be convinced to sell their wares on the show. And having seen what Ozmoe looks like, I can understand why.
Are you interested in seeing him? And are you prepared to handle how homely the creature may be?
Are you sure?!
Just checking. Consider yourself warned. Here’s Ozmoe for you …
Not exactly photogenic, I’d say. My apologies for giving you any nightmares here.
Anyway, back to the show: Bolke said he worked on the program before there was a performer’s union for TV. As a result, he was literally shortchanged for his work.
“They just ran short of cash, and some weeks they just paid me with IOUs,” he said. When I interviewed him, ABC still had not compensated Bolke for the promissory notes.
Such was the peril of working in early TV.
Happily, Bolke did have a better and more lucrative experience on TV later that you might have heard or seen or both.
He was the voice of Chumley The Walrus on the animated cartoon Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales from 1963 to 1966.
Having explained all this, you may wonder: why did I obsess over Ozmoe?
I guess because it’s a distinctive name with an interesting story behind it that made an impact.
Also, it’s a title that’s easy to remember among the hundreds of TV series that I covered in The Encyclopedia of Daytime Television.
In fact, my book is one of the few places you’ll find information on this long-forgotten series.
As of this writing, there’s no entry on Ozmoe on Wikipedia nor on IMDB, the Internet Movie Database. That’s a surprise.
And a shame, in my opinion.
I’ve never seen any video of the series. And it’s unlikely any copies of it exist.
Believe it or not, as late as the 1980s, the networks often would just record over their videotaped daytime TV series to save money on storage fees.
By my count, there’s at least 150 daytime TV series that appear to be totally lost, with no copies saved.
But I’ve done my part to spread the word and ensure the legacy of Ozmoe. I feel it’s the least I could do for a show that for whatever reason has stuck itself into my brain.
As Paul Harvey used to say on his radio program, “And now you know the rest of the story. Good day!”
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