Everyone watched Little House on the Prairie during the 70’s/early 80’s. Well, except me. I was handicapped by the fact that I wasn’t born until 1980 and when the show went off the air, I was just figuring out that commercials weren’t TV shows and Scooby Doo was the best thing in my world.
However, this show has been re-running in my area since it ended it’s first run, so it’s not like I’ve been deprived of it. In fact, I’ve probably seen the first ten minutes of every episode. Why? Because that’s exactly how much of the show we could watch before we had to leave for school. And as far as I was concerned, that was ten minutes more than I wanted.
You read that right. I didn’t like the show.
In fact, I so didn’t like this show as a kid, that I went out of my way to avoid it as I aged (we can’t say “matured” without risking my pants suddenly igniting) into an adult.
Until my local rerun supplier changed it’s line-up. Instead of Hawaii Five-O at 2, I ended up with Little House on the Prairie and there was nothing else on at the time (because 16 episodes of Bonanza a day is excessive and that’s all I had to choose from when this all started). So I left it on, but I didn’t like it.
And like a point-of-view monster waiting to spring on an innocent, young girl, this show clubbed me over the head and now I’m knee deep in the reruns and loving them for all the wrong reasons.
Everyone knows this show, but let me recap for those like me who have gone out of their way to avoid it. The show is based off the books of the real Laura Ingalls Wilder (I managed to avoid reading those as a kid, too; really didn’t like this show when I was young). It features Charles Ingalls (Michael Landon) aka Pa, Caroline Ingalls (Karen Grassel) aka Ma, Laura “Half-Pint” Ingalls, later to be Wilder (Melissa Gilbert), Mary Ingalls, later to be Kendall (Melissa Sue Anderson), and Carrie Ingalls (Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush). Later the family added Grace (Brenda and Wendi Turnbaugh) and adopted children Albert (Matthew Laborteaux), Cassandra (Missy Francis), and James (Jason Bateman) because the Ingalls collected children like I collect baseball cards.
The town included Isaiah Edwards (Victor French) and his family; Jonathan Garvey (Merlin Olsen) and his family; Doc Baker (Kevin Hagen); Reverend Alden (Dabs Greer); Laura’s husband Almanzo (Dean Butler) and his sister Eliza Jane (Lucy Lee Flippin); Mary’s husband Adam (Linwood Boomer, creator of Malcom in the Middle); Hester Sue Terhune (Ketty Lester), blind school helper and waitress; and the Olesons, Nels (Richard Bull), gossip Harriett (Katherine MacGregor), always-in-the-corner Willie (Jonathan Gilbert), and Nellie (Alison Arngrim), who set the standard for bad girls everywhere.
Of course, I’m over-simplifying the town because it changed a bit over the years, people coming and going and whatnot. But those are probably the most familiar of the faces.
Well, the ones I could pick out of a line-up, anyway.
The Prairie was a popular place for guest stars, too. Louis Gossett, Jr., Billy Barty, Ray Bolger, James B. Sikking, Ernest Borgnine, Ernie Hudson, Burl Ives, Madeline Stowe, Red Buttons, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, James Cromwell, Gil Gerard, David Faustino, Anne Archer, Todd Bridges, and Anne Ramsey all did time on the show.
It was most definitely a family show, preaching love, faith, kindness, tolerance, compassion, generosity, and helping your fellow man. But it wasn’t afraid to kill anybody, either. Alice Garvey (Hersha Parady), Mary’s baby, Laura’s baby, Charles and Caroline’s only baby boy, James and Cassandra’s parents, and Mr. Edwards’s son John were among the casualties over the years. Not to mention to all of the tertiary prairie characters (thanks, Television Without Pity!) that bit it, too, including a disturbing two-part episode that involved the stalking and rape of a young girl that’s conclusion looked like the last act of Hamlet (that whole episode was just a ball of WTF, really).
In fact, lots of bad things seemed to go down on the Prairie. Caroline cut her leg and got a life-threatening infection; Mary went blind (and lost her baby); Laura’s house blew away in a tornado (and she lost her baby); Mr. Edwards was crippled in a logging accident; Carrie fell down a mine shaft; the Garvey’s barn was always on fire and Andrew (Patrick Laborteaux) got roughed up a couple of times more than anyone else; James was shot in the gut and in a coma; Albert…what didn’t happen to Albert? He was a travesty magnet.
Nellie also underwent a complete personality 180 when she met her husband Percival (Steve Tracy), which was a weird thing to be sure, but they were so cute together and Percival always took it to Harriett which was fun, so I really can’t complain.
I haven’t seen all of the episodes yet, though I’ve been watching it now on two channels. I have yet to fully enjoy the Jenny (Shannen Doherty) episodes. I’ve still got a bit of catching up to do, for sure.
And as disgusted as my younger self might be at the notion of me watching the show at all, I really don’t mind.