Little House on the Prairie

Little House on the Prairie Information

Little House on the Prairie is an American Western drama television series, starring Michael Landon, Melissa Gilbert, and Karen Grassle, about a family living on a farm in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, in the 1870s and 1880s. The show is an adaptation of Laura Ingalls Wilder's best-selling series of Little House books. Television producer and NBC executive Ed Friendly became aware of the story in the early 1970s. He asked Michael Landon to direct the pilot movie, who agreed on the condition that he could also play Charles Ingalls.

The regular series was preceded by the two-hour pilot movie, which first aired on March 30, 1974. The series began on the NBC network on September 11, 1974, and ended on May 10, 1982. During the 1982-83 television season, with the departure of Michael Landon and Karen Grassle, the series was broadcast with the new title Little House: A New Beginning.

In 1997, TV Guide ranked the two-part episode "I'll Be Waving As You Drive Away" #97 on its 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.


See List of Little House on the Prairie episodes for more information Although it differed from the original books and many new characters and situations were added, this television series was one of the few long-running successful dramatic family shows (and it is still in syndication). Although predominantly a drama, the program did have some comedic moments, thanks to supporting cast members Mr. Edwards (played by Victor French) and the Oleson family: Nels Oleson (Richard Bull), Harriet Oleson (Katherine MacGregor), Willie Oleson (Jonathan Gilbert), Nellie Oleson (Alison Arngrim), and their adopted child, Nancy Oleson (Allison Balson).

The show's central characters are Charles Ingalls (Michael Landon), farmer and patriarch, with his wife, Caroline (Karen Grassle), and four daughters, Mary (Melissa Sue Anderson), Laura (Melissa Gilbert), Carrie (Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush) and Grace (Wendi and Brenda Turnbaugh), later adding adopted children Albert (Matthew Laborteaux), Cassandra (Missy Francis) and James (Jason Bateman).

Other essential characters included the friendly Nels Oleson, proprietor of the town's general store, Oleson's Mercantile; his malicious, gossiping wife, Harriet; and their two spoiled children, Nellie and Willie; and later, their adopted child, Nancy (Allison Balson). Also appearing in the series are former professional football player Merlin Olsen (as Jonathan Garvey), Dabbs Greer (as Reverend Robert Alden), Karl Swenson (as Lars Hanson, the town's founder and proprietor of the town's mill), and Kevin Hagen (as Dr. Hiram Baker, the town's physician). Malcolm in the Middle creator Linwood Boomer appears as Mary Ingalls's teacher-turned-husband, Adam Kendall, whom she meets at the school for the blind in the 1978-1979 season. In the sixth season, Dean Butler joined the cast as Almanzo Wilder, and he and Laura are married in the seventh season premiere.

Michael Landon directed the largest number of episodes (87); producer William F. Claxton handled the majority of the remaining shows (68). Co-star Victor French helmed 19 episodes, and Maury Dexter directed a handful.

The series theme song was titled The Little House and was written and conducted by David Rose. The ending theme music, also written by Rose, originally appeared as a piece of incidental music in a later-season episode of Michael Landon's previous long-running series, Bonanza.


Little House explored many themes, and every episode was filled with family values, love, friendship, and faith. Adoption, alcoholism, racism and blindness were portrayed in the scripts. Some plots also included subjects such as drug addiction (i.e. morphine), leukemia, prejudice, and even rape.

Several of the episodes written by Michael Landon were recycled storylines from ones that he had written for Bonanza. Season two's "A Matter of Faith" was based on the Bonanza episode "A Matter of Circumstance"; season five's "Someone Please Love Me" was based on the Bonanza episode "A Dream To Dream"; season seven's "The Silent Cry" was based on the Bonanza episode "The Sound of Sadness"; season eight's "He Was Only Twelve" was based on the Bonanza episode "He Was Only Seven"; and season nine's "Little Lou" was based on the Bonanza episode "It's A Small World".

Cast and characters

See List of Little House on the Prairie (TV series) characters for more information Melissa Gilbert has the most appearances of the series. She was absent for 13 episodes, for a total of 190 of the 203 episodes. Michael Landon appeared in all but four episodes of seasons one through eight, but departed from the cast when the show was retooled as Little House: A New Beginning (season nine). For episode counts of all cast members, see: List of Little House on the Prairie characters.

Main cast

  • Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls (1974"83)
  • Karen Grassle as Caroline Quiner Ingalls (1974"82)
  • Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls Wilder (1974"83)
  • Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls Kendall (1974"81)
  • Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush as Carrie Ingalls (1974"82)
  • Richard Bull as Nels Oleson (1974"83)
  • Katherine MacGregor as Harriet Oleson (1974"83)
  • Alison Arngrim as Nellie Oleson Dalton (1974"81, 1982)
  • Jonathan Gilbert as Willie Oleson (1974"83)
  • Victor French as Isaiah Edwards (1974"77, 1979, 1981"83)
  • Bonnie Bartlett as Grace Snider Edwards (1974"77, 1979)
  • Kevin Hagen as Dr. Hiram Baker (1974"83)
  • Dabbs Greer as Rev. Robert Alden (1974"83)
  • Charlotte Stewart as Eva Beadle Simms (1974"78)
  • Karl Swenson as Lars Hanson (1974"78)
  • Radames Pera as John (Sanderson, Jr.) Edwards (1975"77)
  • Brian Part as Carl (Sanderson) Edwards (1975"77)
  • Kyle Richards as Alicia (Sanderson) Edwards (1975"77, 1979, 1982)
  • Merlin Olsen as Jonathan Garvey (1977"81)
  • Hersha Parady as Alice Garvey (1977"80)
  • Patrick Laborteaux as Andrew "Andy" Garvey (1977"81)
  • Matthew Laborteaux as Albert (Quinn) Ingalls (1978"82, 1983)
  • Linwood Boomer as Adam Kendall (1978"81)
  • Ketty Lester as Hester-Sue Terhune (1978"83)
  • Wendi and Brenda Turnbaugh as Grace Ingalls (1978"82)
  • Dean Butler as Almanzo Wilder (1979"83)
  • Lucy Lee Flippin as Eliza Jane Wilder (1979"82)
  • Steve Tracy as Percival Dalton (1980"81, 1982)
  • Allison Balson as Nancy Oleson (1981"83)
  • Jason Bateman as James (Cooper) Ingalls (1981"82)
  • Missy Francis as Cassandra (Cooper) Ingalls (1981"82)
  • Jennifer and Michele Steffin as Rose Wilder (1982"83)
  • Shannen Doherty as Jenny Wilder (1982"83)

Guest stars

Many actors who guest-starred on the show went on to become famous; among these are: Michael Conrad and James B. Sikking of Hill Street Blues, Willie Aames, Anne Archer, Jonathan Banks, Billy Barty, Todd Bridges, Joshua Bryant, Matt Clark, James Cromwell, David Faustino, Gil Gerard, Louis Gossett, Jr., Mariette Hartley, John Hillerman, Rance Howard, Ernie Hudson, Rick Hurst, Robert Loggia, Mike Lookinland, Chuck McCann, Richard Mulligan, Sean Penn (uncredited extra), Anne Ramsey, Madeleine Stowe, and Kim Richards. Other notable guests include: Johnny and June Carter Cash, Landon's Bonanza co-star Mitch Vogel, and two of Landon's children Michael Landon, Jr. and Leslie Landon.

Spin-offs and sequels

Little House: A New Beginning

When Michael Landon decided to leave the show (though he stayed on as executive producer and occasional writer and director), season nine was renamed, the focus was put on the characters of Laura and Almanzo, and more characters were added to the cast. A new family, the Carters (Stan Ivar as John, Pamela Roylance as Sarah, Lindsay Kennedy as older son Jeb, and David Friedman as younger son Jason), move into the Ingalls' home. Meanwhile, Almanzo and Laura take in their niece, Jenny Wilder (Shannen Doherty), when Almanzo's brother dies and raise her alongside their daughter, Rose. The Wilders appear prominently in some episodes, while in others they appear only in early scenes used to introduce the story or its characters. The explanation given for the original characters' absence was that they moved to Burr Oak, Iowa, to build a much better life. The show lost viewers, and this version of the series was cancelled after nineteen episodes. However, the show lived on for two more years in movie format.

Movie specials

Three made-for-television post-series movies followed: Little House on the Prairie: A Look Back to Yesterday (1983), Little House: Bless All the Dear Children (1983), and Little House: The Last Farewell (1984).

In The Last Farewell, Charles and Caroline decide to visit Walnut Grove. They learn that a railroad tycoon actually holds the deed to the township, and he wants to take it over for his own financial gain. Despite their best efforts, the townspeople are unable to drive the businessman away. At a town meeting, one of the residents offers a supply of explosives that he has. Each man takes turn blowing up his own building. When asked why the set was blown up, the show's producer, Kent McCray, said that when the series started, he made an agreement with the property owners that at the end of the series he would put the acreage back to its original state. When the production crew were estimating the cost of dismantling all the buildings, Michael Landon thought for awhile and said, "What if we blow up the town? That would get the buildings all in pieces and you can bring in your equipment to pick up the debris and cart it away." He then said that he would write it where they blow up all the buildings, except for the little house and the church. Both McCray and Landon wept as the town blew up.

Two other Little House movies were made in conjunction with the Landon series: the 1974 pilot for the program and Little House Years (1979), a Thanksgiving special/clip show that aired in the middle of season six.

Broadcast history

For the first two seasons, the show was aired on Wednesday nights at 8pm ET/7pm CT, to moderate ratings. In 1976, the series became a Monday night staple on NBC; after the move, it remained in the top 30 for the rest of its run.

Nielsen ratings

  • Season 1 (1974–75): #13
  • Season 2 (1975–76): #16
  • Season 3 (1976–77): #7
  • Season 4 (1977–78): #14
  • Season 5 (1978–79): #16
  • Season 6 (1979–80): #10
  • Season 7 (1980–81): #25
  • Season 8 (1981–82): #29
  • Season 9 (1982–83): #28


  • 1976: TP de Oro, Mejor Actriz Extranjera (Best Foreign Actress), Karen Grassle
  • 1976: TP de Oro, Mejor Serie Extranjera (Best Foreign Series)
  • 1978: Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography in Entertainment Programming for a Series, Ted Voightlander, episode "The Fighter"
  • 1979: Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Series, Ted Voightlander, episode "The Craftsman"
  • 1979: Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series, David Rose, episode "The Craftsman"
  • 1980: TP de Oro, Mejor Actriz Extranjera (Best Foreign Actress), Melissa Sue Anderson
  • 1981: Western Writers of America Spur Award for Best TV Script, Michael Landon, episode "May We Make Them Proud"
  • 1982: Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Series (Dramatic Underscore), David Rose, episode "He Was Only Twelve", part 2
  • 1983: Young Artist Award for Best Young Actress in a Drama Series, Melissa Gilbert
  • 1984: Young Artist Award for Best Young Actress in a Drama Series, Melissa Gilbert


The show is popular in reruns in syndication. In the U.S., in addition to airing on local stations, it currently airs only on INSP. In the past, it has aired on Hallmark Channel, TV Land and TBS, where the show had a successful 20-year run.

Because of its historical context and its connection to the book series, it is deemed acceptable for use by the FCC to meet federal E/I programming guidelines. The show is typically stripped (run five days a week) in syndication, which is enough to completely cover a TV station's E/I requirements and more.

In Canada, reruns of the series began airing weeknights on CTS, a Christian-based network, as of September 1, 2008.

In the US, television syndication rights are currently owned by CBS Television Distribution. Originally, NBC licensed these rights to Worldvision Enterprises, since networks could not own syndication arms at the time. As a result of corporate changes, Paramount Domestic Television and CBS Paramount Domestic Television would inherit the rights, finally passing to CTD in 2007.

NBC owns ancillary rights and thus is the worldwide licensor for DVD rights as well. Sister company NBC Universal International Television distributes the series internationally.

DVD releases

The entire series has been released on DVD. The North American DVD sets include interviews by former cast members Patrick Laborteaux and actors Alison Arngrim, Dabbs Greer and Dean Butler.

A majority of the episodes in the North American DVD versions have scenes cut from the episodes"?these are derived from the syndicated television versions by Worldvision Enterprises, the series former distributor. Other episodes are time-compressed; these are NTSC-converted video prints from UK PAL masters. Only a handful of episodes in the DVD sets are in their original uncut versions (for example, many season one episodes on DVD contain scenes not in current syndication prints). Many episodes on the DVD versions contain tracking lines and audio problems. Edited episodes, like the ones on Region 1 DVD, are usually about 35"38 minutes, while full and complete episodes are 44"48 minutes.

The DVD sets sold in the U.S. and Canada were released under license from NBC Universal by Imavision Distribution, a company based in Quebec. Imavision has also released a French-language version of the DVD set. Both versions are in NTSC color and coded for all regions. Later copies were distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment following their acquisition of Imavision. The DVD sets sold in the United Kingdom were released by Universal Playback (a Universal Studios Home Entertainment label); this version is in PAL color and coded for region 2.

Some time earlier, some single Little House episodes were released on both DVD and VHS by GoodTimes Entertainment. Before retail DVDs were available, the Little House episodes were available through a Columbia House club subscription. These VHS tapes contained two episodes per tape and were only available at a club price. The episodes on these VHS tapes, unlike the current DVDs, were not edited and remain the only commercially available uncut episodes.

In November 2008, the Finnish Board of Film Classification rated the DVD release of the Little House on the Prairie series as suitable for adults only"?requiring a sticker to be affixed to all DVDs saying "Banned for under-18s". This was because of Universal Pictures' decision not to submit the series to state review to avoid the state review fee of approximately USD $27,500.

Season Episodes Originally aired DVD release date
Region 1Region 2
1 23 1974"1975 July 8, 2003 July 25, 2005
2 22 1975"1976 July 8, 2003 March 27, 2006
3 21 1976"1977 November 4, 2003 March 10, 2008
4 22 1977"1978 February 17, 2004 May 26, 2008
5 24 1978"1979 June 29, 2004 August 4, 2008
6 24 1979"1980 October 26, 2004 May 3, 2010
7 24 1980"1981 February 15, 2005 July 17, 2010
8 22 1981"1982 June 14, 2005 March 20, 2011
9 19 1982"1983 November 1, 2005 January 20, 2012
3-Movie Box Set 3 TV Movies 1983"1984 November 28, 2006 TBA
The Complete Television Series 203 1974"1984 November 11, 2008 TBA

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Little_House_on_the_Prairie_%28TV_series%29" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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