For nine seasons, television viewers tuned in to follow the travels, trials and tribulation of the Ingalls family as they made a life for themselves in the American frontier on Little House on the Prairie. Loosely based upon the popular series of Little House books by author Laura Ingalls Wilder, the weekly prime-time adventures of the Ingalls family proved to be a huge hit for NBC.
Farmer Charles Ingalls (Michael Landon) has laid down roots in the small rural town of Walnut Grove with his wife, Caroline, and four daughters Mary, Laura, Carrie, and Grace. A colorful assortment of characters make up the tight knit community of Walnut Grove. Nels Olsen runs the local mercantile, along with his snooty wife, Harriet and their demon spawn, Nellie and Willie. Reverend Robert Alton and Doc Brown provide healing in their own ways. And Mr. Edwards (Victor French) and Jonathan Garvey (Merlin Olsen) prove to be trusted friends to the Ingalls family.
The Ingalls eventually decide that four kids aren’t enough so they adopt 10 year-old Albert and later, James and Cassandra Cooper. Life is never easy for the Ingalls and tragedy frequently strikes, such as when their daughter Mary goes blind. But through their unwavering love, faith and community, they always manage to not only survive but find plenty of joy along the way.
Michael Landon, master of the television tear-jerker directed nearly half of the 200 episodes that were aired during the nine seasons that Little House on the Prairie ran on ABC from 1974-1983. The show featured an enormous list of guest stars over the years that included everyone from Ray Bolger, Ernest Borgnine and Red Buttons to Todd Bridges, Sean Penn and Shannen Doherty. Colonel Sanders of KFC fame even made a cameo on one of the episodes.
Although the series strayed pretty far from the original books, it didn’t seem to matter much to the public who almost consistently kept the show in the top 25. The series would spawn a spin-off called Little House: A New Beginning which was really a continuation of the show following the departure of Landon. It lasted a single season and focused on the lives of Laura and her husband Almanzo. Three made-for-TV movies would also follow the ending of the series.
Little House on the Prairie offered a fictional glimpse into America’s past, while always stressing the importance of family values and love in the face of hardship. It was this winning formula that has kept the show in perpetual syndication for decades.
If you spent many an hour watching Little House on the Prairie, we welcome all of your thoughts and recollections in our comments section.