Little House on the Prairie (TV series)

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Little House on the Prairie
Genre Family drama
Developed by Blanche Hanalis
Directed by William F. Claxton
Maury Dexter
Victor French
Michael Landon
Leo Penn
Starring Michael Landon
Melissa Gilbert
Karen Grassle
Melissa Sue Anderson
Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush
Matthew Laborteaux
Richard Bull
Katherine MacGregor
Alison Arngrim
Jonathan Gilbert
Kevin Hagen
Dabbs Greer
Victor French
Merlin Olsen
Dean Butler
Linwood Boomer
Shannen Doherty
Theme music composer David Rose
Composer(s) David Rose
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 9
No. of episodes 204 (+ 5 specials) (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Michael Landon
Ed Friendly
Producer(s) John Hawkins
William F. Claxton
Running time 45–48 minutes
Production company(s) Ed Friendly Productions
NBC Productions
Distributor Worldvision Enterprises
CBS Television Distribution (USA)
NBCUniversal International Television Distribution
MGM International Television Distribution (non-USA)
Original channel NBC
Picture format NTSC
Audio format Monaural
Original run September 11, 1974 (1974-09-11) – March 21, 1983 (1983-03-21)
Preceded by Little House on the Prairie (film)
Followed by Little House on the Prairie: A Look Back to Yesterday
Related shows Father Murphy

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 Landon and 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.[1]


Although based on the biographical "Little House" stories, many of the characters and situations differ from the original books. The central characters are Charles Ingalls (farmer and mill worker), his wife Caroline, and their four daughters, Mary, Laura, Carrie, and Grace; in later seasons, they adopt three children, Albert, Cassandra, and James.

Other essential characters include the Oleson family: Nels, 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 daughter, Nancy; Isaiah Edwards, Grace Snider Edwards and their three adopted children; the Garvey family, Jonathan, Alice, and Andy; Rev. Robert Alden; Lars Hanson, the town's founder and proprietor of the town's mill; and Dr. Hiram Baker, the town's physician. In season five, Mary Ingalls meets teacher-turned-husband, Adam Kendall. In the season seven premiere, Laura marries Almanzo Wilder.

Cast and characters[edit]

Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls, 1975

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 the list of Little House characters.

Main cast[edit]

Notable guest stars[edit]

Many actors, who were either well-known or went on to become famous, guest-starred on the show:

Production crew[edit]

Of the 203 episodes, Michael Landon directed the largest number at 87; producer William F. Claxton handled the majority of the remaining shows at 68; while co-star Victor French helmed 19; 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. Adoption, alcoholism, racism and blindness are portrayed. Some plots also include subjects such as drug addiction (i.e. morphine), leukemia, prejudice, and even rape. Although predominantly a drama, the program has some comedic moments as well.

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".

Spin-offs and sequels[edit]

Little House: A New Beginning[edit]

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 house. Meanwhile, Almanzo and Laura take in their niece, Jenny Wilder, 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 canceled after nineteen episodes. However, the show lived on for another 1.5 years in movie format.[citation needed]

Movie specials[edit]

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, John Carter offers a supply of explosives that he has. Each man takes turn blowing up his own building.[2]

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 a while 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.[3]

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[edit]

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[edit]

  • Season 1 (1974–75): #13[4]
  • Season 2 (1975–76): Not in top 30[5]
  • Season 3 (1976–77): #16[6]
  • Season 4 (1977–78): #7[7]
  • Season 5 (1978–79): #14[8]
  • Season 6 (1979–80): #16[9]
  • Season 7 (1980–81): #10[10]
  • Season 8 (1981–82): #25[11]
  • Season 9 (1982–83): #29[12]

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • 1976: TP de Oro, Spain, Mejor Actriz Extranjera (Best Foreign Actress), Karen Grassle
  • 1976: TP de Oro, Spain, Mejor Serie Extranjera (Best Foreign Series)
  • 1978: Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography in Entertainment Programming for a Series, Ted Voigtlander, episode "The Fighter"
  • 1979: Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Series, Ted Voigtlander, episode "The Craftsman"
  • 1979: Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series, David Rose, episode "The Craftsman"
  • 1980: TP de Oro, Spain, 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

Popularity in Spain[edit]

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, La Casa de la Pradera (Little House on the Prairie) was one of Spanish Television's most popular series. Melissa Sue Anderson (Mary Ingalls) won Spanish television's prestigious TP de Oro award for best foreign actress in 1980 thanks in part to the enhanced profile she received as a result of her visit to Spain and her appearance on Spanish Television's 625 Lineas program in early 1979. The continued popularity of the show led to the appearance of Katherine MacGregor (Harriet Oleson) on 625 lineas in 1980.

Other media[edit]


The show remains popular in syndicated reruns and has been on the air in the U.S. continuously since its original run. In addition to airing on local stations, it has been airing multiple times each day on INSP[13] and Hallmark Channel.[14] In the past, it has aired on TV Land and TBS.

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

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.

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, Blu-ray & Digital Copy releases[edit]

The entire series has been released on DVD, and as of 2014 is being re-released in unedited and remastered form on DVD and high-definition Blu-ray.

The original DVD sets sold in the U.S. and Canada were released under license from NBCUniversal by Imavision Distribution, a company based in Quebec. These North American DVD sets included interviews with former cast members Patrick Laborteaux, Alison Arngrim, Dabbs Greer and Dean Butler. Imavision 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 Lionsgate Home 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.

A majority of the episodes in the original North American DVD versions had scenes cut from the episodes—these were derived from the syndicated television versions by Worldvision Enterprises, the series' former distributor. Other episodes were time-compressed; these are NTSC-converted video prints from UK PAL masters, while others were derived from 16MM syndication prints, also from Worldvision. Only a handful of episodes in the earlier sets were in their original uncut versions (for example, many Season 1 episodes on the previous DVD set contained scenes not in current syndication prints). Many episodes on the previous DVD versions also contained tracking lines and audio problems.

In 2014, Lionsgate Home Entertainment began re-releasing the series on DVD, and also for the first time, in high definition on Blu-ray, as well as Digital Copy through providers such as Vudu and Amazon Instant Video. These new releases contain uncut episodes and are remastered to have superior picture and sound. The Blu-ray's, with their high bitrate, high definition 1080p picture and lossless audio (as opposed to standard definition picture and compressed audio on the DVD's) currently provide the best viewing experience of the show that is commercially available. The new DVD's & Blu-ray's do not have the special features present on the earlier releases, but instead each season release has thus far contained a roughly 15 minute part of a newly produced special called "The Little House Phenomenon". Season 1 was re-released on March 25, 2014,[15] followed by Season 2 on May 6, 2014,[16] Season 3 on September 9, 2014[17] and Season 4 on January 20, 2015.[18] Season 5 will be re-released on April 14, 2015.[19] All nine seasons have been re-released as a Digital Copy.

Prior to official full season DVD releases, some single Little House episodes were released on both DVD and VHS by GoodTimes Entertainment. The Little House episodes were available on VHS 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 were not edited, and until Lionsgate's 2014 reissue, remained 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 US$27,500.[20]

Name No. of
Originally aired DVD release dates Remastered DVD & Blu-ray release date Digital Copy release date
Region 1 Region 2 Region 1 Region 1
Season 1 23 1974–1975 July 8, 2003 July 25, 2005 March 25, 2014 March 25, 2014
Season 2 22 1975–1976 July 8, 2003 March 27, 2006 May 6, 2014 May 6, 2014
Season 3 21 1976–1977 November 4, 2003 March 10, 2008 September 9, 2014 September 9, 2014
Season 4 22 1977–1978 February 17, 2004 May 26, 2008 January 20, 2015[21] September 9, 2014
Season 5 24 1978–1979 June 29, 2004 August 4, 2008 April 14, 2015 September 9, 2014
Season 6 24 1979–1980 October 26, 2004 May 3, 2010 TBA September 9, 2014
Season 7 22 1980–1981 February 15, 2005 July 17, 2010 TBA September 9, 2014
Season 8 22 1981–1982 June 14, 2005 March 20, 2011 TBA September 9, 2014
Season 9 22 1982–1983 November 1, 2005 January 20, 2012 TBA September 9, 2014
Box Set
3 movies 1983–1984 November 28, 2006 TBA TBA TBA
The Complete
Television Series
203 1974–1984 November 11, 2008 TBA TBA September 9, 2014


External links[edit]