Little House on the Prairie (TV series)

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Little House on the Prairie
Also known asLittle House: A New Beginning
Based onLittle House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Developed byBlanche Hanalis
Directed by
Theme music composerDavid Rose
ComposerDavid Rose
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons9
No. of episodes204 (+ 4 specials) (list of episodes)
Executive producers
  • John Hawkins
  • William F. Claxton
Running time48‒49 minutes
Production companies
Original release
ReleaseSeptember 11, 1974 (1974-09-11) –
March 21, 1983 (1983-03-21)

Little House on the Prairie (Little House: A New Beginning in its ninth and final season) is an American Western historical drama television series about the Ingalls family, who live on a farm on Plum Creek near Walnut Grove, Minnesota, in the 1870s–90s. Charles, Caroline, Laura, Mary, and Carrie Ingalls are respectively portrayed by Michael Landon, Karen Grassle, Melissa Gilbert, Melissa Sue Anderson, and twins Lindsay and Sydney Greenbush. The show is loosely based on Laura Ingalls Wilder's best-selling series of Little House books.

In 1972, with the encouragement of his wife and daughter, television producer and former NBC executive Ed Friendly acquired the film and television rights to Wilder's novels from Roger Lea MacBride and engaged Blanche Hanalis to write the teleplay for a two-hour motion picture pilot.[1][2] Friendly then asked Michael Landon to direct the pilot; Landon agreed on the condition that he may also play Charles Ingalls. The pilot, which first aired on March 30, 1974, was based on Laura Ingalls Wilder's third Little House book, Little House on the Prairie. The rest of the regular series premiered on the NBC network on September 11, 1974, and last aired on May 10, 1982.

During the 1982–83 television season, with the departure of Landon and Grassle, a sequel series, generally considered Season Nine for syndicated packages, was broadcast with the new title Little House: A New Beginning.

Cast and characters[edit]

Laura Ingalls (played by Melissa Gilbert) with her dog Jack (played by Barney), 1975

Melissa Gilbert has the most appearances of the series, a total of 190 of the 204 episodes. Michael Landon appeared in all but four episodes of seasons one through eight, but departed from being a regular part of the cast when the show was retooled as Little House: A New Beginning (season nine).

Main cast[edit]

Guest stars[edit]

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


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
Pilot movieMarch 30, 1974
124September 11, 1974 (1974-09-11)May 7, 1975 (1975-05-07)
222September 10, 1975 (1975-09-10)March 31, 1976 (1976-03-31)
322September 27, 1976 (1976-09-27)April 4, 1977 (1977-04-04)
422September 12, 1977 (1977-09-12)March 13, 1978 (1978-03-13)
524September 11, 1978 (1978-09-11)March 19, 1979 (1979-03-19)
624September 17, 1979 (1979-09-17)May 12, 1980 (1980-05-12)
722September 22, 1980 (1980-09-22)May 11, 1981 (1981-05-11)
822October 5, 1981 (1981-10-05)May 10, 1982 (1982-05-10)
922September 27, 1982 (1982-09-27)March 21, 1983 (1983-03-21)
Movies3December 12, 1983 (1983-12-12)December 17, 1984 (1984-12-17)

Background and production[edit]


Of the 204 episodes, Michael Landon directed 87 episodes; producer William F. Claxton directed 68 episodes, while co-star Victor French helmed 18 episodes. Maury Dexter (who was often an assistant director) directed 21 episodes, and Leo Penn directed the remaining three episodes.

Interior shots were filmed at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, while exteriors were largely filmed at the nearby Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley, where the town of Walnut Grove had been constructed. Many other filming locations were also used during the course of the series, including Old Tucson Studios and Sonora, California. Many of the exterior shots of Walnut Grove and the other Minnesota towns shown in the series include noticeable mountainous terrain in the background scenery. In reality, however, the southern Minnesota landscape where the show is supposed to take place includes no tall mountains.

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 different themes including frequently portrayed ones of adoption, alcoholism, faith, poverty, blindness, and prejudice of all types, including racism. Some plots also include subjects such as drug addiction (e.g. Albert's addiction to morphine), leukemia, child abuse, animal abuse, and even rape. Although predominantly a drama, the program has many lighthearted and comedic moments, as well.

Some 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".

In 1997, TV Guide ranked the two-part episode "I'll Be Waving as You Drive Away" at 97 on its 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time list; the episode was about Mary going blind.[4]



Little House on the Prairie ran on NBC from September 11, 1974 to March 21, 1983. From September 1974 to September 1976, it was aired on Wednesday nights from 8:00-9:00 EST. Beginning September 27, 1976, it was moved to Monday nights in the same time slot.[5]: 798 


In the U.S., NBC originally licensed syndication rights for Little House on the Prairie to Worldvision Enterprises, since networks could not own syndication arms at the time. Through successor companies and mergers, those rights are currently held by CBS Media Ventures.[6]

In syndicated reruns (where both original series are part of the same package for purposes of syndication), the show has been on the air in the U.S. continuously since its network screenings. In addition to airing on local stations, it has been airing multiple times each day on Cozi TV, Up TV, and Hallmark Drama. In the past, it has aired on WPIX, WPHL, TV Land, TBS, INSP,[7] and Hallmark Channel, as well as other stations worldwide.[8] In Canada, reruns of the series began airing weeknights on CTS, a Christian-based network, as of September 1, 2008. Amazon Prime Video's Freevee digital channel is also currently airing the series, using the mostly uncut video masters provided by Lionsgate.

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 home entertainment rights as well. Sister company NBCUniversal Television Distribution (now renamed as NBCUniversal Syndication Studios since 2021) also distributes the series internationally with MGM Television handling international distribution sales.

Home media[edit]

The entire series has been released on standard-definition DVD, high-definition Blu-ray, and on both standard and high-definition Digital Copy. In addition, some individual episodes have been released on DVD and VHS. Starting with Season 7, the Blu-rays are available exclusively through

There are multiple DVD sets which are noticeably different from one another. The original DVD sets sold in the U.S. and Canada were released in conjunction with NBC Enterprises (later NBC Universal in 2004) by Imavision Distribution, a company based in Quebec. 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 (especially in Season Eight) were time compressed and 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 original sets were in their original uncut versions. The episodes in these original sets are also known to have relatively poor video quality, such as tracking lines, as well as audio problems, though the quality issues are not as pronounced in the first few seasons as they are in the later seasons. The first three seasons of the old sets notably are also missing closed captioning.

These original North American DVD sets included interviews with former cast members Alison Arngrim, Dabbs Greer and Dean Butler. For the original movies & complete series sets, Imavision provided numerous additional special features, including additional interviews with many of the cast members such as Melissa Gilbert and Melissa Sue Anderson, as well as specials highlighting Michael Landon, the casting of the show, and more. Imavision also released a French-language version of the series. Both versions are in NTSC color and are coded for all regions. Later copies of these original sets were distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment following their acquisition of Imavision, but these should not be confused with the Lionsgate re-releases described below. 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. Unlike the original North American DVD sets, the UK version contains mostly uncut episodes.

In 2014, Lionsgate Home Entertainment began re-releasing the series in North America 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 Video. These new releases, which are stated to come direct from the original broadcast masters, contain mostly uncut episodes and are remastered to have superior picture and sound. The Blu-rays, with their high bitrate, high definition 1080p picture (as opposed to standard definition picture on the DVDs) currently provide the best viewing experience of the show that is commercially available. The first six seasons on Blu-ray notably also contain lossless audio as opposed to the compressed audio on the DVDs. Starting with Season 7, Lionsgate chose to only release the remaining Blu-rays exclusively through In the process, they made several other changes to the Blu-rays including compressing the audio (though with a relatively high bitrate), simplifying the on-screen disc menus, and eliminating the slipcovers and included Digital Copy codes that had been present for the previous seasons.

The newer Lionsgate remastered sets all contain English, French, and Spanish audio as well as English subtitles. They do not include the special features present on the earlier non-remastered releases, but rather seasons 1 through 6 each contain a roughly 15 minute segment of a special called "The Little House Phenomenon". Season 1 also contains the original Pilot movie. Season 7 contains no special features. Seasons 8 & 9 contain the three post-series movie specials as extras, with "Look Back to Yesterday" and "The Last Farewell" appearing on Season 8, and "Bless All The Dear Children" appearing on Season 9. Some fans of the show have been perplexed as to why Lionsgate did this, both because all of the movies take place after the Season 9 timeline, and also because they included "The Last Farewell" on Season 8 when that is considered by fans to be the end to the show given its significant and memorable ending. Lionsgate's decision as to which movies to include on which season appears to have been based on broadcast order rather than production order, since "Bless All The Dear Children" was the last episode broadcast even though "The Last Farewell" was the last one produced. None of the available releases of the series contain "The Little House Years", which was a three-hour Thanksgiving special aired during Season 6 that largely consisted of flashback clips.

While the re-releases are substantially better than what was previously available, there are a handful of episodes that still were released in edited form or contain other problems. The most significant of these, affecting all formats of the remastered releases, include over 3 minutes missing from the Season 7 episode, "Divorce, Walnut Grove Style," almost 4 minutes missing from Season 9's "Home Again," and extremely low volume of the townspeople's singing on the English audio of the last scene of the final movie, "The Last Farewell."[9]

List of releases[edit]

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 24 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 22 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 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 July 14, 2015 September 9, 2014
Season 7 22 1980–1981 February 15, 2005 July 17, 2010 October 6, 2015 (DVD)
December 22, 2015 (Blu-ray)
September 9, 2014
Season 8 22 1981–1982 June 14, 2005 March 20, 2011 January 19, 2016 (DVD)
March 22, 2016 (Blu-ray)
September 9, 2014
Season 9 22 1982–1983 November 1, 2005 January 20, 2012 April 19, 2016 September 9, 2014
3-Movie Box Set 3 movies 1983–1984 November 28, 2006 None (but is in Complete set) September 13, 2016 (DVD only) September 13, 2016
The Complete
Television Series
204 1974–1984 November 11, 2008 October 7, 2015 (Dutch import) October 6, 2015 (DVD only) September 9, 2014

In Australia, Region 4, the first releases were released by Magna Pacific (NBC Home Entertainment) on October 22, 2004 (Season 1 Parts 1 & 2) and November 12, 2004 (Season 2 Parts 1 & 2) and re-released early 2008. No further seasons were released. On April 29, 2008 Universal starting releasing the series beginning with Season 3 (Parts 1 & 2) and Series 4 (Parts 1 & 2) on July 1, 2008, and then Season 1 (Parts 1 & 2), Season 2 (Parts 1 & 2) and Season 3 (Parts 1 & 2) on March 8, 2010 and followed by the remaining series with the finale season being released on May 2, 2012. Via Vision then acquired the rights to the series and began releasing Uncut & Digitally Remastered version on May 6, 2015 and the final season on April 20, 2016. Also released are Complete Season boxset, the first two being non remastered and the latest version being the remastered Deluxe Edition.

Region 4 Releases
DVD Title Magna Pacific Releases Universal Releases DVD Title Via Vision Releases
Season 1: Part 1 October 22, 2004 March 8, 2008 Season One (Uncut & Digitally Remastered) May 6, 2015
Season 1: Part 2 October 22, 2004 March 8, 2008 Season Two (Uncut & Digitally Remastered) May 6, 2015
Season 2: Part 1 November 12, 2004 March 8, 2008 Season Three (Uncut & Digitally Remastered) May 6, 2015
Season 2: part 2 November 12, 2004 March 8, 2008 Season Four (Uncut & Digitally Remastered) June 10, 2015
Season 3: part 1 April 29, 2008 Season Five (Uncut & Digitally Remastered) August 5, 2015
Season 3: part 2 April 29, 2008 Season Six (Uncut & Digitally Remastered) October 14, 2015
Season 4: Part 1 July 1, 2008 Season Seven (Uncut & Digitally Remastered) November 18, 2015
Season 4: Part 2 July 1, 2008 Season Eight (Uncut & Digitally Remastered) March 6, 2016
Season 5: Part 1 October 1, 2008 Season Nine (Uncut & Digitally Remastered) April 20, 2016
Season 5: Part 2 October 1, 2008 Complete Collection (49-Discs) November 2, 2016
Season 6: Part 1 April 22, 2009 The Ultimate Walnut Grove Collection (50-Discs) April 11, 2018
Season 6: Part 2 April 22, 2009 The Complete Series (Deluxe Edition) (Remastered) November 18, 2020
Season 7: Part 1 May 5, 2010
Season 7: Part 2 May 5, 2010
Season 8: Part 1 March 30, 2011
Season 8: Part 2 March 30, 2011
Season 9: Part 1 May 2, 2012
Season 9: Part 2 May 2, 2012


The pilot movie ranked at number 3 for the ratings in early 1974. The first two seasons the series aired on Wednesday nights at 8 pm. Season 1 had moderate ratings, season 2 was the lowest ranked season of the series. In 1976 the series was moved to a Monday night time slot. From season three through season seven it was one of NBC'S highest rated scripted series. By seasons 8 and 9 the ratings were dropping and it was no longer NBC'S highest rated scripted series.

  • Season 1 (1974–75): No. 13, 23.5 rating[10]
  • Season 2 (1975–76): No. 33[11]
  • Season 3 (1976–77): No. 16, 22.3 rating
  • Season 4 (1977–78): No. 7, 24.1 rating[12]
  • Season 5 (1978–79): No. 14, 23.1 rating[13]
  • Season 6 (1979–80): No. 16, 21.8 rating[14]
  • Season 7 (1980–81): No. 10, 22.1 rating[15]
  • Season 8 (1981–82): No. 25, 19.1 rating (tied with: The Facts of Life)
  • Season 9 (1982–83): No. 29, 17.4 rating


  • 1976: TP de Oro, Spain, Mejor Actriz Extranjera (Best Foreign Actress), Karen Grassle [16]
  • 1978: Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography in Entertainment Programming for a Series, Ted Voigtlander, episode "The Fighter"[17]
  • 1979: Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Series, Ted Voigtlander, episode "The Craftsman"[17]
  • 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 [18]
  • 1981: Western Writers of America Spur Award for Best TV Script, Michael Landon, episode "May We Make Them Proud"[citation needed]
  • 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

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), a spin-off sequel show was created, the focus now placed 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 (played by 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 pursue a promising life. The show lost viewers, because the Ingalls family (except Laura) left the series.

Backdoor pilot[edit]

The spin-off's finale episode, Hello and Goodbye, in which Laura and Almanzo finish renovating the late Mrs. Flannery's home into a boardinghouse and start to take in residents, was meant as a backdoor pilot for an entirely new spinoff alongside what was supposed to have been another few seasons of the original show.

In that episode, Mr. Edwards moved in after his mute son Matthew left with his father and he realized that not only was his cabin falling down, it was situated a considerable distance from all his friends.

Willie and Rachel, wanting their own space and to be out from under Harriet's thumb in the rooming house upstairs of the hotel and restaurant elected to move in with Laura and Almanzo, as well, while Willie cooked and ran the restaurant with Rachel.

Writer Sherwood Montague rounded out the ensemble and the show was supposed to have covered his attempts to bring sophistication to Walnut Grove, but low viewership led to cancellation of both the sequel show and the intended spinoff.

The three movie specials listed below were produced to tie up loose ends to storylines on both the two main series and those opened up in Hello and Goodbye.

Movie specials[edit]

Three made-for-television post-series movies followed during the 1983–84 television season: Little House: Look Back to Yesterday (1983), Little House: The Last Farewell (1984), and Little House: Bless All the Dear Children (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 a turn blowing up his own building in an emotional farewell to the town.[19]

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.[20]

Bless All the Dear Children was filmed prior to The Last Farewell, but ended up being the last of the three movies to air.[21] Given its Christmas-related content, NBC made a last-minute decision to change the broadcast order, airing it during the Christmas season. A voice-over was added explaining the events occurred prior to the destruction of the town to resolve the continuity problem.[22]

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

The pilot film inspired a miniseries in 2005 which was also heavily inspired by the novels of the same name.

Film adaptation[edit]

In October 2012, Sony Pictures announced that a film adaptation of the Little House on the Prairie novel was under development.[23] In early 2016, it was widely reported that Paramount Pictures had picked up the project in turnaround, but an agreement was never reached.[24][25][26] In December 2020, it was announced that Paramount Television Studios and Anonymous Content were developing a reboot as a one-hour dramatic series adaptation.[27]


  1. ^ "Little Joe in Little House Is a Big Man Now". People. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  2. ^ Friendly, Natalie (1998). The Friendly Family: The Descendants of the Freundlichs of Bavaria. Boston, Massachusetts: Newbury Street Press. pp. 197–210. ISBN 0-88082-079-9.
  3. ^ "Little House on the Prairie Season 8 Episode 8 Chicago". Archived from the original on February 25, 2021. Retrieved July 29, 2016.
  4. ^ "Special Collectors' Issue: 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time". TV Guide (June 28 – July 4). 1997.
  5. ^ Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle F. (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  6. ^ "Syndication Bible".
  7. ^ "Shows Archive - INSP TV - Family-Friendly Entertainment - TV Shows and Movies".
  8. ^ "Hallmark Channel Removes Happy Days for Dramas; Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of April 29, 2013) - News Blog".
  9. ^ " forum - Little House on the Prairie: Seasons 1-10".
  10. ^ "TV Ratings - 1974".
  11. ^ "The TV Ratings Guide: 1975-76 Ratings History".
  12. ^ "TV Ratings - 1977".
  13. ^ "TV Ratings - 1978".
  14. ^ "TV Ratings - 1979".
  15. ^ "TV Ratings - 1980".
  16. ^ es:Anexo:Premios TP de Oro 1975
  17. ^ a b "Ted Voigtlander, 75; Won Emmys for 'Little House' Cinematography". Los Angeles Times. December 11, 1988. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  18. ^ es:Anexo:Premios TP de Oro 1979
  19. ^ "The Last Farewell Summary". CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved July 17, 2010.
  20. ^ Parker, Lennon. "The REAL story of the destruction of Walnut Grove". Prairie Fans. Archived from the original on March 29, 2016. Retrieved November 14, 2009.
  21. ^ Gilbert, Melissa (2009). Prairie Tale: A Memoir (pp. 141-142). Simon Spotlight Entertainment.
  22. ^ Yoggy, Gary A. (1995). Riding the Video Range: The Rise and Fall of the Western on Television. McFarland. p. 540. ISBN 978-0-7864-0021-8.
  23. ^ McNary, Dave (January 26, 2016). "'Little House on the Prairie' Movie in the Works at Paramount". Variety. Retrieved February 19, 2018.
  24. ^ Dawn, Randee. "Grab your bonnets! 'Little House on the Prairie' is heading to the big screen". Retrieved February 19, 2018.
  25. ^ Lee, Benjamin (January 27, 2016). "Little House on the Prairie movie back in development". The Guardian. Retrieved February 19, 2018.
  26. ^ "'Little House on the Prairie' Movie Lands at Paramount (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 19, 2018.
  27. ^ Rice, Lynette. "'Little House on the Prairie' reboot in the works at Paramount". Retrieved July 13, 2021.

External links[edit]