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March 29, 2024

In Brief: ‘Little House on the Prairie’ 50 Years Later

March 30 marks the 50th anniversary of the debut of one of the most wholesome and enduring series in television history.

Millions of Americans of a certain age will remember “Little House on the Prairie.” It’s hard to believe it’s been 50 years since it debuted. But Chris Queen has thoughts on that milestone.

Don’t worry; I’m not going to go Kamala on you and wax about the “passage of time,” but some milestones just make you feel old.

Next week — March 30, to be exact—brings one of those milestones that makes me feel ancient. That date marks the 50th anniversary of the debut of one of the most enduring series in television history: “Little House on the Prairie.”

I don’t remember that night since I was a toddler when the TV movie that served as a pilot for the show aired, but my family watched the show without fail. My siblings and I grew up with the Ingalls family, and my mom made sure that my nieces were familiar with the show, too. With nine seasons and over 200 episodes, the show tackled a host of issues, usually with happy endings.

The show is notably different from the books, which I’ve also read. They diverge enough that I almost think of them as separate entities in my mind. “Little House on the Prairie” doesn’t suffer from the political incorrectness that made Laura Ingalls Wilder a victim of cancel culture. The characterizations on the show take on a life of their own, and the show concentrates on one era, whereas the books are more expansive.

Queen observes that even now, “the show holds up remarkably well.”

Of course, the Ingalls family, with Laura (Melissa Gilbert) and Charles (Michael Landon) at the center, is the heart of the show, but let’s face it: the mother-daughter terror team of Harriet (Katherine MacGregor) and Nellie (Alison Arngrim) Oleson brought the most entertainment. Arngrim has made a stand-up comedy career off the Nellie persona and wrote a hilarious book about her experiences on the show.

With rumors of a reboot, Queen recoils at “what a 21st-century version … would look like,” saying, “The wokes would ruin it.” He adds:

What makes the show so enduring? Obviously, it’s a throwback both to the prairie days as well as to the simpler times of the late 20th century. And the wholesomeness of the show sets it apart from so much other content, even from the same time period.

He concludes by quoting Karen Grassle, who played Ingalls family matriarch Caroline. She recently noted that people just love the “simple human decency.” Indeed, Queen says, “We need more of that these days.”

Read the whole thing here.

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