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Little House on the Prairie was an American one-hour dramatic television program, starring Michael Landon, about a family living on a farm in Minnesota in the 1870s and 1880s. The show was a loose adaptation of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s best-selling series of Little House on the Prairie books. It aired on the NBC network from September 11, 1974, to May 10, 1982. During the 1982-83 television season, with the departure of Michael Landon, the series was broadcast with the new title Little House: A New Beginning. The series itself was preceded by a two-hour pilot movie that first aired on March 30, 1974.

Series star Melissa Gilbert appeared in the majority of Little House episodes, and stayed throughout the entire run, missing 13 episodes, for a total of 190/203 episodes. Michael Landon appeared in all the episodes, for the first eight seasons, missing 4 episodes, and departed from the cast (when the show was retooled: Little House: A New Beginning), for a total of 179/203 episodes.





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 such as Mr. Edwards (played by Victor French) and the Oleson family: Nels Oleson (Richard Bull), Harriet Oleson (Katherine MacGregor), Willie Oleson (Jonathan Gilbert), and Nellie Oleson (Alison Arngrim).

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, Cassandra and James.

Other essential characters included the friendly Nels Oleson, proprietor of the town's general store, Oleson's Mercantile; his malicious, gossipping 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 doctor). 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. Maury Dexter, directed only a handful.

The series theme song was titled The Little House and was written and conducted by David Rose.

As with most TV series set in a distant time or place, historical inaccuracies and errors do appear. At the end of the episode "Country Girls" an airplane can be heard flying overhead. Little House on the Prairie was largely filmed on Big Sky Ranch at Simi Valley, Californiamarker and as a result camera vistas sometimes pick up rugged chaparral terrain, far too mountainous and scrubby for Minnesota. One episode even depicted Laura running away and climbing up a mountain. California's oak savannas appears in many of the scenes and are considered to be representative of the real Walnut Grovemarker. Dr. Baker's telephone was anachronism since the telephone only existed in large cities in the 1880s. Also during the series run, several married women take teaching jobs during an era when only single women could teach. Several episodes mentioned peanut butter sandwiches, which were not introduced until the early 1900s. Another episode ("Wave Of The Future", from season eight) shows an elderly man, ostensibly Colonel Harland Sanders, attempting to sell his restaurant franchise to Mrs. Oleson. Sanders was actually born in 1890. In the episode titled "A Wiser Heart" Laura Ingalls Wilder attends an 1885 lecture by Ralph Waldo Emerson, however Emerson died in 1882.

The long-running series started to decline in the 1981-1982 season, and the series was canceled while it was in the top 30. It was also canceled when actor Landon wanted to move on.


Little House carried many themes and every episode was filled with family values, love, and friendship. Bringing smiles to people all over the world. Little House is shared all over and still is.


The show is immensely-popular in reruns in syndication. In the U.S., the Hallmark Channel has aired the show for many years and continues to do so daily. The show can also be seen on TV Land. Because of its historical context, is deemed acceptable for use by the FCC to meet federal E/I programming guidelines. Two stations which use the program to meet E/I include Orange County, Californiamarker's KDOCmarker, and Green Bay, Wisconsinmarker's WLUKmarker.

In Canada, reruns of the series began airing weeknights at 5:00 pm on CTS, a Christian-based network, as of September 1, 2008.

Spin-offs and sequels

Little House: A New Beginning

A spin-off series of sorts, Little House: A New Beginning, built around Laura and Almanzo, aired on September 27, 1982. (and is included in the Little House syndication package). 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' old home. Meanwhile, Almanzo and Laura take in their niece, Jenny Wilder (portrayed by pre-Beverly Hills 90210 star 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 (see, for example, "The Last Summer"). The explanation given for the original cast's absence was that they moved to Burr Oak, Iowa to build a much better life. Unfortunately, the show never found a solid audience as it did in the previous eight seasons. Finally, the series was canceled on March 21, 1983, while it was in the top 30, after producing 19 episodes.

Movie Specials

Three made-for-television movie sequels followed: Little House: Look Back to Yesterday (1983), Little House: Bless All the Dear Children (1983), and Little House: The Last Farewell (1984) which marks the demise of Walnut Grove.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 6.

Broadcast History and Ratings

Little House on the Prairie was one of several hit shows on NBC primetime throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. 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.

Little House on the Prairie
Season Ratings Rank
1974-1975 #13
1975-1976 Not in top 30
1976-1977 #16
1977-1978 #7
1978-1979 #14
1979-1980 #16
1980-1981 #10
1981-1982 #25
1982-1983 #28 (Spin Off)


  • 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, Outstanding Cinematography in Entertainment Programming for a Series, Ted Voightlander, episode "The Fighter"
  • 1979 Emmy Award, Outstanding Cinematography for a Series, Ted Voightlander, episode "The Craftsman"
  • 1979 Emmy Award, 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, Best TV Script, Michael Landon, episode "May We Make Them Proud"
  • 1982 Emmy Award, Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Series (Dramatic Underscore), David Rose, episode "He Was Only Twelve," part 2
  • 1983 Young Artist Award, Best Young Actress in a Drama Series, Melissa Gilbert
  • 1984 Young Artist Award, Best Young Actress in a Drama Series, Melissa Gilbert

DVD Releases

The entire series has been released on DVD. The North American DVD sets include exclusive interviews by Québécois Little House historian Patrick Loubatière 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; in fact, their various logos still appear at the end of most episodes (but before the current NBC Universal Television Distribution logo). Other episodes, especially in the DVD versions of some episodes in Seasons 1 and 8 of the original series, and season 9 of "...A New Beginning", 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 1 episodes on DVD contain scenes not in current syndication prints). Unfortunately, many episodes on the DVD versions contain tracking lines and audio problems.

The DVD sets sold in the US and Canada were released under license from NBC Universal by Imavision Distribution, a company based in Quebecmarker. Imavision has also released a French-language version of the DVD set, sold separately. 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 Kingdommarker 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.

Season Episodes Originally aired DVD release date
Region 1 Region 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 TBA
7 24 1980-1981 February 15, 2005 TBA
8 22 1981-1982 June 14, 2005 TBA
9 19 1982-1983 November 1, 2005 TBA
10 3 1983-1984 November 28, 2006 TBA
The Complete Television Series 203 1974-1984 November 11, 2008 TBA

Finland Ratings Controversy

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 due to Universal Pictures' decision not to submit the series to state review, to avoid the state review fee of approximately USD $27,500.



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