Little House on the Prairie

Little House on the Prairie

Synopsis of TV Show

In January of 1973, the long-running, Western-themed drama Bonanza was laid to rest after running successfully for over two decades. NBC wished to have a similar family-oriented drama to take its place and commissioned Michael Landon, who played Little Joe on Bonanza, to adapt Laura Ingalls Wilder’s novel Little House on the Prairie into a two-hour pilot for a potential television series. The pilot did well with viewers, and NBC gave the go-ahead for a series. The resulting show, also titled Little House on the Prairie, ran successfully for eight years.

The series told the story of the Ingalls family, who moved to Walnut Grove, Minnesota in hopes of finding success and a new home in a new town. Michael Landon portrayed homesteader Charles Ingalls, patriarch of the Ingalls clan, and his wife was the ever-patient Caroline. They were accompanied by their three daughters: Mary was the eldest, Laura was the middle daughter from whose point-of-view the stories were told, and Carrie was the infant.

Upon their arrival in Walnut Grove, the Ingalls found what author Laura Ingalls Wilder described as a “harvest of friends.” There was fellow farmer Isaiah Edwards, Lars Hanson the mill owner, and the Oleson family: father Nels, his snobby wife Harriet, and their children Nellie and Willie.

For a visual change of scenery in the beginning of the 1978-79 season, the Ingalls, the Olesons, and the kindly Garvey family all moved to Winoka, another Dakota town. But then that same year, everybody moved back. For good family rearin' and swingin' square dances, you apparently couldn't do better than Walnut Grove. The Ingalls adopted Albert, a doe-eyed homeless kid, in 1978, and in the 1981-82 season, the Ingalls also adopted Cassandra and James. Since the eldest of their brood was married and out of the house, Charles and Caroline still needed a few cute little ones scurrying around the homestead, who could get into trouble and then glean their life lesson advice from their still-patient, and ever-wise, patriarch Chuck.

The show’s narrative was serial-like in nature and included several supporting players and frequent guest stars as it conveyed the day-to-day struggles of Ingalls family. The storylines frequently involved much heart-wrenching drama, including several illnesses and natural disasters, but always found the time to emphasize the positive family values that won over the show’s core audience. Michael Landon maintained a tight control over the series, serving as executive producer as well as writing and directing several episodes (co-star and close Landon associate Victor French also directed some episodes).

Landon ceased acting in the show on a regular basis in 1982, although he still produced. The focus of the series shifted to Laura and her husband Almanzo, who remained in Walnut Grove after Charles sold the farm and moved to Iowa with Caroline and their youngest daughters Carrie and Grace. The modified series, retitled Little House: A New Beginning, ran only one more season, and the show ended its run in March of 1983 after 201 episodes.

However, the end of the series did not signify the end of the Ingalls family saga. The story was brought to formal close via a series of three two-hour specials: Little House on the Prairie: Look Back To Yesterday (1983), Little House: The Last Farewell (1984), and Little House: Bless All The Dear Children (1984). The show remains a popular rerun item, as does Landon and French’s follow-up project, another long-running drama called Highway To Heaven.

Release History of Prime Time Show

9/11/74 - 9/20/82 NBC
9/27/82 - 9/5/83 NBC ( Little House: A New Beginning )

TV Sub Categories


Television Network


Television Studio

NBC/Ed Friendly Productions

TV Cast

Charles Phillip Ingalls (1974-82) Michael Landon
Caroline Quiner Holbrook Ingalls (1974-82) Karen Grassle
Laura Elizabeth Ingalls/Wilder Melissa Gilbert
Mary Amelia Ingalls/Kendall (1974-81) Melissa Sue Anderson
Carrie Ingalls (1974-82)  Sidney Greenbush
Carrie Ingalls (1974-82)  Lindsay Greenbush
Albert Quinn Ingalls (1978-82)  Matthew Laborteaux
Grace Ingalls (1978-82) Wendi Turnbaugh
Grace Ingalls (1978-82) Brenda Turnbaugh
Cassandra Cooper Ingalls (1981-82) Missy Francis
James Cooper Ingalls (1981-82) Jason Bateman
Almanzo James Wilder (1979-83)  Dean Butler
Adam Kendall (1978-81)  Linwood Boomer
Mr. Lars Hanson (1974-78)  Karl Swenson
Mr. Nels Oleson Richard Bull
Mrs. Harriet Oleson   Katherine MacGregor
Nellie Oleson/Dalton (1974-81)  Alison Arngrim
Willie Oleson  Jonathan Gilbert
Nancy Oleson (1981-83)  Allison Balson
Reverend Robert Alden  Dabbs Greer
Dr. Hiram Baker   Kevin Hagen
Eva Beadle/Simms (1974-78)  Charlotte Stewart
Mr. Isaiah Edwards (1974-77, 1981-83)  Victor French
Grace Snider/Edwards (1974-77)  Bonnie Bartlett
Jonathan Garvey (1977-81) Merlin Olsen
Alice Garvey (1977-80)  Hersha Parady
Andy Garvey (1977-81)   Patrick Labyorteaux
Percival Dalton (1980-81) Steve Tracy
Eliza Jane Wilder (1979-80)  Lucy Lee Flippin
Hester-Sue Terhune (1978-83)  Ketty Lester
Jenny Wilder (1982-83)  Shannen Doherty
John Carter (1982-83) Stan Ivar
Sarah Carter (1982-83)   Pamela Roylance
Jeb Carter (1982-83)   Lindsay Kennedy
Jason Carter (1982-83)  David Friedman
Etta Plum (1982-83) Leslie Landon
Mrs. Melinda Foster Ruth Foster
Boy (1976-77) Bryce Berg
Susan Goodspeed (1978-80)  Michelle Downey
Mr. Anderson (1978-83)  Sam Edwards
Sandy Kennedy (1974)  Robert Hoffman
Hans Dorfler (1974-78) Jim Jeter
Matthew Rogers (1982-83)  Jonathan Hall Kovacs
2nd Stage Driver  Jack Lilley
Townsman (1982) Richard Lilley
Townsman (1979-82) Rod McGaughy
Carl Sanderson/Edwards (1975-77)  Brian Part
John, Jr. (1975-77) Radames Pera
Alicia Sanderson/Edwards (1975-77)  Kyle Richards
Christy Kennedy (1974-75) Tracie Savage
Rose Wilder (1982-83)   Jennifer Steffin
Rose Wilder (1982-83)  Michelle Steffin
Thomas (1979) Vince Tortell
Jason (1980) D. White
Thomas (1978) Ivan Wideman

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