Little House Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is "Little House On The Prairie"? [ Main Page |
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"Little House" is a series based on Laura Ingalls Wilder's best-selling novels about a young pioneer family struggling to make ends meet in post-Civil War Walnut Grove, Minnesota.
2. How long was "Little House" on the air and how many episodes were there?
"Little House" was originally a 2-hour (with commercials) television film which eventually became a series of 164 episodes (139 regular one-hour episodes, 17 two-part episodes, 5 90-minute episodes, 2 two-hour episodes, and 1 three-hour special) that ran on NBC from the fall of 1974 to the summer of 1982. A re-tooled version of the series built around its co-star, Melissa Gilbert, called "Little House: A New Beginning", ran only one season, consisting of 19 episodes (16 regular one-hour episodes, 2 two-part episodes, and 1 two-hour episode) from the fall of 1982 to the summer of 1983. This was then followed by three two-hour telefilms. They were, in order, "Little House: Look Back To Yesterday" (1983), "Little House: The Last Farewell" (1984), & "Little House: Bless All The Dear Children" (1984).
3. After the final telefilm ("The Last Farewell"), they aired another "Little House" story months later. I thought the series had ended. Why is this?
NBC shot 3 telefilms to wrap up the "Little House" story. "The Last Farewell" (which aired in the spring of 1984) was the last "Little House" story filmed. But, "Bless All The Dear Children" (which aired Christmas of that same year as "The Last Farewell") was shot BEFORE "The Last Farewell", and therefore "...Dear Children" had sat on the NBC shelf and went unaired until it was finally shown at Christmas of 1984.
4. Didn't Albert Ingalls die at the end of "Look Back To Yesterday"?
This is probably one of the most asked (if not controversial) questions about the series. It is unfortunate that there are still many, many "LHOTP" fans who believe that Albert Ingalls did indeed die at the end of "Look Back To Yesterday". While it is still true that Albert did have a rare and potentially fatal blood disease, that certainly did not mean Albert died.
The answer to this question was right there on the screen. Viewers who chose to believe Albert is dead missed three key points:
a) In the closing narration of "Home Again", Laura Ingalls states that Albert returned to Walnut Grove years later and that the family was happy to see Dr. Albert Ingalls home again. Albert did return to the town in "Look Back To Yesterday", but he was already ill and not yet the doctor. But, both the closing narration and the final scene in "Look Back..." (which we'll talk about in a moment) implies that Albert would have had to successfully earn his Masters' degree in medicine and returned to Walnut Grove one final time (as the doctor) at some point after "Look Back...", but before the town was destroyed in "The Last Farewell" (which Albert did not appear in), so therefore his last visit was never deplicted in any subsequent episode beyond "Look Back...".
b) It is very clear to me (and I hope it is to you too) that Albert Ingalls LIVES through the final scene of "Look Back To Yesterday". The very last scene in "Look Back..." has Albert successfully climbing the mountain, finding the treasure, and holding his hands high in the air. There is NO depliction whatsoever of Albert's death or funeral. If Albert had indeed died, then the closing narration of "Home Again" would have been proven TOTALLY FALSE.
c) At the beginning of "The Last Farewell", Charles mentions that he and his wife had last visited Walnut Grove three years back (the film is set in 1901). Although Albert was never mentioned, this point more or less supports Laura's closing "Home Again" narration of Albert returning as the doctor.
The scriptwriters may or may not have meant for Albert to die in the show, but after discussing the three points about his fate, there is absolutely no dispute that the answer to this question is a clear and resounding NO. Albert does not die in "Little House".
5. Why do some "Little House" episodes sound more sped up than others?
If you're familiar enough with the series, then whether or not you have this problem depends on where and what station you're currently seeing "Little House". Believe it or not, there are still many LHOTP affiliates showing the series in upgraded (and what appears to be re-mastered) prints taken from original 35MM film, particularly from season 4 on. However, here's where the "sped up" problem comes in...many episodes (particularly season 8 and the "...A New Beginning" series) are actually time-compressed...that is, sped up from its original 24 fps (frames per second) speed. These prints appear to be taken from UK master tapes and transferred from its original PAL format. The PAL format, by the way, plays 2 to 4% faster than our regular NTSC system in terms of video frames per second, thus the time-compression problem.
6. Are any episodes of "Little House" available on home video?
Yes, and I'm happy to say the entire original series is now on DVD. Few shows were originally released on Warner Home Video, and then for a time on what was then RCA/Columbia Home Video. In the late 1980s, NBC (the producers of LHOTP) licensed the video rights to Goodtimes Home Video, which proceeded to release selected episodes as stand-alones, as well as other selected shows several on one video box set, as licensed by NBC's Home Video division. Goodtimes' video license expired at the end of 2002, and a company called Imavision acquired the rights through NBC Home Video. Imavision has now released episodes of the entire original series on DVD from season one to eight, and select stand-alone episodes. The spin-off series "...A New Beginning" and the three telemovie sequels have also been issued on DVD. Then, in 2007, Lionsgate acquired Imavision and now acts as home video distributor. A complete series box set is planned for 2008.
7. Who owns the rights to "Little House"?
In light of recent events within the Paramount/Viacom organization, this issue is now a confusing one, but one that deserves explicit explanation.
LHOTP was originally an NBC (National Broadcasting Company) production in association with Ed Friendly. The syndication rights to the series reverted in the mid-1980s to WorldVision Enterprises, which had been the outlet of Spelling Entertainment Group. WorldVision, which later became Republic Pictures, also has in its library most of the Quinn Martin and NBC series, shows produced by Aaron Spelling ("Beverly Hills 90210", "The Love Boat", "Twin Peaks", "Melrose Place"), and a huge library of over 3,000 feature films from the Republic backlog ("High Noon", "It's A Wonderful Life", and most of United Artists' early films). Spelling Entertainment itself had been, until 1999, only partially owned by Viacom, the company that owns Paramount Pictures. Viacom now has the remaining portion of Spelling it did not own previously. As of this writing, NBC has merged with Universal Pictures, creating NBC Universal. But Paramount Domestic Television (successor-in-interest to WorldVision Enterprises) has also experienced corporate changes. In the middle of 2005, Viacom, Paramount's parent company, announced it was splitting into two separate companies, one to be called Viacom, the other called CBS Corporation. As of the present time, Paramount Pictures is now part of Viacom, while its television division is now part of CBS Corporation. So Paramount is now split into two separate companies under two different owners. As a result, CBS is now responsible for the television distribution of "Little House" under CBS Television Distribution. So you could say what is no longer "America's Most Watched Network" now lays some claim to another network's series. However, this does not change NBC/Universal's claim to the series either as they continue to hold underlying rights to the series (they are the licensee for home video and other promotional outlets, as well as the series' copyright holder). As I mentioned before, the home video rights holder is now Lionsgate (under license from NBC).
8. How did the WorldVision ownership change of years past affect "Little House" on TBS?
For obvious reasons, TBS Superstation no longer airs "Little House" from their schedule. In 2003, a new syndicated run of the show was purchased by The Hallmark Channel, and is now seen on that channel weekdays (check your local listings). As of the present day, it continues to air on that channel. However, in 2005, Viacom's TVLand network acquired the broadcast rights to "Little House" and, like Hallmark, continues to air the series.
9. Why did such-and-such character appear once and then was never heard from again?
There were a lot of characters (especially school children) who appeared on the show and then for some mysterious reason were never heard from again. A few key examples are Liam O'Neil (from season one) and Dr. LeDoux & Elmer Miles (from season eight). While their fates were never really explained on the show, we hope that the Little House Encyclopedia has done its best to fill in the gaps. The general term for characters appearing only once is "a one-shot appearance".
10. Where can I find "Little House" in my area?
LHOTP is now in its fourth syndication run, but is now currently seen on very few broadcast stations. However, in terms of full signal rights, The Hallmark Channel and TVLand now share those particular duties for "Little House".
11. Why does my local station skip over some "Little House" episodes in sequencing? For instance, I saw an episode with Laura living in her big house, and then the next show I see her living in a shack!
This is the case with many stations currently running LHOTP (albeit very few since basic cable networks also run LHOTP). One thing to remember...many episodes ran 90 minutes long. Because some stations sometimes cannot fit 90-minute shows in their regular schedule, they skip over them. A prime example is the two-part episode "Days Of Sunshine, Days Of Shadow". Part one runs 90-minutes long (including commercials, of course), while part two (this is the part where Laura's "big house" is destroyed by a tornado) runs the regular 60-minute length. This may explain the "plot hole" mentioned in the question. In any event, the 90-minute episodes that are skipped over may be saved for a "special time slot" on the weekends. In other cases, they may also skip over other episodes, such as those that originally ran as a two-hour special episode (such as "May We Make Them Proud" and "The Lord Is My Shepard") and save them for a special time slot also. In any event, since "Little House" is still being shown in syndication on select TV stations nationwide, the sequencing of LHOTP shows is at the discretion of your local station.
12. Will the annual TBS (or Hallmark Channel or TV Land) "Little House" marathon (in honor of Michael Landon) be shown again?
TBS held the SuperStation rights to "Little House" for many years beginning in the mid-80s, and had sometimes set aside a special day during the summer where they aired selected episodes (usually 90-minute and two-hour episodes they sometimes skip over) in a day-long marathon in tribute to Michael Landon, the creator of "Little House". The episodes that aired usually consisted in part of "The Lord Is My Shephard" and the three follow-up TV movies (including "The Last Farewell"). However, in August of 1998, TBS spread the marathon over the course of several days rather than air it in a single day presentation. Since TBS dropped "Little House" from their national schedule, you won't see the marathon again. As we mentioned before, since "Little House" is still being shown in syndication on other select TV stations across the country (as well as nationally on The Hallmark Channel and TVLand), the sequencing of episodes is at the discretion of your local station. Of course, sometimes Hallmark and TV Land will schedule marathon airings, so all I can say to that is "check your listings".
13. Why did I see Royal Wilder one season and then two seasons later I saw him with a daughter when Almanzo stated "I have not seen Royal in ten years"?
In order to answer this question, we must first talk about the construction of the Timeline. In putting together this Timeline, we took into account the characters of Royal and Jenny Wilder. Royal first appeared in "The Nephews" (season 7). In that episode, his wife Millie mentions she is pregnant with their third child (one can only assume it is Jenny). Royal returns two seasons later in "Times Are Changing" ("...A New Beginning") with his ten-year old daughter Jenny. So how did NBC manage to make ten years pass by in only two? Simple...by using a plot device called "soap opera time", a time-honored device where characters age quicker than regular human beings do. The device is so-called because this is generally used on soap operas such as "The Young And The Restless" and "As The World Turns".
In order to maintain a more proper time continuum for the Timeline, we took the year which "Times Are Changing" took place (1887) and went back ten years in order to allow time for Royal's wife to give birth to Jenny and have her grow to ten-year-old maturity. Thus, "The Nephews" would now be set in 1877.
Concurrently, we also went back 3 years from "Times Are Changing"'s year setting (1887) in order to allow time for Adam Kendall to regain his sight and pass his bar exam in "To See The Light" (season 7), and for Laura to announce her pregnancy in "I Do, Again" (also season 7) and give birth to her daughter Rose in "Days Of Sunshine, Days Of Shadow" (season 8). Thus, "To See The Light" would now be set in the year 1884, and from "I Do, Again" to the end of season 8 spanning two years beginning in 1885.
Concurrently, since Nellie announces her pregnancy in "Laura Ingalls Wilder" and we see twin babies in "Come, Let Us Reason Together" and "I Do, Again" (all three episodes from season 7), and the fact that "Come, Let Us Reason Together" takes place shortly after "To See The Light" and both episodes are set 8 years after "The Nephews", then we can only conclude that Nellie suffered a miscarriage from her first pregnancy, and her second pregnancy years later produced the twins.
With all these time points now settled in the Timeline, we have now created an 8-year gap of events that have never been deplicted in any LHOTP episode, but we do know that during that 8-year "lost period" Almanzo meets his daughter Jenny while she is still "knee high to a grasshopper" (as mentioned in "Times Are Changing", from "...A New Beginning"), and that Charles and Caroline go on another vacation (as mentioned in "The Last Farewell"). When you study the answer to this question thoroughly, you will be able to understand the Timeline better.
Which brings us to the next question...
14. Where does the Timeline put the episode "Centennial"?
The episode "Centennial" (from season 3) is supposedly set in the year 1876, obviously the 100th Anniversary of our nation's signing of the Declaration of Independence (July 4th, Independence Day). But because of the events from most of season 5 and all of season 6 taking place that year (as mentioned in the Timeline), there is absolutely no way the "Centennial" episode can fit in to the story line since in that particular show Mary Ingalls still has her sight. So therefore, "Centennial" is no longer considered story canon (or, in simpler terms, part of the overall story line).
15. Where was Mrs. Oleson in the last three LHOTP telefilms? Yes, I know she was either busy or in the hospital, but why didn't we see her?
Katherine MacGregor was not interested in appearing in any of the final three LHOTP telefilms, so therefore the scriptwriters had to find some way of explaining her absence by writing her out of the script. In "Look Back To Yesterday" and "Bless All The Dear Children", Harriet Oleson was out of town shopping for things for Oleson's Mercantile, and in "The Last Farewell" she was seriously ill and in the hospital in the big city. At last check, Katherine MacGregor was still alive.
16. Were there ever any books that were made about or based on the LHOTP series?
To the best of my knowledge, the answer is no. There were no novelizations of the LHOTP books based on the series, as opposed to the original Laura Ingalls Wilder books.
17. What was the name of Laura & Almanzo's second child in "A Child With No Name", and what did he die of?
Since Laura and Almanzo could not decide on a proper name for their third child at the time of his birth, the baby was simply called "Baby Wilder". He died 12 days after birth due to complications from a virus Laura picked up during her pregnancy. He was buried as "Baby Boy Wilder".
18. Who, or what, was Jonathan (the character in "The Lord Is My Shephard")?
Since Laura was the only person who ever saw him, the episode implies that Jonathan was actually an apparition of an angel, sent by God to help Laura overcome her remorse and grief over the death of her baby brother Charles Frederick. A similar character, also named Jonathan, was the lead character in Michael Landon's next series, "Highway to Heaven".
19. What are the main cast members of LHOTP doing now?
Sadly, the main cast members who aren't doing anything, period these days are no longer with us...Michael Landon (Charles), Victor French (Isaiah Edwards), Kevin Hagan (Dr. Baker), and Steve Tracy (Percival) have since passed on, or probably on to the "Little House" in the sky (depending on what your religious beliefs are). They are sorely missed.
As for the surviving main cast members...Karen Grassle (Caroline) is now doing stage work, however she recently was the on-air spokesperson for Time-Life's "Little House" video collection. Melissa Gilbert (Laura), Dabbs Greer (Rev. Alden), Matthew Laborteaux (Albert), Patrick Laborteaux (Andy), and Bonnie Bartlett (Grace) have all done occasional TV movie and series appearances. Shannen Doherty (Jenny) went on to be best known on "Beverly Hills 90210" before she was fired. She recently starred in Aaron Spelling's most recent series, "Charmed" (she has since been fired from that show too). Melissa Sue Anderson (Mary) is now Melissa Anderson Sloan. She is married to television producer Michael Sloan, who produced the CBS show "The Equalizer" (on which Melissa was once a guest star). The Sloans have two children. In 1998 Melissa Sue starred in a Fox Family Channel "Movie Of The Week" called "Earthquake In New York". Linwood Boomer (Adam) created and is currently producing the Fox network series "Malcolm In The Middle".
Dean Butler (Almanzo), Richard Bull (Mr. Oleson), and Katherine MacGregor (Mrs. Oleson) have all disappeared from the small screen and have not done much work lately, although Mr. Bull went on to make a guest appearance on another Michael Landon show, "Highway To Heaven".
20. Where there any TV tribute shows to LHOTP?
No, there weren't any real tribute specials honoring LHOTP, but there was one show that came real close...the three-hour episode called "The Little House Years", which was a retrospective of the first five seasons of LHOTP.
21. Will there ever be a LHOTP movie with the cast in it?
There were rumors that NBC was developing a "reunion movie" featuring the surviving members of the cast, but apparently such plans fell through. However, ABC' "Wonderful World Of Disney" recently aired an entirely new version of "Little House" as a six-hour miniseries and has been released on DVD. Incidentally, a big-screen theatrical movie had been planned at Universal Studios at one point but plans with that one fell through too, all the ironic since Universal has now merged with NBC!
22. What about the CBS movie that aired years ago about Laura Ingalls Wilder? Was that the new "Little House" movie I've been hearing about? When did that air?
A "Movie Of The Week" called "Beyond The Prairie: The True Story Of Laura Ingalls Wilder", was completed in 1998 and was broadcast first on Canadian television in the summer of 1999. It finally made its U.S. television premiere during the 1999-2000 holiday season. Although this was not a "Little House On The Prairie" movie per se (not at all related to the NBC series), it was an entirely different telling of Laura's story based on fact, not fiction (as the NBC series was). Richard Thomas starred in this new film. A sequel to it also aired on CBS. All the ironic since CBS now owns syndication rights to the original NBC series!
23. How come they keep using the same music over and over on some episodes?
Almost all the original music for LHOTP was composed by David Rose, who also scored NBC's previous show "Bonanza". Throughout the series some themes and incidental music were reused, giving the scores a sense of redundancy. Prior to the seventh season (1980-1981) there was a labor strike in Hollywood involving actors, technicians, and musicians, and many television shows that eventually aired during 1980-1981 used "canned" (or library) music from other sources for the score (in much the same manner as the so-called 'scores' pieced together for TV shows in the 1950's and 1960's). The producers of LHOTP refused to resort to that measure, so NBC decided to use what is known in the business as "tracked" music, by way of using scores recorded for previous seasons of LHOTP...this is so that David Rose could continue to receive composing credit for the strike-period shows when in fact no original music was composed at all!--this happened for most of season seven up until the two-part episode "Sylvia". The scores for the spinoff series "...A New Beginning" consisted largely of reused theme music (almost no new material was composed), however what little original music was written (particularly for "Times Are Changing (Part One)", "Marvin's Garden", "Home Again", and "May I Have This Dance") carried David Rose's trademark style of composing.
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