MGP on “Little House On The Prairie”
Let’s face it. I have odd tastes in television. Without trying to claim some lame rebel cred via some flaunted exploration of kitsch and vintage, I really do tend to prefer TV made before the 1980s. Could be a childhood thing, or that I think some of the better (or, on occasion, more creative) writing wasn’t quite exhausted at this time (All In The Family comes to mind). Or maybe it’s just because some programming decades back is so hokey and overblown that it is a welcome balm against the polyglot slop of modern television. I’m not saying that shows like The Brady Bunch or Gilligan’s Island are important cultural artifacts (then again, maybe they are), but I’d sooner entertain how many ways a crew of castaways can bungle an island rescue over a bunch of weekend warriors trying to win what is, in essence, a game show masquerading as “reality” on an island. I know TV is fake. Stop trying to spin it as “real.”
So, with that, I’m going to deconstruct my latest TV show phase, and its name is Little House On The Prairie. [Enter cheesy, dreamy musical interlude and daft sunflower-dressed girls running down a grassy hill now as you continue with the post…]
First off, the time frame. Being a little bit of a history nut, I’m constantly trying to break down time periods of movies, TV, books, etc, through various clues available, be it styles of dress, introduction of technologies, advancements of medicine, etc. This little nugget, however, had an interesting parallel. An episode during an early season named the newly-appointed President as Rutherford B. Hayes, whose presidency began in 1877. Guess what the year of production was in the end credits? 1977! Exactly one-hundred years in the future, which sated my concrete/sequential fix quite well and put various plot devices in context. Yes, I actually take things THIS far sometimes.
One major point of LHotP for me is that life is damn hard on the prairie. Might be the fact that I largely grew up in cities and with all of the modern wonders such an urban life can afford, but I actually gain some dorky appreciation for the creature comforts a civilized modern society grants while watching this goofy show, and that such things are in place not by right but by privilege. So, I’m spared having to pump water, fix wagon wheels, and having a 30-mile trip take all day. And I don’t even want to imagine wintertime on the prairie.
As a result of all of this hardship, the Ingalls Family get their share of emotional moments. In fact, I have yet to see an episode in which no one cries. Go ahead and turn the show on if you think I’m kidding. Without fail, someone breaks down in tears every single episode, oftentimes Laura. And you know it’s a good one when virtually everyone makes with the waterworks. Disease, death, and someone’s house burning down are popular segues to this.
Some episodes are just plain spooky. Anyone remember the teen rape episode? The guy in the creepy porcelain mask and black outfit a la “V For Vendetta?” You’ve got to be one adept TV writer to squeeze THAT guy in and make it work. And, no, it wasn’t Nellie who got attacked, but some sick freak on the Internet is probably reading this and fantasizing about just that, and isn’t that discomforting? Come to think of it, the actress who played Nellie WAS sexually assaulted in her childhood, so one has to wonder how that particular plot went over for her. And I thought I’d had hard days at work.
My favorite is still the one where they BLEW UP their entire town! That’s right, and with dynamite, even. Seems a landgrabber gained all of the property of Walnut Grove and the residents were forced out. So, what did they do? They fixed every downtown building (save the church, for some sadly sentimental reason) with TNT and then, of course, CRIED as they slammed down the plungers on the detonators and KABLOOEEE!! No more Walnut Grove! I’m telling you, TV needs to do more stuff like this if they want me back. Except, this time, put the actual actors in harm’s way. Start with any random show on MTV.
So, Nellie’s the stock persona non grata of the show, but the one I could never stand was Carrie. In the early episodes, she was the youngest Ingalls, and as irritating as they come. I was convinced that she was retarded and they felt so sorry for her that they spared her abandonment on someone’s porch. Thankfully, they shoved her out of the plots after a few years.
Now, the mom is a different story entirely. Let it be known that Mrs. Ingalls was a total MILF, and I say that unrepentantly. I think that character was sexually assaulted as well somewhere in the first few years. Boy, this show is simply chocked full of deviance. Something I never noticed at eight, I suppose.
And to think that this show ran for 10 years. Nothing on network tube lasts that long, except for soap operas, and who’s counting those? Come to think of it, who could tolerate the cathode pablum of today for more than a season or two? Of course, while they’re watching Dating Show #58 or Reality Game Show #72, I’m reading The Sea Wolf, which is just plain better in my opinion. It starts with a ship-to-ship collision, for cryin’ out loud! Now, that’s entertainment!