‘Leave It to Beaver’ Star Pushes Back Against Claim Show Was Unrealistic

Leave It to Beaver is one of the most famous TV shows of its era, however, not everyone considers it to be realistic. Its portrayal of the 1950s and the 1960s is often seen as idealized. However, one of the stars of the show says it was the most realistic depiction of 1950s and 1960s life on television at the time. Here’s why.

Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow sitting
Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Why Wally Cleaver’s actor said ‘Leave It to Beaver’ was realistic

Firstly, a little background. Leave It to Beaver ran from 1957 to 1963. Politically, that era was defined by the civil rights movement, McCarthyism, the Cuban Revolution, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the beginning of the Vietnam War. However, those issues were not really a part of the idyllic universe of Leave It to Beaver. Most problems on the show were minor and were solved by the end of the episode. 

Tony Dow portrayed Wally Cleaver on the show. During an interview with Fox News, Stephanie Nolasco asked Dow what he thought of people who deemed the show unrealistic. “Everybody’s going to have an opinion. But I think the show is the most natural and most realistic representation of the late ‘50s, early ‘60s that was on the air. And most of the stories came from real life.”

Actors discuss Leave It to Beaver

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Dow explained why he felt that way. “I remember the writers would come in with these elaborate pitches,” Dow revealed. “The producers would then say, ‘I don’t want to know any of that. Stop pitching us. Just tell us the worst thing that’s ever happened to you as a kid. Go write that.’ So they really tried to keep the show realistic and believable…”

Tony Dow says what made ‘Leave It to Beaver’ realistic

In addition, Dow said the show’s realism was what made it an artistic success. “I’m a little biased, as all my other friends who are on other shows are,” he said. “They think their shows are the best. But I really do think ours was special because it was written extremely well. We spent a little more money on it than most, I believe, but it was just more realistic.”

The Leave It to Beaver theme

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Did critics and audiences think the show was special?

The show certainly garnered some critical acclaim in its day. The show was nominated for two Emmys in 1958. One was for Best New Program Series of the Year and the other was for Best Teleplay Writing — Half Hour or Less. It lost the former to The Seven Lively Arts and the latter to Schlitz Playhouse of Stars. While it won neither award, the nominations are proof enough critics liked the show at the time.

In addition, Leave It to Beaver continued as a franchise after its cancellation through The New Leave it to Beaver and a 1990s theatrical film called Leave It to Beaver. The shows Beaver lost to did not become generation-spanning franchises. Realistic or not, Leave It to Beaver resonated with the public.