‘Leave It To Beaver’: The Classic Series At First Had an Entirely Different Name and Cast

The cast of 'Leave It to Beaver'
The cast of ‘Leave It to Beaver’ | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

It’s hard to imagine Leave It to Beaver, or any beloved television series, by any other name but according to the Beaver himself, actor Jerry Mathers, the show originally went by a completely different title.

And, the actor said, the cast was also not the same as the set of actors that viewers came to know. Mathers explained it all.

The writers who made ‘Leave It to Beaver’ a hit

Promotional studio portrait of actors Tony Dow (L) and Jerry Mathers from the television series, 'Leave It to Beaver,' circa 1957
Tony Dow (L) and Jerry Mathers from the television series, ‘Leave It to Beaver,’ circa 1957 | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher were the writers on the family series that debuted on ABC from 1958 to 1963. The pair had written for the wildly popular radio comedy Amos ‘n’ Andy for decades in the years leading up to Beaver. Ultimately, they would in 1964 go on to also write for another family-centered show, The Munsters.

Mathers explained to the Archive of American Television how the writing duo came up with ideas for Leave It to Beaver.

“Because they both had large families, they decided to write a show about children and the world seen through the eyes of a child,” he said. “Mr. Connelly had a little book and he would write down things that happened to him [as a child], of things that happened to his friends. When he got older, he wrote about his kids.”

The show’s writers drew from real life

Hugh Beaumont, Jerry Mathers, Tony Dow, and Barbara Billingsley from 'Leave It to Beaver'
Hugh Beaumont, Jerry Mathers, Tony Dow, and Barbara Billingsley from ‘Leave It to Beaver’ | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

With so many kids of their own between their two families, Connelly and Mosher had an abundance of material to work with for script ideas.

“All of the original Leave It to Beaver [episodes] come from real life,” Mathers said. “Now, I’m not saying that each episode is one thing that happened to a child, because [the writers] would take them, and embellish them, and add different things.

“But the core of each episode is from real life and they really did happen to a child.”

The series’ original name

Surprisingly, the series’ first title wasn’t focused on the Beaver at all. It took the show’s producers some thinking to get to a series name that made the most sense.

“I went in and it was another pilot, it was just another week of shooting,” Mathers continued. “So I remember getting the script and we went in and we did it. The original name was not Leave It to Beaver. It was called It’s A Small World.”

Jerry Mathers, left, with Tony Dow on 'Leave It to Beaver', 1961
Jerry Mathers, left, with Tony Dow on ‘Leave It to Beaver’, 1961 | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

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Obviously, the show’s producers didn’t settle on It’s A Small World and kept thinking of names that would focused on the young cast.

“And so, I went in, did the pilot. It was a totally different cast except for Barbara Billingsley and myself. When we came back to do the actual show, the next name they came up with was Wally Beaver and they thought that sounded too much like Wild Kingdom or some animal show. I don’t know where they came up with Leave It to Beaver,” Mathers admitted.

“I one time looked it up just out of curiosity, to see if there had been any other show [by that name]. And there was a Blondie movie with Blondie and Dagwood called Leave It to Blondie. It took a long time for [Leave It to Beaver] to sell.”

Clearly, Beaver did eventually sell, and settled into the ABC prime-time lineup for several years.