‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star Dean Butler Revealed His 3 Favorite Episodes

Dean Butler was recruited to play Almanzo Wilder in season 6 of Little House on the Prairie. Taking on the significant role of Laura Ingalls’ (Melissa Gilbert) love interest, Butler recalled some memorable episodes that rank at the top of his list of favorites.

'Little House on the Prairie stars (l-r) Victor French, Melissa Gilbert, and Dean Butler
‘Little House on the Prairie stars (l-r) Victor French, Melissa Gilbert, and Dean Butler | NBCU Photo Bank

‘Sweet Sixteen’ was a ‘turning point’ for Melissa Gilbert

In a conversation with the Genesee Country Village & Museum, Butler was asked what episodes during his time on Little House were of particular significance to him. The actor immediately named Sweet Sixteen from season 6, where Laura shares her first kiss with Almanzo and gave viewers a new perception of “Half-Pint” as all grown up.

“The first is a romantic one – the one that really gave us the Almanzo character,” Butler explained. “It’s the ‘Sweet Sixteen’ episode, which is based on [the book] These Happy Golden Years, where Laura becomes a school teacher and Almanzo starts to see her differently, and they fall in love. That episode was played multiple times the first season that it ran which is unheard of. It was a real evolution point for the series and a real turning point for her.”

Executive producer and star Michael Landon played Laura’s father, Charles, on Little House and began to move the spotlight from himself to the young couple.

“It also really marked the beginning of Michael Landon’s exit as an actor,” Butler remarked. “When a show is about a father’s love for his family, and the little girl grows up and falls in love, there is no more sitting in Pa’s lap and telling him about school that day. There is no going back.”

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‘Days of Sunshine, Days of Shadow’ and ‘The Nephews’ make the list of ‘Little House’ favorites

The two-part episode “Days of Sunshine, Days of Shadow” in season 8 featured Laura and Almanzo’s newlywed years which were riddled with obstacles. Almanzo suffers from diphtheria and a stroke that render him bedridden while Laura is pregnant with their first child. Butler saw the meaty storyline as a great opportunity to stretch his acting wings.

“The next episode is ‘Sunshine and Shadows’ which is really the book The First Four Years made into two episodes for TV,” Butler said. “Laura and Almanzo did not have an easy time of it when they first married, and faced so many difficult things together. As an actor, it was great being able to play that out.”

Butler’s third pick leaned toward comedy, with Woody Eney (Royal Wilder), Ham Larsen (Myron Wilder), and Rossie Harris (Rupert Wilder) guest starring on the season 7 episode.

“My third favorite episode has a comedic twist,” the Little House alum stated. “It’s called ‘The Nephews’ and is about Royal, Amanzo’s brother’s boys, coming to visit and they are just terrors. It was the kind of comedy that Michael [Landon] was so good at writing. Those boys had Almanzo’s number and there was a lot of upset and hijinks. It was really fun to play and watch!”

‘Little House’ series brought hope

Based on the series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie quickly became a hit on NBC and still resonates with fans today. Butler praised the author for sharing her stories of strength that continue to bring inspiration.

“What Laura Ingalls Wilder was able to do was spin her families tragedies in a way that leaves you hopeful that tomorrow could be a better day,” the former Little House star said. “They never quit. … Today we have so much coming at us, that the the simplicity of that life, the grounding of it, makes you feel like it’s going to be ok.”

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