‘Little House on the Prairie’: Why 1 Star Once Said the Show ‘Would Never Make It Now’

Laura Ingalls Wilder created a popular children’s books series called Little House on the Prairie in the 1930s and 1940s. Decades later, Michael Landon started a TV show of the same name. The series first aired on NBC in 1974. Soon after its premiere, the series made actors like Melissa Gilbert, Alison Arngrim, and Karen Grassle household names. 

In 2010, one Little House on the Prairie star spoke about the show’s legacy. According to them, the series would’ve gotten canceled if it premiered in a different era.

Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls, Patrick Labyorteaux as Andrew'Andy' Garvey , Lindsay or Sydney Greenbush as Carrie Ingalls, Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls
Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls, Patrick Labyorteaux as Andrew’Andy’ Garvey , Lindsay or Sydney Greenbush as Carrie Ingalls, Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls|Ted Shepherd/NBCU Photo Bank

The inspiration behind ‘Little House on the Prairie’ 

Little House on the Prairie followed Wilder and her family in Kansas. The books are written from Wilder’s perspective and showed how life was in the rural 1800s. The book series grew in popularity throughout the years, and many children enjoyed reading a new installment. 

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In the 1970s, Landon discovered the Little House on the Prairie book series for the first time. According to encyclopedia.com, Landon needed to find his latest project after Bonanza. After his eldest daughter, Cheryl, was in a severe car accident, Landon vowed to do “something useful” if his child survived. 

After Cheryl got better, Landon continued to look for his next idea. While at home, he noticed that his daughter, Leslie, was reading a Little House book. His ex-wife, Lynn Noe, also enjoyed the series. 

“I came home and found my 12-year-old daughter devouring the Laura Ingalls Wilder books,” he explained. “Then I discovered that my wife had devoured them too when she was a girl and was reading them again. So I went to NBC and told them Little House was it.”

Melissa Sue Anderson once said this about ‘Little House on the Prairie’

Once Landon pitched Little House on the Prairie to NBC, it was time to select the cast. In addition to casting Laura, the network needed actors to play her two sisters. One of the show’s earlier decisions was Melissa Sue Anderson. Early into the series, Landon selected Anderson as the eldest Ingalls daughter, Mary. The role earned Anderson an Emmy nomination for Lead Actress in a Drama Series. 

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In 2010, Anderson sat down with Hollywood Chicago to promote her memoir, The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House. During the interview, Anderson explained why she felt the show wouldn’t work in the age of cell phones and social media. Anderson said the pace of Little House on the Prairie wouldn’t fare with modern TV watchers. 

Little House would never make it now; it was too slow,” Anderson said. “That is something about the times that are different as well. I think our show was a quieter and more slowly paced drama, and I don’t know if people would sit through it now.” 

Melissa Sue Anderson said that ‘Little House on the Prairie’ needs Michael Landon

Anderson left Little House on the Prairie in 1981. Two years later, the show aired its final episode. However, fans have kept the show alive through syndication and streaming. Entertainment Weekly announced that a reboot is in the works. 

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While she didn’t discuss a reboot of the series, Anderson admitted that Little House on the Prairie needs Landon’s influence. She said Landon’s input made the series successful for nine years. The Highway to Heaven star died of pancreatic cancer in 1991. 

“We’d never have a chance to find an audience with such a show,” Anderson said. “The business now would never give us a chance. And, of course, there is no Mike Landon. And that show would never have sold if it wasn’t for Mike Landon.”