Of course, all of the episodes are hate-able for one reason
or another because of the Typical Little House Conventions.
The "Turn and Run Away" Thing
In every episode, without fail, someone will
turn and run away. There are varying degrees of the Turn and
Run Away motif. Usually, this will occur when someone hears
dastardly and disturbing news. For instance, Laura overhears
Pa telling Mary that she’s going blind. After Pa breaks the
news and Mary freaks out, Pa then sees Laura, who’s inadvertently
eavesdropped. And Laura’s reaction to the news is to turn
and run away, braids flying, because it’s sooooo TRAUMATIC….
Sometimes someone will TRA because they’re embarrassed (like
when Laura sticks apples down the front of her dress, and
is called to the blackboard, and her left apple falls and
everyone in the class starts laughing at her, and Miss Beadle
says “Laura don’t you have to go to the outhouse?” and Laura
gasps “Yes Ma’am I sure do!” and turns and runs away), or
because they’ve just finished a Big Speech (like Fat Elmer,
who reads his essay on friendship that ends with “and that’s
why I’m leaving school” because everyone’s been mean to him,
and then rushes away… or waddles, really, because the poor
chubby kid playing Elmer is dressing in a padded Fat Suit
that looks like three down comforters stuffed in his shirt).
The actual Turning and Running Away has varying degrees as
well. There’s the standard run-for-the-hills TRA. But if the
news is a little more disturbing, the TRA-er may claw at the
air as s/he runs, or zig-zag frantically back and forth across
said hill. The build-up and follow-through is important to
TRAing as well. For instance, you KNOW it’s bad if, before
TRAing, Laura (or whoever) shakes her head repeatedly and
whispers “No… no… no” before running away. And if afterwards,
someone is left behind screaming the person’s name plaintively
(“Laura! Lauraaaaaa!” “Gideoooooon!” “Joseph! Come back here!
Joseeeeeph!” “Anna, wait, don’t go! Anna!”), that only adds
to the all-over poignancy.
Prolly the worst TRAer in Walnut Grove is Albert. After causing
the fire at the Blind School that killed Mary’s baby, finally
admits his guilt, and starts screaming hysterically, “I didn’t
mean it! I didn’t mean it! I didn’t! Aaaaargh!” before Turning
and Running Away, and then with the whole Sylvia-who-was-raped-by-a-clown
episode, when Doc Baker announces Sylvia’s pregnant and asks
Albert “Did you and she-” Albert interrupts, “No! No! I never-
I never- Aaaaargh!” before turning and running away. (“Albert!
In a sidebar note, Nellie’s weird arms-down-as-if-preventing-her-petticoats-and-skirts-from-flying-up
run does not qualify as TRAing. And, gads, I still wish I
had a video of Sugarbear back in the day doing his impersonation
of The Nellie Run…!
Pa the Town Crier
NO ONE on the prairie cries more than Pa. This bugs for a
number of reasons. First of all, Charles Ingalls – the REAL
Charles Ingalls – was a hardy, tough frontiersman. Hell, most
PEOPLE didn’t just well up with tears back then; it was considered
beyond inappropriate for adults to show their emotions like
that. So it’s highly unlikely that Charles Ingalls would have
been openly bawling about his daughter going blind or son
dying or any of the Big Stuff, much less the everyday “Love
ya!” stuff that got Michael Landon blinking and snurfling.
Sheesh. I’m all for men being sensitive and all that, but
still. Suck it up once and awhile, Pa!
Pa the Tough Guy
I suppose this was to balance out the Sensitive Pa, but Chuck
had a kick-ass side, too. Let someone make a risqué comment
about his wife or his daughter (“That’s a real purty blind
girl you got, Ingalls. Real purty”) and, Christian Soldier
though he was, he had no qualms about punching people… usually
with a blasé I’m-just-gonna-walk-away fake-out before swinging.
And, since it fits in with the whole Tough Guy image, Cyndi
once pointed out to me how disturbingly often Pa runs around
without his shirt, shaved chest on display for all. (Cyn,
of course, would know about shaved chests on display.)
Sentences = Extra Meaningful!
At particularly heart-rending climactic moments, a character
will usually repeat a sentence twice, sometimes with slight
variation, you know, to really bring it on home. For instance,
Charles makes little gimpy Olga (after she had Escaped from Witch Mountain,
I guess) a pair of shoes with a lift in one sole, so that
Olga no longer limps and can play ball with the other children.
Her father is pissed at Chuck for interfering until Olga tearfully
beseeches, “Watch me play, Papa. Watch me play!” (And five
minutes before, when Pa has presented Olga with her shoe,
Half-Pint gushes, “It’s a miracle, Pa. That’s what it is.
It’s a miracle!”) Or when the Ingalls girls and Andy Garvey
are trapped in the barn by a pack of wolves, Andy blubbers
that “The mama wolf saved our lives! The mama wolf saved our
lives!” Or when the violent drunk kid who Charles saves is
all screaming at his dead violent drunk father, “I hate you,
Pa! I hate you! I hate you!” and then, upon breaking down,
changes to sobbing “I love you. I love you, Pa! I love you!”
Or after Mrs. Garvey dies in the blind school fire with Mary’s
baby, Mr. Garvey, when asked about the burial, says something
like, “Get her something pretty. She liked pretty things.
Get her something pretty.” (Like an FTD bouquet, maybe? Haw! That reminds
me of an FTD radio commercial that used to air all the time
back in the early 80s that started: “I’m Merlin Olson, and
I’m holding something very beautiful.” I’ll just bet you are.)
After a while, the dialogue on the show starts to sound like
a first-grade textbook. No one really talks like that, Readers.
No one really talks like that.
Onward, Christian Soldiers
Invariably, any time there is a church-related episode, the
congregation will sing “Onward Christian Soldier”… usually
at the end, with a triumphant fanfare of music accompanying
it. Either that or “Bringing in the Sheaves.”
It Doesn’t Just Rain…
No, it pours in Walnut Grove (or Mankato or wherever). Notice
ever time there is a rain shower on an episode, it’s like
the special effects person got confused and thought it meant
a SHOWER shower type of shower. Full-on deluge, just as if
one was standing under the shower in his/her own bathroom.
I guess it’s better than bathing in the creek or something….
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