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Family Values, or, Curse You, Michael Landon!
March 2004

There were some things that I was annoyed that the show didn’t even TRY to approximate or portray correctly. It’s just plain sloppy at times. Take Mr. Edwards singing “Ol’ Dan Tucker.” In the book Little House on the Prairie, he sings it while riding home after helping the Ingallses build their house, and it goes like so:

Ol’ Dan Tucker's a fine old man,
Washed his face in a frying pan,
Combed his hair with a wagon wheel,
Died of toothache in his heel.
Get out the way for ol’ Dan Tucker,
He's too late to get his supper,
Supper's over and dishes washed.
Nothin’ left but a piece of squash.

But in the show, Mr. Edwards sings the last two lines this way:

Supper's over and dinner's cookin',
Ol’ Dan Tucker's just stands there lookin'.

Which makes no sense. Because supper is the meal served AFTER dinner at that time in that part of the country.

But that’s a small thing, considering that the actual CHARACTERS were so grossly misrepresented by the show. I’m not just talking about Pa being a clean-shaven cry-baby. The Real Mary Ingalls, f’instance, was a ladylike goody-two-shoes as a child; the show, though, has her running, playing tag and baseball, smacking Nellie Oleson in the face, screaming and yelling like a banshee bitch from hell at various adults and children, scheming, flirting, and kissing several boys. As a woman, the Real Mary Ingalls played the organ and did beadwork and sewing. The show’s version of Mary? Not even close. The Real Laura Ingalls was quick-tempered, tough, and a tomboy. However, she never would have chased boys (or Almanzo), punched Nellie, talked back to her parents, or shoved apples down her dress to look like boobies; the Real Ma never would have raised her to think such behavior was acceptable. The Real Ma, in fact, was plump and plain, quiet, modest, and pretty restrained. She would no more have led a dissension of town women as an adult than she would have chased young Charles as a girl. The Real Carrie and The Real Laura were very close, but the show pretty much leaves Carrie as a sideline character (which might be because the Greenbush Twins weren’t the greatest actresses, as anyone who’s seen the weird-ass Carrie’s Secret Friend episode can bear witness). Instead of developing any real relationship between the Ingalls sisters, Reverend Landon just kept dragging in more orphans to adopt. And, hey, ML? The Real Pa Ingalls always drank TEA, you loser, not coffee!

Or for instance, how about the clothes? I’m not talking just about the long skirts and blouses that the actresses wore (which are inconsistent with fashion of the 1870s-80s). I mean, there were so many details in the books about the clothes the Ingalls girls wore; the show couldn’t make a nod at biographic and historical accuracy by depicting Laura in her black wedding dress? I guess when they couldn’t even get their CHARACTERS correct, expecting some accurate details about, say, a dress or hat is too much.

I mean, there could be a drinking game for all the stupid and wrong things with Little House on the Prairie! Someone gets preachy? Take a drink! Doc Baker is all barely-suppressed-amused when he diagnoses some hypochondriac, or Nels Oleson makes and under-his-breath slam at Harriet? Take a drink! One of the Ingalls girls says “Like my pa always says” or “Like you always say, Pa”? Take a drink! And if you develop a drinking problem because of this, don’t worry… some farm work’ll take care of that.

Yeah, I know the media considers Michael Landon to be a big hero and a wonderful man and a brave and valiant soul and all that, and I won’t dispute that he obviously had great influence over the actors with whom he worked. But really… I wish he just would’ve left Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House books alone instead of turning an amazing historical children’s epic into freakin’ Pre-Full House Schmaltz-fest.

And you don't have to look so damned self-aggrandizing about it, either!


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