Television

A website on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books would be incomplete without at least some mention of the many television adaptations of her work, none of which intended to be faithful to the source material but all of which proved enormously popular.

The popular television series Little House on the Prairie, with Michael Landon as Pa, Karen Grassle as Ma, and Melissa Gilbert as Laura, aired on NBC television for nine years between 1974 and 1983 (the final season was retitled Little House: A New Beginning). It was preceded by a television movie-of-the-week of the same name (30 March 1974). A three-hour retrospective, The Little House Years, aired on 18 November 1979. Three movies-of-the-week aired after the series had ended: Little House: Look Back to Yesterday (12 December 1983), Little House: The Last Farewell (6 February 1984), and Little House: Bless All the Dear Children (17 December 1984). The majority of this series has been rereleased on DVD.

Fifteen years later, CBS aired two movies-of-the-week that purported to tell the “true” story of Laura Ingalls Wilder. With Meredith Monroe as Laura and Richard Thomas (from The Waltons) as Pa, Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder (1999) was followed by Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder Continues (2001). To date, neither movie has been released on DVD.

A new six-hour miniseries, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie, aired as part of ABC-TV’s Wonderful World of Disney beginning 25 March 2005. Filmed in Alberta, the series starred Cameron Bancroft (Charles Ingalls), Erin Cottrell (Caroline Ingalls), Kyle Chavarria (Laura Ingalls), and Danielle Ryan Chuchran (Mary Ingalls). A tie-in edition of Wilder’s novel is now available. Ed Friendly was the executive producer. The miniseries was written by Katie Ford and directed by David L. Cunningham. It was released on two-disc Disney DVD in March 2006.