We’re not thinking sheer nostalgia here, but life-sustaining and affirming values. Values that are by definition timeless.
All these years later Little House on the Prairie remains an astonishing and still-loved monument in television, packing more drama in one hour than most full length movies do in our time. This was undoubtedly because of the profound vision of Michael Landon, actor, a writer, director —and, of course, the superb gifts of the other beloved actors.
Almost every show had one essential theme: Faith, family and hope, not through sentimentalism, but through real life struggles: financial, sickness, bad luck, weather catastrophes, accidents, the most difficult work.
If I had to recommend one episode that sums up the hard but beautiful values found on Little House, in practically every episode, it would be A Harvest of Friends.
The Ingalls family settles on the banks of Plum Creek near Walnut Grove, Minnesota. Charles Ingalls has mouths to feed and takes on the hard work of unloading a huge number of sacks of grain (I think it was). No easy chore for one man. But to make matters worse he is exploited by a rather sadistic boss who puts a deadline on the work, making Charles keep the deal or surrender the animal team without which Charles could not farm.
Then a catastrophe hits. Charles is frollicking with family, climbs a tree, but falls to the ground, agonizingly breaking several ribs! Now how would he meet the cruel deadline? He must load the sacks of grain high even with broken ribs.
I won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen it, or who forget. But Little House on the Prarie is no Pollyanna fare. It is, rather, an astonishing achievement that helps inspire us all in our own life struggles. It is more relevant today than ever.
(The entire 9 season series can be purchased at Amazon.com where the episode can be watched too.)