The TV show Little House on the Prairie was based on the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, but star Melissa Gilbert admitted that, towards the end of the series, they recycled some of the material.
Melissa Gilbert said some ‘dramatic license’ was used on the series
During a 2011 interview with the Television Academy Foundation, Gilbert was asked, “How closely did the Little House TV series reflect the storylines” from the books. While “the major milestones in the books were definitely followed — the marriages, the deaths, the births, major characters,” she said that there were some elements not in the books.
“But at some point, I think the producers had to use a little dramatic license and they brought in a lot of characters that didn’t really exist in the books or in the real story,” she shared.
Gilbert added, “But the heart of what the books were about — family and community and love and truth and faith — was all still there.”
Melissa Gilbert reflected on when Michael Landon became ‘disillusioned’ about the show
During the interview, Gilbert shared the moment when Michael Landon seemed to become “disillusioned” with Little House on the Prairie.
She discussed how their relationship on the show evolved over time. “My relationship with Michael Landon when we started the show was really close. The sun rose and set by him,” she explained. “His approval was just completely validating and exciting. I never really was on the receiving end of his scorn, certainly not in the beginning.”
She recalled only getting in trouble when she didn’t know her lines for a scene and he took the time to help her learn them, telling her “That’s never going to happen again, is it?”
Their relationship did change, she shared. “I think he became disillusioned with the series at the same time that his life started to take some turns. His marriage fell apart, he left his wife for one of the women who worked on the crew of Little House,” Gilbert shared.
She continued, “For me, it was particularly difficult because we were friends socially … and my mom was very close with his wife at that time, Lynn.”
“I think he became disillusioned with the show, I think he became disillusioned with so much — was ready to start this life over again,” the actor noted.
“He really pulled away from all of us and that’s when the show changed. This was much later on and that’s ultimately when he left as an actor and they were ready to sort of do an overhaul on the show anyway ,” she said. “And that’s when it became Little House: A New Beginning.”
The show jumped the shark
Gilbert admitted that the stories on the show got pretty played out at that point in the series. “By that time we were rehashing old stories and just new faces,” she said. “We brought in the new Laura with Shannen Doherty with the pigtails and then there was a new Nellie … we jumped so many sharks at that point.”
“We jumped like 12 sharks in one episode. When we had the tornado, the diptheria, gave birth to the baby, Almanzo had a stroke, taught himself how to walk, and we rebuilt our house … what? In one episode,” Gilbert said.
“That’s a lot of drama,” she added. “It got kind of silly towards the end.”
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