Leave it to Beaver

 

The landmark case of Parents v. Kids has been argued onscreen in dozens of television series since the 1950’s. One classic of the type is nearly as old as television. Leave it to Beaver began in 1957 and ran for six seasons. The family situations are viewed today as nostalgic, wholesome, middle-class stories of a better time in American society… or the portrait of an idealized culture that never really existed where virtually no one was poor, divorced or ethnic.

For me, watching in the present day, it’s all of the above. Nice stories of emotional and ethical issues and decent parenting with small doses of patriarchy and benign corporate capitalism.

I give Ward and June, the fictional parents (and the writers behind them), a lot of credit. They talk through things with each other and the boys and will admit when they’re wrong. This dialogue from Episode 65 “The Price of Fame” illustrates that, and the entire series’ universal message from parents to kids:

BEAVER:  I’m sorry, Dad.
WARD:  No, Beaver, I’m sorry. I should never say anything to you that would make you afraid to come to me when you’re in trouble.
BEAVER:  Gee, Dad, you don’t mind me getting in messes like this?
WARD:  Well, I don’t want you getting into trouble, but when you do, I want you to feel your parents are the first ones to come to.
JUNE:  That’s right, Beaver.

(Episode teleplay by Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher; story by Dick Conway and Roland MacLane.)

The Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library carries all six seasons of Leave it to Beaver on DVD (I know, because I watched them all, in order). The library also has the 1998 theatrical film based on the series, in which several characters from the original run have cameos.

There was a reunion movie (Still the Beaver) in 1983, followed by a series (The New Leave it to Beaver). That movie and series are not available on DVD; those properties seem to be in legal limbo.

Wikipedia has credible articles on the show and sources for more information.

The library has many DVD sets of television shows from the 1950s to today. Host a marathon of your favorite childhood series, maybe The Six Million Dollar Man. Catch up on current shows like Mad Men and Fringe. You can’t watch enough (for us).

Matt Pettit

Matt is a Public Service Specialist for the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library. His areas of responsibility include outreach library services to nursing homes, senior, retirement and congregate living centers; service to homebound library users; the Kansas Talking Books service; Book Group in a Bag program and the history and sports neighborhoods of the library’s nonfiction collection. With a background in public administration, conflict resolution and aging, Matt works on civic engagement and civil discourse issues for the library and serves on the advisory board of the Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging.

  • Dave Coleman

    Matt, I’m old enough to remember when the series 1st aired. It was must see TV. I can only remember one or two episode when there was a family who wasnt cut out of the same socio economic cloth. When the trash man kids came to play with the boys and the one where Edgar Buchanon played a handy man who drank a little of Wards Chriastmas booze. And of course we all wanted kindly Miss Landers as our teacher but usually ended up with a taskmaster like Mrs. Rayburn…

  • Matt Pettit

    Mrs. Rayburn and her “spanking machine”! The quest to see that machine is what originally got Beaver into trouble in Episode 65 that I quoted above. Thanks again, Larry Mondello!