The lens through which we viewed history and reality growing up in the 1950s included the television series, “Father Knows Best”. Other Fifties TV shows shaping the hearts and minds of America included “The Donna Reed Show” and “Leave it to Beaver”. Of course, the biggest of them all was “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet”.
“Father Knows Best” first appeared on the radio in 1949. Creator, Ed James, shows us an idyllic midwestern family from Springfield – state unnamed. This whole “everyman” living “anywhere”, driving his “sedan” without a brand name, was another hallmark of the bland Fifties.
Later, “The Simpsons” poked fun at this kind of generic setting by also placing Homer and his family in a town called Springfield. Over the years, they tease you into guessing what state they mean, but never give solid clues.
Ideal Fifties Family
At any rate, the wholesome, somewhat sanitized, Anderson family lived their sitcom lives from 1949 to 1954 on the radio. It was later on television from 1954 to 1960 . Dad was an insurance executive played by Robert Young. He was always home in time for dinner, always having time to impart pearls of wisdom to his three dutiful children. Jane Wyatt played Margaret Anderson, a stay at home housewife who made cookies in addition to making sure dinner was ready on time.
The three kids were Betty, Bud, and Kathy (“Kitten”), played by Elinor Donahue, Billy Gray, and Lauren Chapin. None of the children had serious life problems – certainly nothing that couldn’t be solved by father in the course of a hilarious half-hour episode.
Creative Control and the Show’s End
By the time the series found its way to TV, Robert Young had acquired a financial interest in the show. Despite this, here are a few reasons why Father Knows Best went off the air in 1960.
The Writer’s Guild of America strike. In 1960, the Writer’s Guild of America went on strike, which halted production on many television shows, including Father Knows Best. The strike lasted for six months, and it caused a lot of financial hardship for the show’s producers.
Robert Young’s decision to leave the show after six seasons. Young was tired of playing the same character for so long, and he wanted to pursue other projects. Later, he played Marcus Welby, M.D., which aired from 1969 to 1976. Young won three Emmy Awards.
The changing demographics of television audiences. In the early 1960s, television audiences were becoming more diverse. “Father Knows Best” appealed to a mostly white, middle-class audience. As the demographics of television audiences changed, the show’s appeal began to decline.
- Year Started: 1954
- Year Ended: 1960
- Origin Of Name: Descriptive
- Location Sales: United States
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Robert Young and Eugene B. Rodney
- Owner While In Use: Lorimar
- Owner Successor: N/A
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: The Simpsons
- Naics Code: 512110
- Location Headquarters: Los Angeles, California USA