‘Leave It to Beaver’ Star Tony Dow Explains the ‘Genius’ of Show

by Jennifer Shea
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Leave It to Beaver star Tony Dow spent years trying to outrun his role on the hit sitcom. But over time, he’s come to appreciate the show and all it meant to viewers.

“The genius of Leave It to Beaver was that the show was written from a child’s point of view,” Dow told CBS Sunday Morning in a recent interview.

That insight came after years of trying to shed his former role and wrestling with anger and depression over the typecasting that followed Leave It to Beaver. Dow has since acted in other roles, but nothing approaching the reach of that hit sitcom.

“At 40, I realized how great the show was, how appreciative I should be for being on that show,” Dow explained.

Watch the full interview here:

After Leave It to Beaver, Tony Dow Battled Depression

After the show, Dow grew angry at how the role came to define him as a person, and he rebelled against its perceived constrictions. He also started to struggle with the first symptoms of clinical depression, which he would ultimately triumph over later in life.

“I thought, ‘This isn’t fair,’” Dow told CBS. “You know? I mean, I’d like to do some other stuff. I’d like to do some interesting stuff. You know, it’s sad to be famous at 12 years old or something, and then you grow up and become a real person, and nothing’s happening to you.”

Now, years after his first battles with depression in his twenties, Dow can speak about the subject knowledgeably and having emerged out onto the other side of that fight.

“I was crotchety and grumpy and became more and more irritable, and had a poor attitude toward things,” Dow told the Baltimore Sun in 1993. “One day I couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t go to work, couldn’t do anything. There’s this kind of self-absorbing feeling of worthlessness, of hopelessness. It’s like a spiral. The more you think about it, the worse it gets.”

While Dow doesn’t blame Leave It to Beaver for his depression, he does think the lull after doing that show contributed to his depressive feelings. And he believes being a celebrity makes it harder to get help for what is essentially a physical imbalance.

“I’d say inheritance had more to do with it than acting,” Dow said. “It was an illness prevalent on my mother’s side of the family. But certainly ‘Leave It to Beaver’ had something to do with it. Certainly it had something to do with raising one’s expectations and establishing a certain criteria that you would expect to continue in life.”

Cast’s Reunion on The New Leave It to Beaver Was ‘Terrific’

But by the 1990s, Tony Dow had gotten help for his depression and was on the mend. And he reunited with his fellow cast members, except Hugh Beaumont, who died in 1982, for The New Leave It to Beaver.

“Once we sat down and had the script in front of us and started reading, it was almost as if the period in between didn’t exist,” Dow told the Sun. “It was really a strange feeling. It was also a terrific experience. I guess everybody had been in the business so long, there weren’t a lot of your normal ego problems.”

Today Dow is an accomplished artist. He still acts occasionally, and he lives happily ever after in the hills outside Los Angeles with his wife and dog.

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