‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star Karen Grassle Says Show Was ‘Designed Not to Be Realistic’

by Taylor Cunningham
(Photo by Fotos International/Getty Images)

Little House on the Prairie was in its prime during major changes in society. The first season of the iconic show aired at the tail end of the Vietnam War. And after the war ended, the country went through a political and cultural “revolution.”

So against that backdrop, Little House on the Prairie seemed unrealistic. Life was and still is rarely as easy as it was for the Ingalls.

But as Karen Grassle pointed out during an interview with John Cowan on his Real Life podcast, that was kind of the point.

With all the ugliness in the world, the series was a wholesome retreat for families. The plot followed innocent problems that were tied up in neat bows.

“When I started in Little House, it was a little bit of a small canvas at first,” Grassle, who played Caroline on the series, said. “Not only was the television screen small, and you had to act within this very small frame, but the shows were designed to not be realistic. So, they dealt with problems, but with a certain tone. In a certain way.”

Grassle even admitted that the show was a bit of a shock for her. Caroline Ingalls lived a completely different lifestyle than her actress did.

“I was a woman who gained her maturity in the sixties,” she shared with Cowan. “We were breaking things wide open, ya know? With the pill, with –all of the sudden- no fear of pregnancy. So, there was the sexual revolution. And, I was in Berkley and there was the Free Speech Movement. That led right into the Vietnam anti-war movement. So, there was a lot going on, ya know?”

Nonetheless, fans across the world loved the simple and seemingly ideal lifestyle the Ingalls shared on the prairie. The series went on to win four Emmys during a nine-season run. And the show is just as popular in syndication four decades later.

The ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Cast was Like a Family

The actors of Little House on the Prairie spent nine seasons working together. Meaning the child stars practically grew up on the frontier set. So if you can imagine, everyone ended up growing close over the years.

“We were very lucky,” Gilbert said. “We were like a second family.” Laura Ingalls actress Melissa Gilbert told Closer Weekly.

Gilbert was particularly close with Alison Arngrim, who played Nellie Oleson on the show.

“I used to say they tried to take our childhoods, but Melissa and I kept stealing them back,” Angrin added. “We were always doing crazy things, pranking people and carrying on. We liked to go out in public, get recognized, and freak people out.”

And those pranks ended up becoming a regular occurrence. Even Michael Landon got in on the fun.

“We used to catch frogs in the creek,” Carrie actresses Rachel Lindsay Greenbush said. “We would bring them back to Michael. He would put them in his mouth, walk up to people, open his mouth and the frog would jump out! People would freak out!”