‘Leave It to Beaver’ Was Responsible for Bringing the Series Finale to Sitcoms

by Alex Falls

Leave it to Beaver holds a special place in the hearts of classic TV fans. For more than 200 episodes, the Cleaver family helped viewers learn valuable lessons and made everyone laugh along the way. But the influence of the show on sitcoms in general goes deeper than you might think. The show actually normalized the series finale when it comes to TV sitcoms.

Finishing the story was never much of a concern on TV in the 1950s. As odd as it is to say, neither show creators nor the viewing audience at the time were ever interested in seeing one.

In those days, episodic television resembled more of a collection of short stories rather than the complete narrative we’re used to now. Overarching plotlines were for films or novels. Not TV. Why was that? Well, people just didn’t view television as an art form. TV episodes were made for light amusement. Anxiety-inducing cliffhangers were nowhere to be seen. When episodes ended, the characters all went home and went on with their normal lives.

Whatever the final episode was before the show’s creators decided to wrap things up became the finale. Even the revolutionary sitcom I Love Lucy ended with nothing more than another hilarious encounter like the other episodes.

Leave it to Beaver Changed TV Finales For Good

Leave It to Beaver changed all of that. It was the first primetime sitcom of its kind to end on a definitive note with a true series finale. The show was also the first to revolve around children as the main characters. Other shows had kids, but Leave it to Beaver was the first to be specifically about the kids. It’s a coming-of-age story about Beaver and his brother Wally.

The show needed closure. The boys were moving on to the next phase of their lives. Childhood was over, and Leave it to Beaver needed to mark the end of that chapter appropriately. The show ended on what would become another trope in the TV world: a clip show. The Cleavers look through an old book of photos and turn the pages through their lives up to that point. Now, the clip show is a cliche. But at the time, the technique underlined just how much the actors grew right in front of our eyes.

Decades later, sitcoms like Full HouseHome Improvement, and even Seinfeld utilized clip shows for their finales. It all started with Leave it to Beaver.

Wally Actor Passes Away

Fans of the show learned the sad news this week that Wally Cleaver actor Tony Dow passed away. The news came after a whirlwind day of conflicting reports regarding his death. But his passing was officially confirmed on Wednesday. He had been battling liver cancer for several years.

Fans who are interested in honoring Dow’s work on the show will be interested to know MeTV will air a Leave it to Beaver marathon of Wally’s most memorable episodes.