‘Little House on the Prairie’: How One Producer Tried to Ruin the Show

by Matthew Wilson

“Little House on the Prairie” became a television classic. But one of the show’s producers tried to ruin it before the show even made it to air. Back in the show’s early days, Michael Landon and producer Ed Friendly got in a feud with each other.

Both had different ideas for how they wanted to adapt Laura Ingalls’ books. And when Friendly didn’t get his way, he resorted to trying to sabotage the show. Landon discussed those difficult early days and how his work relationship with Friendly deteriorated while filming the pilot. Landon listed the producer as one of a few people he disagreed with in his career.

“I’ve had problems with only a couple of people in my life. Ed Friendly was one,” Landon once said, according to Country Rebel. Both Friendly and Landon worked together on the first episode of the series. The producer had been the financer behind the show’s pilot, bringing the Ingalls to TV. But Friendly ultimately got the boot after he tried to stop the show from happening.

What did Landon and Friendly disagree about? Well, Friendly had a more stereotypical idea of poverty. He literally wanted to portray in the Ingalls in rags. According to Unit Production Manager Kent McCray, Friendly didn’t want the kids to wear shoes to school. And he thought they should look dirty, covered in grime. Landon disagreed with this vision and refused to cooperate.

Michael Landon Gives an Ultimatum

After things got worse with Friendly, Landon gave NBC an ultimatum. They could either remove Friendly from the show or Landon was going to walk from the project. Rather than lose their lead actor and the fame he brought with him, NBC chose to let Friendly go. They moved him from the show to another studio instead.

Despite being removed, Friendly’s name remained on “Little House on the Prairie” as a producer. As a result, he received close to $40 million during the show’s run. Not a bad chunk of change considering that Friendly had nothing to do with the final project. Landon confessed at the time that he felt slightly angry that Friendly still received credit and monetary gain for the show.

But ultimately Landon received the creative control that he sought. The actor led the show to be one of the most successful of his career.

“I have a thing about control,” said Landon. “The only times in my life when I was unhappy is when I didn’t have it. I like to have it.”