The beauty of Leave it to Beaver is the appeal. You couldn’t define it as a series for kids. Or even for adults. It was an engaging mix of life in suburbia.
That’s all according to Jerry Mathers, who played Beaver. Mathers and other members of the cast talked about what made the show so beloved during an interview in 2010.
“All the episodes are from real life,” Mathers said. “Those things really happened to kids. (Show creator) Joe Connelly actually kept a diary when he was in his teens and wrote things down about what happened to him.”
And, Mathers said writers kept the series intentionally broad. Show creators didn’t target a specific demographic. Rather, Mathers said creators made the show interesting for every family member.
Jerry Mathers Said Leave it to Beaver Never Targeted a Specific Demographic
“When you were a child you can relate a lot more to the Beaver,” Mathers said. “When you are a teen, you can relate more to Wally and as an adult, June and Ward’s position seem a lot easier to understand.”
Joe Connelly modeled Leave it to Beaver after two of his own kids. The former Merchant Marine was the father of seven. Connelly’s son Ricky inspired Beaver, who he named after one of his shipmates. Beaver’s brother Wally was modeled after Ricky Connelly’s brother, Jay. Joe Connelly maintained a diary about his own kids.
He and co-creator Bob Mosher were responsible for a number of terrific TV shows. They also developed The Munsters, which, at its heart, was about family, albeit one with monsters.
Although Set in 50s, 60s, Show Still Rings True
Mathers also spoke about how Leave it to Beaver was timeless. You could drop the show from the 1950s into any other decade and it rings true.
“Leave It to Beaver is about everyday life situations,” Mathers said in 2013. It’s about family and kids growing up. Yes, times have changed. Today’s family life is [at] a faster pace than in the 1950s, but kids today have many of the same life concerns such as… the first day of school, learning discipline, the first dance, saving money, and other ups and downs of life.”
Arthur Smith, a curator for the Paley Center for Media in New York, said the show did offer a fresh perspective. He said Leave it to Beaver was one of the first shows to offer a glimpse of life from the viewpoint of the kids.
“I think there are some unusual things about the show,” Smith said. “What is the most striking characteristic is the way the show takes the point of view of the children. It’s really seen through their eyes, as opposed to the more traditional shows, where it was all about the parents dealing with the silly stuff the kids would get up to. I really think Leave It to Beaver took an empathetic look at childhood. They kind of had a focus on very naturalistic, low-key kind of humor as opposed to stock comic situations.”
Leave it to Beaver ran from 1957-63. The show was revived in the 1980s with a reunion movie and a series. The show never cracked the nation’s top 30 in the ratings. But it keeps finding new audiences through syndication. And, as Mathers said, the show appeals to everyone. And, it stars fresh through the decades.