Creating the 1950s family favorite, “Leave It To Beaver,” for audiences didn’t come without a price.
Beaver actor Jerry Mathers once revealed which episode came with the highest price tag.
While the show had no modern-day special effects, nor did it pay its actors an exuberant rate, one episode created a pretty high bill in during its fourth season.
According to Mathers, ‘In the Soup’ is the most expensive episode made.
“In fact, because it was so expensive, for the next probably three or four episodes, we could only use the ensemble cast because it was budgeted at, I believe, $58,000, which was an incredible amount of money for a show at that time,” he said.
Mathers Reveals ‘Leave It To Beaver’s’ Most Expensive Episode
Mathers is right: $58,000 in 1961 (adjusted for inflation) is equal to over half a million dollars in 2021.
“They not only had to build a billboard outside but a billboard inside, a full-size billboard inside to do close-ups on,” he noted of the extra expense.
On discussing the episode, Mathers gave some insight. “The show,” Mathers explained, “is about a soup bowl. In Times Square at the time, they had a smoking advertisement, I believe it was for Winstons or Camels.”
The producers wanted to incorporate a billboard with smoke blowing out of it. However, they didn’t want the episode to focus on smoking cigarettes.
“Well, [the show] decided, ‘Wouldn’t that be an interesting thing to do a show about?’ So they didn’t want to use cigarettes, so they thought, ‘Oh, we’ll use a thing of soup.’
So Beaver and Whitey are looking up at it and Whitey says, “Do you think that’s real steam and real soup in that bowl upon the billboard?’ And Beaver goes, ‘I don’t know.'”
In the episode, Whitey talks Beaver into checking the steaming bowl of soup out for himself to see if it’s real, and of course, it’s hilarious.
“So Beaver starts to climb the billboard and gets up and the soup is in a saucer. And he puts his hand up on the rim of the bowl that the soup’s on. One of the famous lines is, ‘Just put your foot on the lady’s thumb!'”
As Beaver investigates the bowl, he eventually falls in and gets stuck, and someone has to call in the local fire department.
“It’s just a terrible mess,” Mathers said. “It’s one of the [episodes] that people remember the most.”