The famous finale of Little House on the Prairie is one of the most unforgettable endings in TV history. Walnut Grove going sky high is imprinted in American TV psyche, even today.
The prospect of turning one of America’s beloved on-screen location into rubble is obviously bold. But the reasoning behind the finale is as equally stark, as Michael Landon wanted to go out his own way.
The cancellation of the legendary program was devastating to Landon. Running for nearly 10 years and touching millions with its story and family values, it wasn’t just an emotional end for fans, it was equally hard on the cast.
In 2001, Caroline Ingalls actor Karen Grassle was interviewed about her time on the show. Talking to zunshine.com, she eventually got to the topic of the final “episode,” which was a 100-minute TV movie.
“It was not a happy atmosphere,” Grassle said. “We were all glad to see each other, but there was something frantic and frenetic about the plot, and the whole idea of blowing Walnut Grove all sky-high. I had the feeling that Mike had to do it, so that it would be over, for the network must have been offering him lots of money for yearly or bi-annual movies of Little House.”
If Little House on the Prairie was coming to an end, it was going to go down the way the crew saw fit.
Michael Landon Was Upset About Cancellation of ‘Little House on the Prairie’
In her book, Prairie Tale, actor Melissa Gilbert wrote on Landon’s reaction to the cancellation. This is what prompted the premise of the town of Walnut Grove blowing up the town.
After being told that a tycoon had purchased the entire area, the town destroys pretty much every building. While a symbolism of freedom and vengeance, it went deeper for the cast than it did for many fans.
Gilbert wrote about Landon’s storytelling choice:
“TV and movie sets tend to get recycled over time, and none of us wanted to see Oleson’s Mercantile being used in some other production and have other people tromping through places where many of us had grown up.”
In the same vein as Walnut Grove and the tycoon, Landon wasn’t letting his hard work belong to someone else. Cut to every building, save for the town church, being blown to smithereens.
Goodbyes are never easy. But Landon and the cast of Little House on the Prairie can say they did it on their terms.