Although “Little House on the Prairie” was a true success in its first season, Season 2 placed the entire franchise in jeopardy. So much so, in fact, that one of the most famous television show’s in history almost ended with a paltry 2 seasons.
There’s no doubt that Season 1 of “Little House on the Prairie” was a smash hit. Ratings were consistently high, topping weekly audience counts on a regular basis throughout. The show’s star and driving creative force, Michael Landon, was thrilled, too – as was all of America.
Then came Season 2. Why the exact reasons aren’t clear, IMDb cites that Season 2’s ratings dropped so low that NBC began threatening cancellation outright.
Thankfully, “Little House on the Prairie” performed so well in its inaugural season that the network was willing to give the show another chance. This was in no small part thanks to Michael Landon and his remarkable leadership. As such, NBC moved “Prairie” from Wednesday night to their Monday night primetime slot.
Although it took a while, NBC and Landon’s hopes of attracting a wider audience came true. They did so with the new Monday airing schedule. With it, ratings recovered dramatically in the Season 3.
Remarkably, even after all this, NBC still intended to cancel “Little House on the Prairie” after Season 4. The show’s ratings stayed so high, however, that they couldn’t deny the show a fifth season. From that point on, “Prairie” would remain in the top thirty until it was finally cancelled come 1983.
‘Little House on the Prairie’ Has Michael Landon to Thank for Wild Successes
In addition to saving the show from its Season 2 cancellation, series patriarch Michael Landon would continue to make the classic thrive. He did so through a combination of grit, charisma, and hard work.
In fact, Landon was able to make “Prairie” “the only primetime non-reality series to stay in production during the 1980 actors’ strike,” IMDb cites. He would do so again for the 1981 writers’ strike, too.
How? Both strikes were centered on the treatment of actors and writers by studios. Michael Landon, however, represented NBC network rather than a Hollywood studio. Negotiating deals with both SAG for actors and WGA for writers through NBC, Landon was able to allow the show to continue filming under separate, studio-free contracts.
Meanwhile, actors and writers would continue to boycott studios – but “Little House on the Prairie” was free to continue.
Through it all, Landon would become as synonymous with television as his Charles Ingalls. Both would earn great honors, with his character eventually becoming #4 in TV Guide’s “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time” on June 20, 2004.