Is it Michael Landon? Or another cast member? Every Little House on the Prairie fan will have a guess for this one – so which actor is in the most episodes?
Right off the bat, Michael Landon feels the safest guess. While the entertainment mogul was often behind the camera as much as he was in front of it, his presence came to dominate the Prairie franchise. There has never been, after all, another actor quite like him. But did he appear in the most episodes of Little House on the Prairie? Does “Pa” Charles Ingalls dominate the show as much as he does fan’s memories?
In short: no, he does not!
For starters, IMDb lists 204 episodes of Little House on the Prairie total over its historic decade-long, 9 season run. As Charles Ingalls, Michael Landon appeared in 186 of these 204 episodes. Nothing to balk at, to be sure. It does, however, leave an 18-episode gap.
Similarly, matriarch “Ma” Caroline Ingalls’ Karen Grassle would feature in 182 of 204 episodes. The same episode count is true of the Greenbush twins as little Carrie Ingalls.
And then there’s Melissa Sue Anderson. Oh, Mary Ingalls. How the melodrama of her life seems all-consuming in retrospect. In reality, however, Anderson only appears in a surprising 162 of 204 Little House on the Prairie episodes.
Which leaves us with…
‘Little House on the Prairie’: Who Else Could it Be but Laura Ingalls Herself?
As sharp fans may have guessed, the top episode count goes to the one and only Melissa Gilbert. The lovely Gilbert was, after all, the very heart and soul of Little House on the Prairie as Laura Ingalls. The entire franchise – books, show, films, and all – springs forth from the real Laura Ingalls Wilder’s words. As such, it is only fitting that her character, played perfectly by Melissa Gilbert, appear in the most episodes.
So how many Little House on the Prairie appearances did Gilbert make? All 204 of 204.
From 1974 to 1983, the world would see Walnut Grove through Laura’s eyes. Aside from her Ingalls family, audiences would get to know the Olesons intimately, too. Which makes it less surprising that the next three records for appearances behind Mary Ingalls’ 182 belong to actors portraying the Oleson family.
Katherine MacGregor appears in 152 episodes as shrewish, vindictive matriarch Harriett Oleson. Behind her is Richard Bull of Nels Oleson fame at 145 of 204 episodes. And then there’s Willie Oleson’s Jonathan Gilbert with 138 appearances.
Yet the name Oleson cannot be uttered in conjunction with Little House on the Prairie without immediately sparking television’s most famous brat – Nellie Oleson – to mind. So how many episodes did actress Alison Arngrim appear in as her infamous character? 100 less than the grand total: 104 of 204, IMDb cites.
Now, the next time someone asks you about Prairie, you can whip out this pretty surprising count.