TV classics: Father Knows Best
USA 1954-60, 6 seasons, 203 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, CBS and NBC, black & white, Created by: Ed James. Cast: Robert Young, Jane Wyatt, Elinor Donahue, Billy Gray, Lauren Chapin
Plot summary: Jim is the head of the Anderson family, including his wife Margaret and their three children Betty, Bud and Kathy. Together they master their everyday life with a good sense of humor and lots of love.
Review: In 1949, Father Knows Best had its radio debut before it moved on to continue its success on television five years later. Circling around the everyday joys and troubles of the Anderson family, the show was targeting an audience of all ages. Jim Anderson, his wife Margaret and their three children epitomized the American family: Jim as the working father who advises his brood in times of trouble, Margaret, housewife and mother, the voice of reason in the family, and their three well-bred children.
What is sometimes perceived as a cliche today was a magnet for entire families then, a program to watch every week with entertaining storylines of educational value. It would be wrong to assume that every family worked as perfectly back in the 50s as the program suggests – after all, how much do contemporary programs reflect our lives today? But like in the 2000s, there was a grain of truth behind the concept. Father Knows Best reflected the aspirations of an entire generation of Americans and influenced their children as they grew up.
Regrettably, both Jim and Margaret Anderson seem outdated with their commitment to family and harmony these days, compared to most shows that now dominate TV. They are gaining momentum again however, online and on DVD. Like so many of their contemporaries, the show is well perceived, once more, by an audience of all ages – some of them old enough to remember the 1950s with great fondness while others wish to have experienced those times for real. There seems to be a craving for authentic programs and storylines far away from sex, drugs and mayhem. For shows that present reliable values and happy faces. Father Knows Best sure is one of those desired products, led by a charming cast of actors including the unforgettable Robert Young and the equally memorable Jane Wyatt as Mr. and Mrs. Anderson.
Available on DVD. Father Knows Best sample episodes