TV classics: Leave it to Beaver
USA 1957-63, six seasons, 235 episodes, 30 minutes each, CBS / ABC, black & white. Cast: Jerry Mathers, Barbara Billingsley, Hugh Beaumont and Tony Dow.
Plot summary: If there’s trouble, trust the Beaver to get into it and fast.
Review: There are a couple of TV shows that stay with us like fond memories of a better past. It doesn’t matter if everything was really better, they make us feel it was, instilling in us a sentiment of nostalgia and warmth. The word nostalgia may be misleading because it often triggers a certain aftertaste for those who dislike the word for its supposed backwardness. For me, it rather stands for a tristful feeling, a longing for something some of us remember we once had.
Leaver it to Beaver is one of those shows, sparking memories of the charm and simplicity of bygone childhood days. As the first show to look at life from a child’s perspective, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise to feel that way. I may have been a girl, all dressed up in fancy dresses and patent leather shoes, but I still relate to the Beaver and the way he reacted. Watching his adventures today reminds me of my own mishaps and questions, of long summers, home-cooked family meals and playing outside.
Based on real children, their speech patterns, games and little white lies, the show was playfully realistic when it first went on the air in 1957 and remains like a time capsule, a document of a different age for children and parents alike. I wonder how children feel about this classic show today? How many still grow up as lighthearted as Beaver, with such loving parents who allow them to explore the neighborhood with their siblings or friends? Of course, Barbara Billings portrayed the epitomized mother and housewife, supported by Hugh Beaumont as an ever exerted father – no real parent can hold a candle to an image like that. But isn’t it that exact cocoon of love and goodness the show created that still resonates today? Could it be that we long for gentler answers to problems a lot of parents are still facing these days?
In thirty minute installments, Leave it to Beaver seems to have the answers to those questions, to our longing for a quieter life. With the complete six seasons available on DVD, thirty-nine episodes each, we can revisit the past at least for a little while and pass it on to the next generation.