Could Super-Dark Little House Even Be on TV Today?

DVR is a funny thing sometimes…if you’re like us, you find yourself occasionally going down the rabbit-hole with old shows we’d nearly forgotten. In this case, we’re newly, shamefully, re-addicted to Little House on the Prairie. By the time we get home at night, there they all are waiting, usually three episodes each day, courtesy of the Hallmark Channel (thank you!). This was our big time favorite as a kid, and reviewing it a quarter of a century later has been remarkable. For starters, there’s just no way on earth this show would make it on the air today.

Forget the blow jobs of the new 90210 or the “I killed someone” shocker on Gossip Girl. Little House used to go really dark! And not just horribly embarrassing dark, like the time Laura/Half-Pint stuffed her dress with apples-as-boobs and they fell out at the blackboard, or when Nellie Olsen (who could out-bitch any so-called mean girl today) secretly taped Laura talking about her crush on a boy using her newfangled “talking machine” and then played it for everyone at school. Anyone else remember the time Albert’s (the dreamy Matthew Laborteaux) girlfriend was raped in the barn by that dude in the mask? This episode was referred to in my house as “Little Rape on the Prairie.”

But the horrors didn’t stop there. Last night we watched the one where Caroline Ingalls almost sawed her own damn leg off to save herself from infection. Last week, we saw the two-parter where Jason Bateman (as adopted kid James) get shot in Sleepy Eye during a bank robbery (and then Charles Ingalls went nuts and grew a beard and built an altar to Jesus!). Coming up this week, we see we have the infamous Runaway Caboose episode, and also the whole explosive mining one where someone, if memory serves, actually blows up. We don’t think we’ll even be able to watch the one where the blind school burns down and poor Mrs. Garvey and Mary’s baby are trapped in the upstairs window. Could an 8-year-old watch this today without someone, somewhere protesting? All we know is this: it sure wasn’t easy living out there on the frontier.