Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.
TV URBAN LEGEND: Michael Landon had the set for Little House on the Prairie destroyed so that no one other shows could re-use the set and that there could be no future reunions for the show.
The Western has long had a significant presence on American television. It doesn’t seem as though a single television season passes without at least one Western show on the air (AMC currently airs Hell on Wheels, for instance). However, by the time that Little House on the Prairie debuted in 1974 (first with a popular TV movie in the spring that worked as a pilot for the series and then the series proper that fall), westerns had fallen from the prominent spot that they once held, where shows like Gunsmoke and Bonanza were regular features in the top 10 of the weekly Nielsen TV ratings. So it was somewhat surprising to see former Bonanza star Michael Landon do a new series about a group of settlers in Walnut Grove, Minnesota (based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s best-selling Little House series of children’s books, which were based on her own life as a settler) become such a popular series.
Little House on the Prairie lasted for nine seasons, with Landon starring and producing the first eight seasons before going fully behind the scenes for the final season, which saw a new family take over the “Little House,” while Melissa Gilbert’s Laura (now married) took over as the main lead of the series from Landon. The show’s ratings dipped in the final season and the show was canceled. Landon, though, was given a chance to wrap the series up with a series of three television movies. Oddly enough, through a bit of a scheduling fluke, the second film (a Christmas story) ended up running a year after it was originally intended to run, in December of 1984. So the third film, which worked as a finale to the series, was not actually the last to air. The third film, “The Last Farewell,” was very much a finale. In the episode, the citizens of Walnut Grove discover that a land developer has bought up all of their land. They try to fight his claim but fail. Laura inspires the citizens to make a stand against the developer by actually blowing up all of the property in Walnut Grove. So yes, the last episode of Little House on the Prairie ended with them destroying the town that fans had grown to love over nine seasons. Why the set was destroyed has been a matter of contention ever since. Here are two various ways I’ve seen the story repeated over the years:
Did Michael Landon really burn down the Little House on the Prairie sets after the series wrapped so he’d never have to do a reunion movie/series?
The primary reason Michael Landon blew up the town was because he was mad they canceled the show and did not want anybody to use his set.
What is the truth?
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