The Hess Report

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Little House Is Back 

Growing up, I never watched Little House on the Prairie. I could tell by the way it looked and the brief seconds I would see as I cruised the channels that it was not for me. Every time it happened to be on the screen, the little girl was getting in trouble, or the dad was gazing gayly into the distance (yeah I know Michael Landon was a saint, etc., but come on, you know what I'm talking about), or the curly-haired boy was crying his eyes out. Not the sort of show that a future he-man like myself was attracted to.

Disney has remade Little House. Lots of people hate Disney. Lots of people can't stand that old Little House show, myself included, although sappy!Joy has some great nostalgic memories of watching it. It would follow that whatever Disney makes of it now will be complete crap.

Wrong. I don't know who slept with who or what to be able to make this, but I was shocked. Maddie likes the Little House early reader books, and has always been fascinated with the frontier lifestyle, so she wanted to watch it. tech!Joy set the DVR to grab it, and it did. Not knowing exactly what it would be like, and being the kinds of parents who don't let their kids watch just any old thing that comes on the tube, we sat down and watched it with her. At the first commercial, I turned to Joy and said, in surprise, "This is really good."

And it was. Now, I never read Wilder's original text, so I can't how closely what I saw followed it, but they certainly did not pull any punches. When the family leaves for Kansas, the writing and acting as the grandparents see them off is simply great. It was heartbreaking to watch, and gave you a real sense of how great and dangerous the distances were back then.

I was also shocked with the nice, historical portrayal of guns. Pa actually goes hunting with a gun, and comes back with animal carcasses that they show! His horse is snakebit, and he has to shoot it. Several times, the family is scared of noises in the night, and Pa hauls out the rifle. As he goes out one day, they conspicuously show him giving a revolved to Ma, so she can hold down the fort while he's away. Like I said, I was completely shocked.

Overall, the production values, writing, film quality, directing, etc. are first rate. I'm not admonishing you to watch it because there are probably eight hours left in the mini-series, but it this sort of thing interests you and you were scared off by either the Little House title or by the Disney logo, then it's worth it for you to take a look.

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