(From Lester Holt, TODAY Anchor)
The little house is gone. As is the church that doubled as a schoolhouse, and Oleson's Mercantile. And who knew the creek that "half-pint" occasionally fished in never existed at all but was rather a piece of Hollywood magic? Yet the ride up a dusty trail past the Oak tree dotted hill where little Carry Ingalls takes a tumble in the show's open left no doubt I had arrived in Walnut Grove, the home of "Little House on the Prairie."
This weekend on TODAY we're beginning a series asking "Whatever happened to?" and so this occasion was a chance to catch up with many of the cast members from the long-running series "Little House on the Prairie" -- one of the last true family-oriented primetime TV shows. Its 9-year run on NBC, based on the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder, told the story of a frontier family as they endured the hardships of living on the Minnesota prairie. For television the prairie was actually a movie and TV ranch about 30 miles north of Los Angeles, which is where I met up with 8 of the cast members. WATCH VIDEO
Among those able to join us: Karen Grassle who played Caroline Ingalls, Alison Arngrim who played Laura Ingalls' rival Nellie Oleson, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Oleson, aka actors Richard Bull and Katherine MacGregor. The gathering proved to be a trip down memory lane both for the cast members and those of us there who grew up watching "Little House."
As I sat interviewing them several thoughts struck me including how well they all look after all these years, and how many of them mirror some of the personality traits of the characters they played. I also learned a lot of things about the show I never knew. Here's a piece of trivia I'll answer in my report Sunday: One of the younger characters was actually played by two actors -- a set of twins -- who would alternate scenes. Can you guess which character?
Only a few of the cast members are still acting, while others have found success off screen. To a person, however, it was clear: the memories of working on "Little House" are something they deeply treasure. They laughed about the time Mrs. Oleson dumped a bowl full of eggs on Mr. Oleson, and Laura and Nellie's tumble in the mud as if they had happened in real life. They also spoke with deep respect as they recounted what it was like to work with the late Michael Landon. It was obvious "Little House" was a family show both on and off the screen.
All of the cast members I spoke with rejected the notion that a show like that wouldn't make in today's television landscape. They might be right. More than 20 years after the show's run on NBC ended, "Little House" has found huge success overseas and on in DVD sales. Can you say reunion show???
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