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TV comes up with few perfect families; you can count "The Brady Bunch" and "The Full House" Tanners among them. But the prototype for wholesome American family entertainment has to be "Leave It to Beaver," a show whose biggest problems were the scrapes little Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver got into, week after week.
"Beaver" ran for 234 episodes from 1957-63, and on the one hand definitely feels from a very different era: wives in the kitchen in high heels and pearls; husbands ruling with a kind but firm hand; children expected to know their manners at all times. But in a lot of ways, it's also a snapshot into an idealized world that serves as comfort food for fans.
"It's interesting, because I think everybody loved that time period, and people would come home from their stressed life and they'd sit down in front of the TV and watch 'Leave It to Beaver' and all their problems would disappear," noted Tony Dow, who played elder brother Wally and joined Jerry Mathers (Beaver) on TODAY Wednesday to celebrate the show's 60th anniversary.
"Except mine," joked Mathers, 69. "Because I always had problems."
Well, as Beaver, sure!
They had some interesting tidbits to add: Apparently Hugh Beaumont (dad Ward) became an actor so that he could run a Methodist ministry; and Barbara Billingsley (mom June) "wore high heels a lot," quipped Dow, 72.
The show may have ended decades ago, but Mathers said people still come up to him on the street. "People loved the show," he noted, adding that thanks to reruns, "Beaver" has never been off the air. "People are not only watching it, they're watching it again and again."
And here's a bonus: Dow and Mathers remain pals. "We're good friends," said Mathers. "Anything goes on in our families, we know about it."
"He's still a squirt, though," quipped Dow.
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