Many classic sitcoms were well-loved by their fans, but very few were so popular they actually stayed in the upper rungs of the prime time ratings through years of reruns. Father Knows Best belonged in that exclusive latter category. Lead actor Robert Young left the show in 1960 to pursue other roles, but CBS (and later ABC) continued to successfully play reruns of the show for another three years. That fact provides a good illustration of just how much the show’s fans loved Father Knows Best.
Robert Young originated the role of Jim Anderson on the radio in 1949, and he was the only member of the radio cast that was retained when the show was transformed into a television program. Jim was an insurance salesman who lived with his family at 607 South Maple Street in Springfield, Ohio. Margaret was his wife and the family homemaker. Betty was the eldest daughter, who was referred to as ‘Princess’ by her father. Bud was the early-teenage son, and Kathy (nicknamed ‘Kitten’) was the youngest daughter.
Every night, Jim would come home from work, don a comfortable sweater, and find out what the rest of his family had done during the day. There were always day-to-day problems for the members of the family, but Jim always faced them down with a smile. Even for an insignificant dilemma, Jim would summon up the strength to see the situation through to a resolution. For example, when Kitten lost a prized doll (certainly not insignificant to her), Jim took out his umbrella and searched tirelessly through the rainy night until he found it.
The show was well-liked from the start but was not an immediate hit due to its initial time slot of 10 p.m. on Sunday night. In fact, CBS cancelled the show after its first season. However, NBC took notice when viewers flooded CBS with mail asking for the series to be revived, and the crafty network picked the show up. They placed it in an 8:30 p.m. slot on Wednesday nights and the show took off quickly, becoming a television institution. It would eventually run on all three networks before finally being cancelled in April of 1963.
Father Knows Best continues to charm viewers both new and old today in syndication. It remains popular today because the Andersons practically defined television’s ‘ideal family.’ Both Jim and Margaret were sensible, mature adults who could take care of a problem with a mixture of compassion and good advice. Their children occasionally disagreed with their parents, but were always polite and well-mannered. The problems they faced were always solved by the end of the episode, and the family truly loved one another. As long as television viewers have families of their own, the love the family this Anderson family shared will continue to inspire them.
In 1976 there was a surprise TV Movie revival called The Father Knows Best Reunion bringing back all the series regulars and then the following year there was a second catch up called Father Knows Best: Home For Christmas.
USA / CBS – NBC – Rodney- Young / 191×25 minute episodess / Broadcast 3 October 1954 – 1960
Producers: Eugene B. Rodney, Robert Young
Robert Young as Jim Anderson
Jane Wyatt as Margaret Anderson
Elinor Donahue as Betty Anderson
Billy Gray as Bud Anderson
Lauren Chapin as Kathy Anderson
Jimmy Bates as Claude Messner; Bud’s friend
Paul Wallace as Kippy Watkins; Bud’s friend
Yvonne Lime as Dotty Snow; Betty’s friend
Robert Foulk as Ed Davis; Jim’s neighbor
Vivi Janiss as Myrtle Davis; Ed’s wife
Roberta Shore as Joyce Kendall; Bud’s girlfriend
Robert Chapman as Ralph Little; Betty’s boyfriend
Tina Thompson as Patty Davis; Kathy’s friend
Reba Waters as Patty Davis (2)
Sue George as April Adams; Bud’s friend
Richard Eyer as Burgess Vail; Kathy’s friend
Richard Eyer as Grover Adams; April’s brother
Peter Heisser as Joe Phillips; Bud’s friend
Sarah Selby as Miss Thomas; Jim’s secretary
Sam Flint as Hubert Armstead; high school principal