Father Knows Best
By Melissa Camacho,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Classic family sitcom features 1950s social values.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
The importance of family is a major theme. It also features values and behaviors that were considered appropriate and acceptable at the time, but that may be considered racist and/or sexist today.
Positive Role Models
Everyone gets along and tries to do the right thing. Dad is recognized as the head of the household. "Good" women are characterized as being feminine and not "like men"; the Anderson children are raised according to this standard. One episode features a dishonest "Spanish" gardener.
Violence & Scariness
Fighting and boxing is discussed, but nothing violent. Occasionally kids disagree and/or call each other names like "sissy." Arguments between Bill and Margaret are rare, but references are made to other husbands yelling and/or disciplining their wives.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Nothing sexual, but flirting and issues pertaining to dating are often discussed. As is typical for the time, parents appear to sleep in separate beds.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Occasionally hard liquor is visible. As is typical for the time, cigarette smoking is frequently shown (and usually done by men).
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the classic series Father Knows Best is pretty mild when it comes to iffy topics, but reflects overtly sexist and subtly racist attitudes by today's standards. It also contains lots of positive messages about family, respect, and love. Drinking and cigarette smoking is visible. Mild sibling rivalry is featured, as well as conversations about dating, and other rites of passage.
Where to Watch
Based on 3 parent reviews
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Not too bad, but with some serious shortcomings.
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What's the Story?
The classic series FATHER KNOWS BEST (1954 -1960) is a situation comedy about the day-to-day antics of the Andersons, a middle-class nuclear family living in the fictitious suburban town of Springfield. Insurance salesman Jim Anderson (Robert Young) heads up the tight-knit gang, which includes his wife Margaret (Jane Wyatt), teenage daughter Betty (Elinor Donahue), his teen son Bud (Billy Gray), and "Kitten," his precocious youngest daughter Kathy (played by Lauren Chapin). From making sure that Bud knows how to dance in time for the spring formal, to testing his marriage by teaching Margaret how to drive, Jim helps his family through their ups and downs, and makes the most of every event to teach the family about the best way to handle every situation that comes their way.
Is It Any Good?
Like most 1950s sitcoms, Father Knows Best reflects the norms and values that were deemed socially acceptable at the time. It stays away from topics that were deemed too controversial, and focuses on lighthearted and mostly positive stories about growing up and traditional rites of passage. It offers lots of teachable moments, too -- especially when it comes to behaving responsibly and facing the consequences of ones' actions when one does not.
However, the few secondary characters of non-white racial/ethnic backgrounds are often characterized as outsiders and/or untrustworthy. Meanwhile, girls are taught life lessons about being ladies, which includes preparing for marriage, and accepting the inappropriateness of pursuing careers outside of teaching and/or secretarial jobs. But when understood within the context of the time, it is also possible to appreciate the positive messages it offers about love and respect, especially when it comes to family.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about situation comedies. How have they evolved over the years? How have they stayed the same? Do you have any favorite classic sitcoms? How similar (or different) are they to your favorite sitcoms from today?
How have social attitudes about race and gender changed over the years? How does television reflect these changes? Do TV shows today feature and/or perpetuate fewer stereotypes than those in the 1950s?
- Premiere date: October 3, 1954
- Cast: Elinor Donahue, Jane Wyatt, Robert Young
- Network: Syndicated
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters
- TV rating: NR
- Last updated: June 1, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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