A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the 1950s classic series Lassie features lots of cliff hanger moments with folks in trouble and a collie who is ready and able to save them. The show reflects the values of the time, including patriarchal roles for both men and women. It's mild by today's standards, but young viewers might be nervous to see children in dangerous situations (though they're always saved).
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What's the story?
LASSIE (1954-1974) is the classic hit series featuring canine super heroine Lassie living in an American farming community. The series first features the dog living with 11-year-old Jeff Miller (Tommy Rettig), his mom Ellen (Jan Clayton), and Gramps (George Cleveland). But a few years later, she goes to live with Ruth (played by Cloris Leachman and later June Lockhart) and Paul Martin (played by John Sheppold and Hugh Reilly, respectively), and their adoptive son Timmy (Jon Provost). Life on the farm with Timmy is exciting, but her services are later needed by a unit of the United States Forest Rangers. Ultimately, she ends up settling down at a children's home, where she continues to protect humans and animals alike.
Is it any good?
From saving people trapped in wells and caught in bear traps, to independently leading ailing dogs to the downtown veterinarian's office, Lassie tells the tales of a canine heroine who is often smarter and more talented than humans. But the show, and its furry lead character, also reflect many of the post-World War II values of the time, including the importance of family, working hard, and being loyal. Meanwhile, Lassie serves as the show's matriarch, a role defined by the patriarchal values of the time, thanks to her natural capacity to identify everyone's needs, as well as her willingness to serve them.
While the years spent with Timmy are certainly the most popular for Lassie (the syndication title for which is Timmy and Lassie), the show's 20-year run manages to survive various cast switches, as well as the dog's various lifestyle changes. To date, the show continues to play a role in American popular culture, and Lassie herself continues to be known as one of the greatest TV stars of all time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how TV characters, human or otherwise, can remain popular even after a show is over. What is it about those characters that give them their longevity?
Who are some of your favorite classic TV characters? Are there any modern TV characters who you think will be popular 30 years from now?
How has the depiction of families changed over the years? Does anything about how the families in Lassie are portrayed suprise you?
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