I had nothing better to do with my evening, so…
[Fateful opening sentence fragment.]
… so I finally tracked down that episode of Little House on the Praire that I recall so well, and I watched it again several decades later.
It’s called “The Wolves”, which made me wonder if I was remembering the episode wrong. But here’s what I remember: Mary, Laura, and Carrie are home alone for a few days when a pack of wild dogs crests the hill. They rush into the barn, but the wild dogs start digging under the doors and walls. So they rush up to the hayloft, and the dogs get inside. Things are peachy until the dogs start leaping up onto a wooden table and then trying to access the hayloft, so Mary kicks some kungfu with a pitchfork.
Then, they send their dog, Bandit, to get help, and the dog fetches Mr. Garvey. He shows up, sees the dogs, and we the viewers hear this: BANG. Aroooo. BANG. Aroooo. BANG. Aroooo. BANG. Aroooo. BANG. Aroooo. BANG. Aroooo. And then they’re all dead. (The dogs, not the characters.)
And the way I remember it, the dogs were all purebred, collared, well-groomed showdogs, which makes me laugh every time I think of it.
Watching it again today, I was reminded of some things. First of all, the episode’s called “The Wolves” because there are also wolves in the storyline. I’d forgotten that, but I was right that it was wild dogs and not wolves who attacked the homestead.
Second, the dogs weren’t exactly purebred, collared, showdogs. But they sort of were. I took some funny-as-heck screenshots, and these are presumably (c) NBC.
“Run, run, the dogs are coming!! Yikes!” Yeah, that photo of the wild dogs running through the field is one of my fondest television-watching memories from childhood. It was campy horror at its finest… or so it seemed at the time.
What I also realized from rewatching the episode is that my attention span has shortened, as has everyone’s, I’d wager. Older TV shows go slower and have less original content. It’s like with Patricia Heaton’s two shows, Everybody Loves Raymond (1996–2005) and The Middle (2009–2018). The former show features around three or four scenes per episode, with each scene well-developed and deep, showing amazing insight into the issues of dysfunctional families. In The Middle, however, each scene lasts exactly one minute. Flibberty, gibberty.
I hate The Middle but I love Everybody Loves Raymond, so maybe I’m biased.
Another thing I noted was that my hearing has changed. I could hear the episode fine at the volume I put it at with my headphones, and I had the closed captions on, too. But that dying dog scene sounded different. Instead of BANG. Aroooo. BANG. Aroooo. BANG. Aroooo. BANG. Aroooo. BANG. Aroooo. BANG. Aroooo, today I heard, BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG. Oh well. My hearing has gotten worse, but I already knew that.
I’m also baffled that I ever found Little House on the Prairie entertaining. Times change, and so too do our tastes in pop culture. Go figure. I mean, except for the scene-stealing wild dogs, the rest of the episode was boring as sin. And it was comically overacted. There’s a scene where one man is mad at another man, and there’s not a compelling reason for this level of anger.
(Mr. Larabee thought that Mr. Garvey stole his furs, but the actual thieves were caught, letting Mr. Garvey off the hook; but Mr. Larabee was embarrassed that everyone in his former town knew he’d been wrong about Mr. Garvey.)
Here’s Mr. Garvey, pleading his case:
And here’s Mr. Larabee’s homicidal-looking reaction:
His chin was actually aquiver. And he’s about to eat it, too. Tasty chin!
It’s like, so… your character is supposed to be angry, right? Hey, I’m pretty clever!
Those were the highlights. But yeah, that’s fifty minutes of my life that I’ll never get back. It’s just that I’ve been wondering for years if the wild dogs were actually purebred showdogs, and now I have my answer: hard to tell, but it’s possible.
Anyway, a lot of members of the cast (particulary the adult actors) got cancer because they were filming near toxic materials. Shannen Doherty is one of the child actors who has cancer (breast cancer) most likely from having been on the program. Michael Landon’s dead from it as are a few other actors from his generation, I believe. It’s sad.
When the show ended, they blew up the whole town (on purpose!). That was also a fine, campy moment. KABOOM! Now that’s how you end a television show.