1 9 5 4 – 1 9 6 3 (USA)
203 x 30 minute episodes
Father Knows Best was one of a slew of American middle-class family sitcoms in which moms were moms, kids were kids, and fathers knew best. Today, most critics view it as high camp fun, although this genre has at times been labelled the “Aryan melodramas” of the 1950s and 1960s.
The brainchild of producer Eugene Rodney and series star Robert Young (who played Jim Anderson, a salesman for the General Insurance Company), Father Knows Best debuted as a radio sitcom in 1949.
In the radio version, the title ended with a question mark, suggesting that father’s role as family leader was dubious. The series was transplanted to CBS television on 3 October 1954 and ran until it was dropped by the sponsor on 27 March 1955.
Newspaper columnists and viewers across America protested the cancellation so strongly that the show returned to TV screens “by popular demand” – this time on NBC – on 31 August 1955. It switched back to CBS at the start of the 5th season on 22 September 1958.
Jim Anderson came home each evening from work, changed from his suit into a cardigan, and solved the day’s small family crises. Although wife Margaret was stuck in the drudgery of domestic servitude, she was nobody’s fool, often besting her husband and son, Bud (James Junior).
Daughter Betty Anderson (known affectionately to her father as Princess) could also take the male Andersons to task, as could the precocious Kathy (aka Kitten), the baby of the family.
The Andersons lived in a comfortable, large, and beautiful home in Springfield, located somewhere in the Midwest.
The show was extremely popular, although CBS actually took it off the air after the first season. New (at the time) network NBC picked it up after high public demand. Two years later CBS obtained the series once again, by which time it was an unqualified success.
Lauren Chapin, who played the youngest daughter Kathy, battled heroin, psychosis and poverty after the show ended before recovering and working as an evangelist minister in Orlando, Florida.
Betty “Princess” Anderson
James ‘Bud’ Anderson Jr
Kathy “Kitten” Anderson
Jymme (Roberta) Shore