"The way Lassie had to constantly save the family, you have to believe they were dumber than dirt. The only way their farm could have survived is from government grants, which you can figure Lassie filled out the paperwork."
is a long-running television series that originally aired from 1954 to 1973, and featured the exploits of heroic collie dog Lassie
. It is one of the archetypal Heroic Pet Story
series, inspiring many later imitations and parodies. In the series, Lassie was the pet of Jeff Miller (Tommy Rettig), and in later seasons Timmy Martin (Jon Provost), of "What's that, Lassie? Timmy's fallen down a well?
" fame — although a well was one of the few things Timmy didn't fall down in the course of the series
It may be a little hard for modern tropers to really grok
, but this series was a big deal
back in the day
. It was on the air at the very dawn of mass-consumption television, and it hit exactly
the perfect note for young baby-boom families of the time. Lassie was one of the first true super-smash television hits, alongside shows like Leave It to Beaver
, that demonstrated just how potent television was as a medium - not just for storytelling, but for making obscene amounts of money
Six different dogs portrayed Lassie over the course of the series; all were owned and trained by professional trainer Rudd Weatherwax, and the five successors were descended from the original, whose off-screen name was Pal. Pal was the original Lassie, who had starred in the 1943 film Lassie Come Home
(based on a novel by Eric Knight) and six sequels; when the film series ended, Weatherwax acquired the Lassie trademark (in lieu of unpaid wages, according to one account), and the television series resulted. All six dogs were actually male; male collies were thought to be more visually impressive, and less subject to seasonal shedding issues.
This series provides examples of:
- An Aesop: Frequently prefaced with the words "You see, Timmy..."
- And Starring: "Starring Hugh Beaumont, June Lockhart, Jon Provost as Timmy, and, of course, Lassie."
- Animals Lack Attributes: Lassie is a female dog (note the root of the name is Lass not Lad) played by males with their belly hair coiffed very carefully to cover up the naughty bits.
- Unbelievably, Lassie even had puppies one season. Don't ask.
- Amplified Animal Aptitude: Lassie can apparently not only understand human speech, but can also bark in some sort of code that humans understand to mean Timmy in a Well.
- A Boy and His X: Boy and his dog.
- Caught in a Snare: A black-and-white episode has young Timmy caught in a snare intended for a loose wildcat, which sees him hanging like grapes on a bough. Lassie arrives to kick the wildcat's tuchus.
- Character Title
- CPR (Clean, Pretty, Reliable): In one early episode, Jeff has to do Holger-Nielsen method artificial respiration on a drowning victim. Naturally, being a kids show in the 1950s, the victim lives.
- Crosscast Role: Lassie, as described above.
- Heartwarming Orphan: Timmy.
- Heroic Dog/Heroic Pet Story: One of best known examples.
- Pet Baby, Wild Animal: In one episode, Lassie adopted a raccoon, which was later killed by a speeding car. Everyone learned an important lesson about careful driving.
- Product Placement: For Campbell's Soup, the show's major sponsor.
- Put on a Bus: The Millers move to the city, leaving Lassie behind with the Martins; later the Martins move to Australia, leaving Lassie behind with a friend who is a forest ranger.
- Quicksand Sucks: The swamp version of this is just one of the many dangers to befall Timmy.
- Stage Names: Pal and his successors were all credited as "Lassie".
- Syndication Title: The early seasons were syndicated as Jeff's Collie, and later seasons as Timmy and Lassie.
- Timmy in a Well: The Trope Namer, even though Timmy never did actually fall down a well.
- Too Dumb to Live: Considering all the non-well based trouble Timmy got into it is a miracle he's alive at all.