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Series / Father Knows Best

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Father Knows Best was the stereotypical 1950s Dom Com TV show about the average American home with 2.5 children. It aired from 1954 to 1960, channel-hopping from CBS to NBC and then back to CBS again during its run.

Robert Young played Jim Anderson, an insurance agent; Jane Wyatt (who would later go on to play Spock's mother Amanda in the original Star Trek) was Jim's wife, Margaret; Billy Gray played Bud, the wisecracking teenage son; Elinor Donahue appeared as the typical teenage daughter, Betty; and Lauren Chapin as the youngest girl, Kathy (nicknamed "Kitten.")

The story revolved around the various issues the family got involved in. It is also noteworthy for being a complete subversion of the trope it supposedly represents. Like most sitcoms of its time, it originated as a radio program that lasted from 1949 to 1954, around the time the television version aired.

This is the show that marked veteran actors Robert Young and Jane Wyatt’s transition from the big screen to the small screen. Young would also become famous for his portrayal as a doctor and the title character in Marcus Welby, M.D..

A pair of reunion movies featuring the TV cast were made in 1977.

This Work Contains These Tropes:

  • Affectionate Nickname: Jim sometimes calls Betty "Princess" and Kathy "Kitten".
  • Bollywood Nerd: The episode "Fair Exchange" sees the Andersons taking in an Indian foreign exchange student, who teaches the family about India while she learns about America.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: At the end of "Father Delivers the Papers", when an elderly neighbor mistakes Margaret for his daughter, Ruthie:
    Old Man [to Margaret, who he mistakes for his daughter]: Do what your papa says, your papa knows best.
    Jim: "Papa knows best"? Now what in the world ever put a fool idea like that in his head?
  • Bumbling Dad: Jim complains about this trope while watching a show called Father Does It Again, claiming that such a "stumblebum" husband could only exist on TV. Afterwards, he becomes convinced that his family is using sitcom-like tactics to keep him from going on a hunting trip.
  • Darker and Edgier: The radio program is notably much (well, marginally) edgier than the television series. For example, Jim was a Deadpan Snarker (with a heart of gold, of course), Betty was more of a Bratty Teenage Daughter compared to her TV incarnation, Bud was a Dumbass Teenage Son and Kathy was significantly more annoying. The only consistent character throughout both versions was Margaret, though the radio version had her moments.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Jim can be seen smoking a pipe on occasion.
  • Everytown, America: Springfield.
  • Funny Foreigner: Mexican-American gardener Frank "Fronk" Smith (played by Natividad Vacío), a recurring character whose naivety resulted in quite a few comedic situations.
  • Girl of the Week: Boy version. On the radio show, Betty seems to have a new boyfriend or love interest every couple of episodes.
  • Happily Married: Jim and Margaret never have any marital problems throughout the series.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: By the end of the show in 1960, Lauren Chapin was almost 15 but Kathy was still wearing little girl's dresses and hairstyle.
  • Red Scare: The episode "24 Hours In Tyrant Land" has a sequence where the family lives in a horribly repressive government, to teach them the value of democracy.
  • Sleeping Single: Jim and Margaret are shown sleeping in separate beds.
  • Sound-to-Screen Adaptation: The TV show was adapted from a radio show.
  • Standard '50s Father: Jim Anderson is the complete embodiment of this trope, and quite possibly the Trope Maker.
  • The '50s: The show's 6-year run from 1954 to 1960 in suburban Springfield.
  • Title Drop: In "Father Delivers the Papers", when Jim takes over an injured Bud's paper route and learns how hard it actually is, Margaret is seated on an elderly neighbor's front porch, and he mistakes her for his daughter Ruthie:
    Old Man [from inside the house]: Is that you, Ruthie? Ruthie, are you out there with that rattle-brained harum scarum again?
    Margaret [jokingly]: Yes, I am.
    Jim: I beg your pardon?
    Old Man: Well, send him on his way and come in here. This is no night for you to be sitting outdoors. Do what your papa says; your papa knows best.
    Jim: "Papa knows best?" Now what in the world ever put a fool idea like that in his head?
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Kathy, who tended to get into playful brawls with neighborhood boys, and Betty, who almost always wears dresses when attending high school and college later on.
  • Very Special Episode: "24 Hours In Tyrant Land" was actually comissioned by the US government to be used as anti-Communist propaganda.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Inspired the Trope Namer. Matt Groening said he always assumed as a child that the show was set in his nearby town of Springfield, Oregon. He replicated this effect in The Simpsons by setting it in a Springfield with no specified state.
  • Women Are Wiser: Margaret, in both versions of the show.