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New PBS documentary takes a look at the true story behind TV series and books

Tiny house on the meadow It is one of the most beloved TV shows of all time. For nine seasons beginning in 1974, NBC followed The Adventures of Laura Ingalls (Melissa Gilbert) And her family, who lived in the small town of Walnut Grove, Minnesota, in the second half of the 19th century.

The show was based on Little house A series of books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which were in turn inspired by the author’s childhood experiences. Now, a new PBS documentary takes a closer look at Laura’s real life and how her books (and TV show) came about.

Fact versus fiction in Little House on the Prairie

Pictured: (clockwise from top left) Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls, Michael Landon as Charles Philip Ingalls, Karen Grassle as Caroline Koenner Holbrooke Ingalls, Lindsay / Sidney Greenbush as Carrie Ingalls, Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Engels Kendall in Little House of Prairie | NBCU Photo Bank / NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

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Members Little House of Prairie I know the TV show was based on the Wilder movie Little house Books. The series – which starred Michael Landon as Laura’s father – shared the title with the third Little house Book, preparation and many characters with the fourth book, On the banks of Plum Creek. However, many onscreen stories have been created specifically for this show.

While the TV show largely depicts Laura’s life, many book fans have long assumed that her novels are a fairly accurate portrayal of Laura’s true childhood. But this is not exactly the case, as shown in the new documentary, American Master: Laura Inglis Wilder, Broadcast December 29 on PBS.

Through interviews with experts at Wilder and the Little house From the books, the documentary explores the author’s family history and childhood and shows how she turned her youth on the American frontier into a series of best-selling books. For example, Wilder left out some dark aspects of her family story, such as the death of her infant brother and the time the family spent living in Iowa. The film also looks critically at the portrayal of Native Americans in the books and the way in which Wilder’s stories reinforced myths about the pioneers and the American West.

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Dean Butler and Alison Arngrim interviewed for the documentary The Little House

Alison Arngrim as Nelly Oleson Tiny house on the meadow | Image Source: NBCU Photo Bank

Related: Melissa Gilbert was horrified when Dean Butler became her husband in ‘Little House’: ‘I Wanted to Run and Hide’

Most of the 90-minute documentary focuses on Wilder’s life and how she wrote her books with the help of her daughter Rose Wilder Lynn. But it also touches the Tiny house on the meadow A television program that was instrumental in introducing the books to new generations of readers and ensuring their continued popularity. Cast Alison Arngrim (Nelly Oleson) and Dean Butler (Almanzo Wilder) talked about their experiences with the show.

« I had no prior knowledge of these books or these people before doing this series, » Butler says in the document. « Now, I can say with great confidence and happiness that they are forever part of my life. »

Melissa Gilbert says she was « very excited » to play Laura

Gilbert also talked about what it was like to play Laura V. Little house TV series.

« I remember my mother who told me she was going to turn it into a TV series and that I was auditioning for the role of Laura, » Gilbert says in the film. She added, « I remember being very excited about it … I liked this book. I loved her adventures. »

Gilbert admits, however, that the show « got a lot of dramatic licenses … We never left Walnut Grove. That’s not exactly the way Laura went. »

American Masters: Laura Ingalls Wilder It airs Tuesday December 29 at 8 PM ET on PBS.

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