Little House on the Prairie ran from 1974 to 1983. The ninth and final season of Little House on the Prairie was renamed Little House: A New Beginning to emphasize the relationship between Laura Ingalls Wilder (Melissa Gilbert) and Almanzo Wilder (Dean Butler).
While Laura and Almanzo were the focus of the TV series in later seasons, the relationship caused all sorts of problems due to the actors’ age difference and lack of chemistry. According to Butler, one fan was so upset with the relationship they wrote a letter to the show threatening that the producers “should be barbequed.”
Melissa Gilbert was nervous filming scenes with Dean Butler on ‘Little House on the Prairie’
Almanzo was first introduced as Laura’s love interest in the show’s sixth season. Age-wise, Butler and Gilbert are eight years apart. When Butler started working on the show, Gilbert was still a young teenager while Butler was a college graduate in his 20s.
In 2014, Entertainment Weekly interviewed the cast of Little House on the Prairie. Gilbert admitted in the interview that her romantic scenes with Butler on the show were difficult for her because of their age difference.
“I look back now and watch episodes from when I was 15 or 16 and go, ‘Whoa—there’s an awkward stage.’ [When Almanzo, played by Dean Butler, was introduced], it was the third time I had ever kissed a boy—and all three times were on TV,” she told Entertainment Weekly.
Gilbert continued, “I was kissing a man who had to shave that morning, and I hadn’t even ever shaved my legs. It’s bizarre. I mean, he was a grown-up person with a car. He golfed!”
What it was like introducing Almanzo to viewers
Patrick Loubatiere interviewed the cast members about their time on Little House on the Prairie for the book Little House on the Prairie from A to Z, and the interviews were included on a DVD set of the show. In his interview with Loubatiere, Butler described what it was like introducing Almanzo to viewers.
“It was an interesting dynamic because… the audience needed to believe that Almanzo was… the audience had to be able to like him. That was important,” Butler said. “The audience also had to feel that he wasn’t going to be threatening, but he also had to be a man.”
‘Little House on the Prairie’ fans did not like the relationship
Gilbert was 10 years old when Little House on the Prairie premiered in 1974. She grew up while filming the show, and throughout the years viewers watched the character Laura grow up as well.
Because of this, some fans of Little House on the Prairie did not like the idea of Laura starting a relationship with Almanzo. Butler told Loubatiere that fans did not like the age difference between Laura and Almanzo and wrote letters to the show.
“We did get letters from people who said ‘How can you pair these two people up?’ I remember one letter said something like ‘you should be barbequed… the producers should be barbequed over a spit,’” Butler recounted.
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