Little House on the Prairie

NBC Television / Handout / Hulton Archives via Getty Images
NBC Television / Handout / Hulton Archives via Getty Images

When the Bonanza left the airwaves after 14 successful years, Michael "Little Joe" Landon went looking for a new project. NBC execs approached him with the idea of producing a made-for-TV film based on the popular Laura Ingalls Wilder book series Little House on the Prairie. The movie had been a huge ratings hit, and since it had a sort-of cliffhanger ending, the network was deluged with viewer inquiries  asking "What happened next to the Ingalls family?" Thus a series was born. And while the premise of the show was definitely Waltons-level wholesomeness, our mission this week is to go behind the scenes and dish the less-than-vanilla Prairie dirt.

1. Little Hair on the Prairie

The secrets of hair start with Michael Landon, who had gone prematurely grey when he was 20-something during his Bonanza days. If you're wondering how he got that wonderful color, look no further than Clairol Medium Ash Brown- the key to his crowning glory. As for the trademark blonde curls that Alison Arngrim sported as mean girl Nellie Oleson, those were actually part of a wig that was fastened to her scalp so tightly that it often caused it to bleed. Melissa Gilbert also had fake hair to deal with, and was forced to wear girlish braids well after adolescence had added its telltale signs to her body. In fact, she was also forced to bind her chest until the plot line allowed her to "grow up" and become Walnut Grove's premier school teacher.

2. A Very Sick Set

In 1991, Michael Landon was hospitalized for what he thought might be an ulcer. Sadly, medical tests revealed cancerous tumors in both his liver and pancreas. Landon had been a heavy drinker and smoker throughout his life, so although the diagnosis was shocking, it wasn't totally unexpected. However, several years after Little House had stopped filming, many crew members were also diagnosed with rare forms of cancer. LHoTP had been filmed on the Paramount movie ranch near Chatsworth, California. Recent studies have turned up previously suppressed reports that the entire Simi Valley area was exposed to what has been labeled the "worst environmental release of radioactivity ever in the United States" courtesy of an experimental sodium cooled nuclear reactor operated at the time by the Rocketdyne Corporation. Actor Patrick Swayze, who grew up in the Simi Valley area, currently suffers from pancreatic cancer, and Motley Crue singer Vince Neil, who lived in Chatsworth for many years, lost his four-year-old daughter to a rare form of stomach cancer.

3. The Baby Battering Ram

An iconic episode of LHoTP featured the Blind School being engulfed in flames, and Mary's infant son Adam, Jr. trapped in the blaze. As she and her husband waited anxiously outside, TV viewers were treated to a scene that unfortunately, due to the camera angle, looked as though Alice Garvey (who had rescued the baby from his crib) used the infant's head to break the glass. Mrs. Garvey actually had the babe cradled in her arms when she attempted to break the window with her elbow. In any case, let the record show that in real life Mary Ingalls never married and never had children. Actress Hersha Parady, who played Alice Garvey, wanted out of her contract so that she could concentrate on raising her own family. The writers killed her character off in a very dramatic story line that not only "punished" her for leaving (i.e. her character couldn't suddenly reappear years later), but one that also provided for a ratings bonanza.

4. The Blessings of Nepotism

Anyone paying attention to Little House's credits certainly noticed the occasional "family affair" when it came to casting. Some of the branches of the family trees can get a bit convoluted, so pay close attention"¦ Melissa Gilbert played Laura Ingalls. Jonathan Gilbert played Willie Oleson. Both Melissa and Jonathan were adopted as infants by Barbara and Paul Gilbert. (By the way, when Barbara remarried, she and her new husband had a daughter named Sara. Six-year-old Sara saw Melissa get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and decided there and then that she wanted to be an actress, and she adopted her half-sister's last name with hopes of becoming an actress. Sara Gilbert later landed the role of Darlene on Roseanne.)

Interestingly enough, Matthew and Patrick Laborteaux (who played Albert Ingalls and Andrew Garvey) had also been adopted as infants, this time by the Labyorteaux family.

Also, Michael Landon eventually cast one of his daughters, Leslie, in the role of school teacher Etta Plum. Despite having this "foot up" in the acting industry, Leslie chose to instead pursue her education and eventually obtained a PhD in psychology. She currently specializes in grief counseling for children.

5. Kicking Off Those Goody Two-Shoes

Sometimes actors cast in relentlessly wholesome roles feel the need to stretch their acting wings and show the world that they're not really all that goody-goody. Karen Grassle ("Ma" Ingalls) admitted in some late-1970s interviews that she often grew weary of wrapping her hair into a bun and being subservient to Charles. One of her methods of rebellion was to co-write and star in a made-for-TV movie called Battered. The film garnered critical raves for its gritty and sensitive portrayal of spousal abuse in various settings: a blue-collar couple, an upper-middle class lawyer and his wife, and a sixty-something married pair.

Melissa Sue Anderson also felt restless once her character (Mary Ingalls) had gone blind, and the very few story lines afforded to her afterward required her to be ever-so-saintly and patient and kind. In 1979 she decided to shed her "good girl" image by staring in a made-for-TVer called The Survival of Dana, in which she played Dana, a small-town girl transplanted to a high school in the Big City, where she fell in with the wrong crowd and became a sort-of suburban gang-banger. The film employed every Hollywood stereotype of a rebellious teen and was unintentionally hilarious as a result.

>>Here is an opportunity for all you closet Little House viewers to post your questions/comments/complaints. Like, for example, how did that weird guy who molested Sylvia manage to buy a "party mask" at the Mercantile without questions being asked ("I'd like a bag of chicken feed, a dozen eggs, and one clown mask, please.")? Why did Charles Ingalls feel obligated to adopt any orphan that showed up in Walnut Grove instead of spending that money on speech therapy for Carrie? Now is the time to vent!

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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Larry David Shared His Favorite Episode of Seinfeld

Larry David at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2009.
Larry David at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2009.
David Shankbone, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

Last week, Seth Meyers hosted a virtual Seinfeld reunion with Larry David, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Jason Alexander to benefit Texas Democrats. Amid all the other reminiscing, the sitcom veterans got to talking about their favorite episodes of the show.

Louis-Dreyfus answered with “The Soup Nazi,” in which her character Elaine inadvertently causes the greatest (and most high-strung) soup chef in town to shut down his shop. For Alexander, it was “The Marine Biologist,” where his character George masquerades as a marine biologist on a date and ends up rescuing a beached whale.

Larry David’s response, “The Contest,” generated almost as much conversation as the episode itself did when it aired during season 4. In it, the show’s four main characters compete to see who can abstain from self-pleasure the longest, proving themselves to be the “master of their domain.” Though the actors managed to skirt around the word masturbation for the entire episode, the concept was still pretty provocative for network television.

“This one, I didn’t even put on the board because I didn’t want them asking. I just wanted them to come and see the read-through,” David said, as InsideHook reports. “[When they did] I had worked myself up into a lather because the read-through really went great. I was watching [the network executives] and I couldn’t tell how much they liked it. But I was ready to pack the whole thing in if they didn’t let us do this show: ‘I’m quitting. I’m quitting. I’m gonna quit.’ Fortunately, they didn’t say a word. I was shocked.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Louis-Dreyfus’s trepidation about the episode lasted through the shoot. “When we were making this episode, I was convinced we were going to be shut down. I was convinced that the network was going to come in and say, ‘This is not going to work out,’” she said. Needless to say, they never did, and Louis-Dreyfus now looks back on Elaine’s participation in the contest as “a very important cultural moment for women.”

David went on to explain that “The Contest” not only helped popularize Seinfeld among viewers, but it also helped its creators carry more clout in the industry. “That show changed something about how we were perceived in television land,” he said. “It really catapulted us to another place. It moved us to another level, I think.”

[h/t InsideHook]