Jerry Mathers: ''Beaver'' was for grownups

Viewers may agree or not!

Target audiences are important. Knowing your demographic is paramount, whether you're a long-running sitcom or a brand-new variety show. This is how advertisers decide which shows should get which commercials. After all, it doesn't make much sense to promote McDonald's Happy Meals to Matlock viewers. 

So, when you consider Leave It to Beaver, what comes to mind? For many, the show's depiction of a suburban family calls to mind a simpler time. Whether that time exists or not, the show succeeds chiefly due to that nostalgic feeling viewers get from tuning in.

Surely, lots of viewers associate Leave It to Beaver with childhood. After all, the show is primarily about Beaver and Wally, two adolescent brothers, and the trouble they get into. Most of the show's conflicts are kid stuff. While the parents of the family, Ward, and June, are on hand for just about every episode, the stories of each episode belong to Beaver and Wally. With that information in mind, it's easy to assume that Leave It to Beaver was made for kids.

In 1983, though, the star of the show set the record straight. Just as the cast was set to reunite with Still the Beaver, a standalone movie that led to a successful revival series, the Beaver himself, Jerry Mathers, spoke with the Reno Gazette-Journal about who exactly the intended audience was.

He didn't see Leave It to Beaver as a show that only served to relate to kids. For Mathers, Beaver was all of us.

"The Beaver," he said, "is an everyman character who has everything go wrong.

"Few people remember that Beaver was meant to be an adult show. It was on at 9 at night!"

While that was surely true for the show's initial airing, it took on a second life in reruns, and Leave It to Beaver was recontextualized as each generation approached the sitcom anew.  

In your opinion, which is it? Does Leave It to Beaver work as a primetime comedy for adults, or is it at its best imparting lessons and wisdom to the kids that catch it in reruns? Let us know in the comments section below! 

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4 Comments

Barbj7557 5 months ago
LTB is for the whole family. I watched it as a kid and could relate to Wally and the Beav. Now that I'm much older (66), the parent's reactions to W&B's shenanigans cracks me up! Maybe they were the picture of the "perfect family" back then in fantasy land, but if that show were updated to what the family unit goes through in 2024, it would be totally different. But I loved the show.💖
Lillyrose 5 months ago
I always thought that "Leave it to Beaver" was made for kids, since the storylines focus on kids. Later on, when Wally grew up, many storylines were about him, so it became a show for teenagers in many episodes.
MrsPhilHarris 6 months ago
I’m often surprised when I hear the times shows aired. I think My Three Sons aired rather late as well.
Runeshaper 6 months ago
I think it was a show for all ages. Kids and parents could learn A LOT!
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