You can thank Leave It to Beaver for bringing the series finale to TV sitcoms

''Family Scrapbook'' was for the record books.

Imagine a book missing its last chapter, or a film projector going kaput just before the movie's climax. You would be disappointed without the ending. This was not a concern with the television of the 1950s. The creators and networks never thought to give the audience a finale, nor did the viewers at home expect one. 

There are a couple of reasons for this. For starters, an episodic television series was more of a collection of short stories than a novel. Each episode was its own self-contained story. Overarching narratives were something left to other artforms. Which brings us to our second reason — folks just didn't see television as high art. An episode of television was a light amusement. Whatever the final mirthful episode of a sitcom happened to be, well, that was just the finale. Even the pioneering, brilliant I Love Lucy just… stopped with "The Ricardos Dedicate a Statue."

Leave It to Beaver changed that. It was the first primetime sitcom to craft an intentional ending. And that was like because it was a sitcom first of another sort. 

But before we get into that, let's talk about Howdy Doody for a moment.

The children's puppet show was the first notable series to provide closure with its series finale. Clarabell the Clown, silent as a mime throughout the entire series, at last broke his silence. "Goodbye, kids," Clarabell said.

The connection to kids mattered. And that brings us back to Beaver

Leave It to Beaver was the first primetime sitcom to focus on the children as the main characters. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet… well, that has the parents' names right there in the title. Other family sitcoms had kids, but here was a show expressly about the kids. Leave It to Beaver was a coming-of-age tale. The two principal characters, Beaver and Wally, grew up before our eyes. 

This is why the show needed closure. A phase of their life was ending. Childhood was over. For adults, another day is just another day. 

Leave It to Beaver smartly wrapped things up with another soon-to-be trope: the clip show. The Cleavers take out an old book of photos, literally turning the page on a phase of their boys' lives. The audience got to see flashbacks to Beaver and Wally from early episodes. The technique, while cliched now, underlined just how much the actors had grown. Jerry Mathers seemed to have sprouted up to twice his size. 

Decades later, sitcoms such as Growing Pains, Full House, Home Improvement, and even Seinfeld would utilize the clip-show format for their finales. They all borrowed the idea from Beaver. 

Gee, Wally, did you ever think we would be so influential?

Watch Leave It to Beaver on MeTV!

Weekdays at 8 & 8:30 AM, Sundays at 1 & 1:30 PM

*available in most MeTV markets
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Paladin33 8 months ago
The last ,,regretable season of beaver,,he mentioned " I wish i was old enough to join the marines,,," circa 63,,NO you dont beave,,you would have been in with the first into Vietnam in March 65,,but you were smart enough to get into the Hollwood Natl guard with Wally ,,Sam elliot and all the other connected kids ,,us dumbasses went and got killed,,agent orange etc dealing with the horrid VA for life ,,
sarajames 18 months ago
I couldn't find it on MeTv this morning from 8-9AM... Was it because of Memorial Day?
Paladin33 sarajames 8 months ago
memorial day is a real pain to you isnt it,,
vinman63 29 months ago
At times LITB sounded a bit preachy but Hugh Beaumont was an ordain Methodist minister.
Mark091 32 months ago
On the last episode of LEAVE it to Beaver while looking through the
Scrapbook the character of Larry
Mondello is mentioned by Beaver
But Beaver doesn't say that Larry
Moved out of town or whatever happened to Larry Mondello.
Mark091 32 months ago
On Leave it to Beaver Judy Hensler
Went upstairs and never came back
Down . And a new girl whose name
Was Penny Woods arrives in
Mayfield in 1960 and replaces
Judy Hensler.
BiggieB 32 months ago
I remember seeing that episode in reruns. Even as a kid I knew that some of the "photos" in the family album couldn't have existed. Like the one of them "shaving". Nobody was there to take a photo!
33 months ago
I like that episode. But I am positive Beaver would remember bringing home the letter from Miss Canfield. He stated " I don't remember that"
WSK2513 34 months ago
Guess with a series where the actors weren't getting royalties from the show this would have worked. With I Love Lucy, the Christmas Episode was not shown for many years as those actors (or their estates) got a royalty payment based for each clip used in a flashback.
Tim WSK2513 29 months ago
Not true. It wasn't included in syndication because CBS didn't think people would watch a Christmas episode at a random time of year.
Lillyrose 34 months ago
Leave it to Beaver is one of my favorite shows, so sweet and wholesome. I like the finale, too. But my favorite sitcom finale is the "Newhart" finale. Hilarious and brilliant! Speaking of "Newhart," I wonder if MeTV will ever air "Newhart"? "Newhart" is the best sitcom of the 80's!
ma2lyssa Lillyrose 34 months ago
Newhart is on Decades TV every weekday at 4:30 eastern. My absolute favorite episode of Newhart is "Born to Be Mild." It's the one where George regroups his old gang and they "rumble" with a rival gang who's members are also past their prime. It's hilarious.
Lillyrose ma2lyssa 34 months ago
Thanks! My favorite "Newhart" episode is "Vermont Today," where he gets his own show. It's the funniest Newhart episode ever!
Mark 35 months ago
I was never a fan of the flashback episodes of TV shows. To me, flashbacks say that the writers have run out of ideas. For example, I'm a huge mega-Star Trek fan. However, the absolute worst episode of Next Generation was the season 2 final episode. Riker gets bitten by a vine and the only way to cure him to to reflect on his memories from the first two seasons. Absolutely horrible.

Seinfeld was a great show, but the finale, they had no idea how to wrap it up so they put clips together to say goodbye, long and boring. I love the routines episodes and stories (about nothing).

Now Friends finale was a good ending for the series. Star Trek DS9 and Voyager were great ways to end their adventures. Gilligan's Island never wrapped, but they got made-for-TV movies to follow the series.

Happy Days, Three's Company, Mary Tyler More, MASH. They all had great finales to wrap up their shows, and they were not flashback episodes.
Cheyloo 35 months ago
Everytime I see this episode I think how that was the only show I can remember from back then doing that. And it makes me remember that the next show will be Beaver and Wally as grade school kids--my favorite!
lcuzman 35 months ago
Beaver's not going to be on anymore????? Bummer...
Pacificsun lcuzman 35 months ago
It's starting over again with the first episode!
musiclady1170 35 months ago
I think my favorite part of the show was actually the scenes between June & Ward. Their humor with each other was great.
musiclady1170 35 months ago
I saw Tim Mathieson on it again this morning. It was the episode where Beaver accidentally gives his dad's good suits to the school clothing drive.
klg4rebz 35 months ago
I watch "Beava" as my 4-year-old says, every morning with her before work and pre-school. I had never watched it before, being born in '74, but thanks to MeTV we've been watching it for several years now. I absolutely love it. It shows the way families were (according to my mom and dad, both born in '53) and should be now. It's how we're trying to raise our daughter, respectful (yes sir, yes ma'am), respect authority, respect her elders, pick up after herself, helpful to those in need, empathetic, etc. Since MeTV doesn't have on-demand we watch LITB and The Andy Griffith Show all the time. if we're not sitting at the table for dinner we're in the den eating watching either "Andy Griffins" (again, 4-year-old or Full House. Just started Full House last week as "Andy" has always been our go-to supper show (well, at the B&W ones). If I'm off work and she's at pre-school, or if she happens to not be home for whatever reason, I've gotten into Perry Mason, too. Thanks to MeTV. The 4-year-old is too young and I haven't been able to get my wife into that one, yet. lol

We also have Boomerang to watch Tom & Jerry, Road Runner, Smurfs, etc. The cartoons I grew up with. The tv shows and even cartoons of today are just so raunchy, demeaning, anti-family, and risque that we don't watch much current tv outside of the Chicago's, Blue Bloods, The Resident, and the NCIS's (although I'm about done with New Orleans and it's overt political statements). My daughter watches Paw Patrol, Fancy Nancy, Doc McStuffins, etc. but she loves the cartoons on Boomerang and MeTV like Popeye, Bugs Bunny and The Flintstones too.

I'm so thankful and appreciative that there's a channel like MeTV for not only playing these wholesome, family-friendly shows but turning me on to some of these shows that we can actually watch as a family. It got me looking for other "oldies" shows like Ozzy & Harriett, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Lucy, and the old-faithful The Beverly Hillbilliees in places like "Best TV Ever" on Amazon Prime Video (since MeTV doesn't stream).

I hope MeTV is around for a loooooong time playing shows like Leaave It to Beaver and Andy Griffith that families can watch together. Real, husband-wife-daughter, fly-over country, conservative, red-blooded, American families. The type of families we're told don't exist anymore. That are made fun of by the "elite's" of NY, LA, and DC. Not shows made for the NY and LA "families" that are made up of a man married to a horse where the kids are a frog and a rock. What used to be called "weirdos". It seems like about 95% of current TV is geared to them.

Thank you MeTV. Don't ever stop playing Beava. :-)
CarlosMitchell klg4rebz 35 months ago
Sorry, but we live in the present day. You know, the one that has people of color, LGBT, and Democrats on TV. I guess you liked the shows that ignored the racism and McCarthyism of the time.
Pacificsun CarlosMitchell 35 months ago
You know, it's possible for things to exist, without having "attention" drawn to them. I could reference one of the very earliest sitcom series that focused on a minority culture. But probably, would be blasted for even mentioning the name of the show! Television was never meant to be documentary worthy. Just simple entertainment and escapism. Yeah, a place where people actually seemed to get along without issue.

But I'm sure for many, it's just not their style. Thank heavens there must be about 100 channels to choose from in the day. Certainly something for everybody.
horribleHDanny Pacificsun 35 months ago
Amen!Not everything has to be a da*n political statement!Most of today's shows seem to be written by perpetually aggrieved victim mentality crybabies with single digit IQs!!Thank God for MeTV!
DavidGallo CarlosMitchell 35 months ago
Based on his statements about democrats I don't think Carols understands that "McCarthyism of the time" was started by democrats - and that Joe McCarthy was a democrat. Just leave politics out of this
ShonnSutton DavidGallo 32 months ago
Sorry, but you don't have your facts correct. Joe McCarthy was the Republican Senator from Wisconsin. McCarthyism was very much a Republican issue. That is why many famous Republicans, like John Wayne, were part of it.
35 months ago
I remember a funny spoof of LITB, on SCTV. with John Candy as a beefy, grown-up Beaver, obviously too old for the part.
Martin Pilaf 35 months ago
I loved that? I remember around the same time Bill Murray had Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers on SNL's Weekend Update. Bill asked Jerry about the rumor that he died in Vietnam and Tony goes, "Boy Jerry, what did you go and start a goofy rumor like that for?" and they continued it as Wally and Beaver, with Bill Murray taking the role of Ward. After the interview Jane Curtin turns to Bill and says, "Bill, don't you think you were a little hard on the boys?" It was hilarious!
Martin Martin 35 months ago
Here it is.
Pacificsun Martin 35 months ago
Thank you, I enjoyed that link very much! Especially the 60 year anniversary highlights. Jerry Mathers aged so gracefully, exactly how you would want Beaver to grow up. Tony Dow was a little shy in the interview, but perhaps he didn't pursue show business.
horribleHDanny Pacificsun 35 months ago
Actually,Tony went into directing.He directed a multitude of shows of a lot of different genres.
MsMissy 35 months ago
Great series. Brings back fond memories of how life used to be. Great parenting raised such well mannered children.
Pacificsun MsMissy 35 months ago
There's a deep lesson in LITB. Not really directed at you, but is put here in this place because your comment reminded me of what to say. You can yack at children all day long. They finally tune you out. But example speaks louder than words. The LITB dinner scenes are very telling. Where each person is focused on the other person talking. Whether there, or not, the parents aren't yelling, impatient, inattentive, insensitive, or focused on their social media accounts. The kids have their attention when needed. They ask (and wait) to be excused from the table. They respond to a request made by their parents even it they don't like it. And get time later on to discuss the issue. It's called communication, consideration and consistency. The kids can predict when their parents will probably say no, not because they're "mean" but just because they are their parents (and that's their job).

Viewers would say, oh but that's just television. Nobody acts like that. Uhhh, Mosher & Connelly (the creator/producers) took the stories for this show from their own childhood and they must've had a familiarity with the norms of the times. (Myself and friends can also relate to decent manners and kindness). It isn't that those times didn't or couldn't have existed, but that generations of parents have changed.

Is our society the better for it?
BrentwoodJon 35 months ago
I was born in 1956 and all I remember is reruns.
BrentwoodJon 35 months ago
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KirwoodDerby 35 months ago
I grew up in the sixties and seventies but I never had access to LITB as a kid. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I finally got to meet and fall in love with the show. As I look back on the limited number of kids shows in our pre-cable days, I can only dream of how great it would have been to have Beaver reruns to watch on a Sunday night instead of Ed Sullivan, Lassie or Bonanza.
Pacificsun KirwoodDerby 35 months ago
Leave It To Beaver wasn't so much a "kids to kids" kind of show, as it would be a bit hard to relate to today. But is a show aimed at the nostalgia adults enjoy in looking back over those late 50's & 60's decades. In the day (prime time) that show would've had a different vibe than it does today, now, which is in terms of greater appreciation!
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