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

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

Read to Me

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?

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Mark 6 days 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 6 days 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 7 days ago
Beaver's not going to be on anymore????? Bummer...
Pacificsun lcuzman 4 days ago
It's starting over again with the first episode!
musiclady1170 7 days ago
I think my favorite part of the show was actually the scenes between June & Ward. Their humor with each other was great.
musiclady1170 7 days 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 7 days 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. :-)
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.
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.
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!
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
Pilaf 7 days 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 7 days 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 6 days ago
Here it is.
Pacificsun Martin 4 days 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.
Actually,Tony went into directing.He directed a multitude of shows of a lot of different genres.
MsMissy 7 days ago
Great series. Brings back fond memories of how life used to be. Great parenting raised such well mannered children.
Pacificsun MsMissy 3 days 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 7 days ago
I was born in 1956 and all I remember is reruns.
You were born the same year my sister was. I love and miss you Becky! {9 years gone: 1/22/2012.}
KirwoodDerby 8 days 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.
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!
007 8 days ago
i watched leave it to beaver as a kid and really liked the show. i guess as far as i know most of the actors on the show were fairly decent people in real life.
valerie60 8 days ago
I, like others, have been tuning into Leave It to Beaver daily since the early days of the pandemic to start my days in a simpler time when the biggest problem a kid had could be solved by their Father after having a truthful talk with him.

Of course in the years that the original series "Leave It to Beaver" ran, 1957 - 1963, there were a lot of truly scary events going on in the world: the Cold War; Apartheid; the Vietnam War just to name a few, but you would never know it watching the show as there was nothing either negative or positive going on in the world that got mentioned.
This series started on 10/4/1957, the same day that Russia launched Sputnik 1 & the space age had begun. Not once in the series run was anything even mentioned about space. The only "real life" event mentioned was WWII and Ward's service in the SeaBees was it.
They chose to keep the show 100% feel good entertainment & that is what I want & need now in this time of the covid-19 pandemic & a very un-united United States.
valerie60 valerie60 8 days ago
I'm sorry my post is so wordy. I stopped 1/2 way through to watch Impeachment news & it riled me up again.
Supercat58 valerie60 7 days ago
Amen to that! Thankfully we have memories of childhood we can relate to in the show. As kids, we had loving parents who always watched out for us. We did things we shouldn’t have, but we made it through, even though at the time we thought mom and dad were so unfair sometimes. Ah, the good old days.
Pacificsun valerie60 7 days ago
It is said that Creators (Mosher & Connelly) wrote the show purely from their recollections of growing up in an average hometown. As noticed, the true location of "Mayberry" is vague, and was meant to be. Guesses include the idea that it must've been in fair weather southern California, since there was never any snow, only wet streets from rain. On the other hand Ward Cleaver was said to be connected with a home office located back East. However, one of the episodes (recently) featured a plot/scene having to do with the coast, presumably, west coast.
JeffWooten valerie60 6 days ago
I've watched the rerun cycles of LITB so many countless times, but it wasn't until last week, when ME-TV aired one of the Season 6 episodes (can't remember which one at the moment) that I was kind of surprised to hear Lumpy mention the Cuban Missile Crisis in an off-hand comment about his radio. Aside from an appearance by Don Drysdale once, that seemed to be the only time the series addressed a then-current event--which probably explains why it's still so timeless to me today.
SteveThames 8 days ago
Luv the show, 2nd favorite behind wild Wild West; still saddened we lost Eddie Haskell, ken Osmond
valerie60 SteveThames 8 days ago
I agree. RIP Ken Osmond.
booster SteveThames 8 days ago
I was saddened when we lost Robert Conrad.
007 valerie60 8 days ago
as a kid growing up, i had a neighborhood friend sort of like Eddie and my mom seem to know he was up to no good most of the time.
Supercat58 007 7 days ago
That’s funny! I think we all knew somebody like him growing up, just not as exaggerated. He’d pour on the phony charm to the adults, then act tough around the other kids. Deep down he was really a sensitive guy but wouldn’t often show it.
booster 8 days ago
I've always considered the true series conclusion, to be "The Fugitive", when they ran a 2 part episode, and caught the one armed man, freeing Kimble.
mike 8 days ago
Please start playing Dennis The Menace which ran from 1959 to 1963 starring Jay North and Gale Gordon from The Lucy Show also start playing the Lassie TV series that started in 1954 that starred Tommy Retieg and John Provost who later played Timmy !
JoeGuenther mike 8 days ago
Antenna tv airs Dennis the Menace.
stephaniestavr5 mike 6 days ago
FETV airs ALL Lassie episodes. Last month they concluded airing the colored ones and are now back to showing Tommy Rettig/Jon Provost ones.
Corey 8 days ago
It was Jerry Mathers who want to leave so he can go to high school. Also the writers had a big problem with Wally going to college.
Newyorkcitygal Corey 8 days ago
Thank you for sharing. I never knew that, and it is one of my favorite shows. I have all seasons on DVD.
JoeGuenther Corey 8 days ago
I'm sure the first Beaver episode has the boys adopting a pet alligator.
HansShultz1 8 days ago
My favorite episode was “ In The Soup”. I purchased the series on dvd, and the first episode I watched was this one. It’s the only episode after Larry Mondelo left, that was really funny. Beaver was always a good show, but as he grew up, the producers should have had him ditch the little baseball hat sooner.
Dlawson 8 days ago
I grew up with this show and loved every minute of it, essentially due to the fact that it was presented from a child's perspective. It was fun and I hated to see it end. Thanks for the memories, though!
Pacificsun Dlawson 7 days ago
It's easy to miss that plenty of perspective was shared by the adults too. Not supporting character adults like Fred Rutherford or Beaver's principal (for examples). But by the parents, who quite often learned simple lessons about their growing children. And discovering how the felt about things. I think the show gave a lot of "grace" to parents who were just trying to do their best raising children. How they didn't know everything, and were able to admit it.

It was a gentle, kind show (like TAGS) and I think that's why its always popular.

MeTV better NOT let that series go to streaming like ILL.
trogg888 8 days ago
i grew up with beaver.we were about the same age and the show still holds up today
Mac2Nite 8 days ago
I had a serious crush on Wally in the 50's 💗
teire Mac2Nite 8 days ago
I still do!
musiclady1170 Mac2Nite 7 days ago
He is still good looking. Tony Dow has a Facebook page that I follow.
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