Leave it to Beaver Turns 60

Beaver and his kid sister graced the pages of children’s magazines at the height of his sitcom fame.

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The television show that has become synonymous with idyllic American life first aired 60 years ago today. Leave it to Beaver started with an episode titled “Beaver Gets Spelled,” in which the young mumbler spins a web of fibs to avoid giving his mother a note from his new teacher.  

For six seasons the wholesome sitcom followed the antics of Beaver and Wally while June Cleaver did all of her chores in high heels and pearls. The portrayal of domestic life in Leave it to Beaver has become a sort of joke regarding a brand of suburban bliss that probably never existed.  

The show wasn’t what one would call groundbreaking, but it was the first television program to show a toilet onscreen — or, a toilet tank, rather. In “Captain Jack,” the boys send off $2.50 for a Florida alligator, and it wasn’t logical for them to hide it anywhere else in the bathroom. “Captain Jack” was supposed to be the first episode of the program, but CBS’s Standards and Practices took issue with showing a toilet on television. The episode was bumped until it was negotiated to show only the toilet tank onscreen.  

The child actor who played Beaver, Jerry Mathers, was quite the star in his day, making many appearances in children’s magazines, including Children’s Playmate, which was published by the Saturday Evening Post.  Jerry wasn’t exactly teen heartthrob material, but his innocent persona was surely attractive to the parents who bought the magazine.  







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  1. Interesting, different angle on the show than I’ve read before. I’d never heard of the Children’s PLAYMATE Magazine, or that Jerry Mathers had a sister.

    The show’s had potshots taken at it over the years as depicting suburban bliss that probably never existed, as well as June doing the housework in heels and pearls. Barbara herself has lampooned it. The same thing could be said even more so (and was) about ‘The Donna Reed Show’. It wasn’t said about Florence Henderson’s TV character partly because she had a maid, and by default made her a liberated woman.

    Each era has had exaggeration; they’re TV shows, meant to be an escape. In this decade we’ve had the largely frazzled ‘Frankie Heck’ of ‘The Middle’ portrayed by Patricia Heaton. She and her family frankly are a mess! She represents the 2010’s as much as the mid-century wives did in their times: an idealized version of what at heart was relateably true.

    In these times of near constant, accelerating, escalating (in carnage) national tragedies on an unprecedented scale, no one’s in any position to be criticizing the U.S. of those times—-at all, to say the least. It wasn’t perfect, but God help us, there seemed to be an awful lot we got right then, and have long since gotten REALLY wrong to be where we’re at now and obviously goin’ in the future!

    ‘Leave it to Beaver’ was a great mid-century show that was actually better in 1961-’63 than ’57-’60 because the episodes featured older brother ‘Wally’ with his pal ‘Lumpy’ and frenemy ‘Eddie’ a lot more. In addition, the early ’60s were hipper/cooler than the ’50s, even though there were still ties to them.


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