So, once in a while as an adult, I'd watch an episode there and there. Luckily, my wife is a fan, and so we started watching them in earnest over the last few months, since the Hallmark Channel shows it every weekday and we save them on our DVR. My knowledge of the show come in around the time Mary goes blind, which is around the middle of the 4th season (out of 10). I haven't seem many episodes before that, so takayla has to fill me in. Now we're around Season 8, and my research shows that things start to sour as far as the show is concerned and it jumps the shark (cast starts leaving and "replacement children" around season 9).
I have always been fascinated with Alison Arngrim. I first became aware of her as a female comic, and quite often, she referred back to being the most hated girl on television at a very vulnerable time in her life. "IT WAS A WIG!" she'd joke. She seems to have a very good sense of humor about it. But I never got to see her play Nellie, so it's a little trippy for me. Like if you saw George Carlin play some bratty kid in a 1950s show. Of course, I came to see Nellie as they started to round out her character a little. Sadly, I still see her as a very two-dimensional character. First, she was nasty. Then she found her Percival, and became... kind of like a dominating version of a Stepford wife. Her personality changed so dramatically, it's almost like she's forcing herself to be nice by emulating it. Maybe that's on purpose, I dunno.
But Carrie Ingalls (played by Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush) still has yet to get more than a few speaking lines, and when she does, oy... is she terrible. We see more of Baby Grace than her, and she's the older sister. There are other character actors who deliver lines like they'd learned to act from Disney films.
But the rest of the cast does a pretty good job, so I find watching rather enjoyable as I try and figure out how the stories have influenced those in my generation. Some episodes are rather predictable in this way, since I know a lot about how my friends thought (and in some cases, still do). The Ingalls seem to befall a lot of tragedy that is so predictable, I often wonder if it somehow didn't make avid watchers of the show rather pessimistic. I could imagine a kid like myself watching the TV, and episode after episode, be taught that good things always come at a price, and nothing ever goes the way you planned. You rescue a girl from rape, pledge your love to her, and she dies falling off a ladder. You have your first grandchild, he dies in a fire along with your best friend's wife. The adopted son, Albert Ingalls, seems to get the brunt of disappointment and blame for things. Then again, Mary went blind, and found a good husband, who starts off blind but then regains his sight and becomes a lawyer. So this minor soap opera does have some god news.
There are some odd things, however.
People age at different rates, it seems. Carrie never seems to get much older, but they never gave her many parts, so she's been reduced to constantly tumbling down a hill at the beginning of each episode. Grace seems to have been terminally 3 years old while her older sisters get married and have kids. It was like she was a baby and then was suddenly 3 years old where she stayed for several years. And the opening credits never got updated from the first season.
Nils Oleson has the patience and kindness of a saint, but he lets people boss him around too much. His wife Harriet is positively dreadful. I am surprised she wasn't murdered by local townsfolk. I keep picturing Nils pushing her head into a rain barrel until she stops struggling... her body goes limp... and eventually the bubbles stop. "Solving a problem... solving a problem..." he'd whisper calmly to himself.
But the biggest blunder seems to be the end credits, where Laura is running down the hill, and jumps at the very end. The music is sweet and perky, showing a joyful innocence of children. While this ending is fine after a normal story, it is a complete slap in the face after a story of sorrow. Like someone finally dies in some tragic accident, there are two equally balanced but opposite moralistic principles struggling for different causes, and some family has to cope in some way with a bitter victory, scene fades at a gravestone... and then we see Laura bouncing about daisies in some macabre mockery of the scene shows just seconds earlier. Even M*A*S*H had ending credits in silence when they had a deep and sad story.