'Little House' town to be blasted away


HOLLYWOOD -- The tiny town of Walnut Grove, the community that grew up around Michael Landon's fictional family on 'Little House on the Prairie,' will be blown away Friday morning in a series of dynamite blasts to be filmed for TV.

Only the town's church, and the little house, will be spared the destruction that will air as the final show of the long-running NBC series -- an ending that was conceived because producers have to return the land where the show was filmed to its original condition.


Landon, who created and produced the show based on Laura Ingalls Wilder's stories and starred as the father of the Ingalls family, decided to blow up the town in the last of three 'Little House' specials this season.

'Mike decided that if the town had to go he might as well send it out in a blaze of glory on the screen,' NBC publicist Bill Kiley said.


Landon also decided on the plot for the final show, 'The Last Farewell,' which will show different cast members pushing the plungers to blow up their own homes and businesses to frustrate a group of easterners who have purchased the land.

And he made the decision to not blow up the little house and the church, which will will later be torn down as the ranch land north of Los Angeles is restored to its original condition and returned to the Simi Valley Land and Development Co.

'Mike said he thought the fans would kill him if they blew those up,' Kiley explained.

'They'll both be dismantled, but Mike didn't want children seeing the house or church being blown up. The final segment will show the Ingalls moving away, with a rabbit sitting in the doorstep of the little house watching them go.'

'Little House on the Prairie' was a weekly series for nine years - and quickly gained a popularity that placed it with 'Bonanza,' 'Gunsmoke' and 'The Waltons' among TV productions that American images of frontier life in the 1800s.

Despite their nostalgic and monetary value -- the sets were worth $750,000 when constructed -- Riley said it was not feasible to save the town because the structures are not real buildings, only hollow fronts. Interior filming of the show was done at MGM studios.


Riley said Landon's script for the final show features a classic 'Old West' confrontation.

'A group of eastern financiers, the bad guys, reveal to the townfolk that they own the property,' he said, 'and they inform the residents that from now on they are their employees.

'Melissa Gilbert, who plays Mike's daughter on the show, gets so mad she breaks a window and says, 'They may own the land, but they don't own my house.'

'This idea spreads through the town, the though that they built this town and they can destroy it. So one by one they blow it up, so when the bad guys come to take possession they have nothing but dirt.'

Filming of the final scenes began early this month, but Landon decided to delay the explosions until Friday.

Most of the cast will be kept away, for safety reasons, and two crews from a nearby fire station will monitor the explosions to make sure they don't ignite a brush fire.

Destruction of the 'Little House' set did not necessarily mean the end of show.

Landon noted that most of the characters on the show have already moved to other locations and added, 'If there's a reunion later, we can do it elsewhere.'


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