Today, we look at how Lassie moved past saving just ONE kid to saving a bunch of different people as a professional dog.
This is “Gonna Make a Change,” a feature where I spotlight shows that underwent major revamps during their runs to avoid cancellation. Note that I mean MAJOR revamps, not, like, M*A*S*H getting more serious as it went on or Cheers becoming more of an ensemble comedy once Shelley Long left.
April is a month of Gonna Make A Change!
It’s always funny to see how much Hollywood will go out of its way to follow a trend. One dog movie does well, then suddenly there are tons of dog movies! Two of the biggest dog film stars were Rin-Tin-Tin and Lassie, and both of them received TV series in 1954 (Lassie came out in September and Rin-Tin-Tin in October).
Original Concept: This is a good example of how a show can definitely make major changes without really counting as a retool, per se. The original concept of Lassie was that the Miller family owned a farm, and their son, Jeff (Tommy Rettig), had a dog named Lassie. Jeff would get into trouble a lot, and Lassie would always be there to help out. Around season three, the family began to foster a new kid, Timmy (Jon Provost). In Season 4, the Millers sold the farm to the Martin family, who then freakishly KEPT Timmy. That’s really weird, right? But whatever, the concept of the show remained the same, it was just the Martins and the Millers, and Timmy instead of Jeff.
Revamped Concept: In Season 11, the Martins move to Australia, and Lassie goes to work for the park service alongside Park Ranger Corey Stuart (Robert Bray).
Eventually, just as Jeff gave way to Timmy, Ranger Stuart gave way to Rangers Scott Turner (Jed Allan) and Bob Erickson (Jack De Mave).
Did it get the show more than one last season?: Yep, this revamp of Lassie went over really well, and the show’s life was extended by more than five seasons (there would be more drastic revamps to come, however, which I’ll address in future installments of Gonna Make a Change).
Okay, that’s it for this installment of “Gonna Make a Change,” please send in suggestions for other good revamps to my e-mail address of email@example.com!