This family comedy focused on life through the eyes of a young boy, Beaver Theodore Cleaver (Jerry Matthers) was 7 when the series began and his brother Wally (Tony Dow) was 12. Beaver was a typically rambunctious youth, more interested in pet frogs than in girls, but Wally, just entering his teens, was beginning to discover other things in life. The counterpoint between the two, plus some good writing and acting, lent the series its charm. The boys’ parents, June (Barbara Billingsley) and Ward Cleaver (Hugh Beaumont) were one of those nice, middle-class couples so often seen in this kind of program. Larry Mondello (Rusty Stevens), Whitey Whitney (Stanley Fafara) and Gilbert Bates (Stephen Talbot) – among others – were Beaver’s pals; Eddie Haskell (Ken Osmond) and Clarence “Lumpy” Rutherford (Frank Bank) were Wally’s buddies. Eddie was one of the more memorable characters, unctuous and oily to adults (“Good evening Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver”), but a bully to little kids – a complete rat. Miss Canfield (Diane Brewster) and Miss Landers (Sue Randall) were Beaver’s school teachers. The locale was the suburban town of Mayfield where Ward worked for Mr. Rutherford (Lumpy’s father) as an accountant).
As the years passed and Beaver got older, the stories naturally moved away from the little-boy premise until, in the final season, Beaver was about to enter his teens and Wally was ready for college.
In 1987, in the midst of a ‘Leave It to Beaver’ revival, the original 1957 pilot episode for the series surfaced, containing a somewhat different cast than most people remembered. Billingsley and Mathers were there, but Ward Cleaver was played by Casey Adams, Wally by Paul Sullivan and ‘Frankie’ – the Eddie Haskell type character – by Harry Shearer, who years later would become a regular on ‘Saturday Night Live’.
Twenty years after ‘Leave it to Beaver’ ended it’s original run, viewers got a glimpse of what had become of the Cleavers in the March 1983 TV movie ‘Still the Beaver’. Unlike most TV reunions, this one was bittersweet. Beaver’s eternal innocence had not served him well in adult life. At 33, he was out of work, had two young sons he couldn’t communicate with and was being divorced by his wife. Wally was a successful attorney – in fact he handled Beaver’s divorce – but he had problems at home as well. Wally’s sleazy friend Eddie Haskell had become a crooked contractor. Dad was no longer around to make things right with a few words of sage advice (actor Hugh Beaumont had passed away) and he was sorely missed by his sons and wife June, who sat by his grave and said “Ward, what would you do?”.
Despite the dour picture, viewers apparently wanted more of the Cleaver clan and so the movie led to a series ‘Still the Beaver’ on the pay-cable Disney Channel in 1985 – 1986 and then ‘The New Leave It to Beaver’ on cable super station WTBS in 1986. Things got somewhat better as time went along. Beaver and his sons (he had custody) moved in with June, who provided some emotional support. He then went to work for Lumpy Rutherford’s father and eventually he and Lumpy formed a highly successful business partnership, although it was never explained exactly what they did. Much of the action shifted to the younger generation – Beaver’s boys, teenager Ward “Kip” Jr. (Kipp Marcus) and pre-teen Oliver (John Snee); Wally’s kids, cute Kelly (Kaleena Kiff) and little Kevin (Troy Davidson) – his mother, Mary Ellen, was pregnant with him for 18 months on the series and three months after his birth he was three years old!; and Eddie’s son Freddie (Eric Osmond), who was Kip’s best friend. Although Freddie had picked up some of his father’s obnoxious traits, underneath it all he was a pretty good guy. Freddie’s brother, Bomber (Christian Osmond), had been sent off to military school for accidentally spilling grape juice on the white carpeting in the Haskell living room, but showed up periodically. The same gentle, homespun quality that had characterized the original series began to permeate ‘The New Leave It to Beaver’.
Eddie Haskell’s sons were played by Ken Osmond’s real-life sons. The show was the creation of Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher, radio and television writers, who found inspiration for the show in their own children. The show was listed on TIME magazine's unranked 2007 list of "The 100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME."
This show made its debut on the same day the Soviets launched Sputnik (4 October 1957).
Eddie called everyone "Sam".
Edgar Buchanan, who appeared in an earlier episode as Captain Jack, would later return as Wally and Beaver's Uncle Billy.
When filming was shifted to Universal's backlot (then known as Universal International) a new house was built. This house remained as a standing set and was later used for many other television programs and motion pictures. It is a popular attraction on Universal's Tour. More than forty years after the final episode was filmed, the still standing set is known as "The Cleaver House.
Barbara Billingsley told an interviewer in 2007 the reason she always wore pearls on camera is because of a small indentation just above her sternum that didn't photograph well.
Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver: You know something, Wally? I'd rather do nothin' with you than somethin' with anybody else.
Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver: If I had my choice between a three pound bass and a girl, I'd take the three pound bass.
Eddie Haskell: Gee, your kitchen always looks so clean.
June Cleaver: Why, thank you, Eddie.
Eddie Haskell: My mother says it looks as though you never do any work in here.
Ward Cleaver: Beaver, you know what Larry was doing was wrong. You could have stopped him.
Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver: Gee, Dad, I have enough trouble keeping myself good without keeping all the other kids good.
Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver: We can't just say we're going to be friends. We gotta have an agreement or something.
Larry Mondello: Okay.
Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver: I, Beaver Cleaver, swear to die for Larry Mondello and always stick up for him and never snitch on him and be his friend forever.
June Cleaver: Dear, do you think all parents have this much trouble?
Ward Cleaver: No, just parents with children.
Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver: How come Eddie's such a creepy guy?
Wally Cleaver: He works at it.
Parents need to know that this classic, squeaky-clean 1950s sitcom is an icon of American pop culture. Although it's certainly dated in look and dialogue, many of its themes about growing up, sibling rivalry, social adjustment, and parent-kid relationships are still pertinent today. That said, the fact remains that it's a very isolated look at a white, American suburban middle-class family. Today's savvy school-aged kids may find it unrealistic, simple, or boring (the black-and-white cinematography alone will probably be enough to turn a lot of them off). Reviewed by: Common Sense Media.