"The way Lassie had to constantly save the family, you have to believe they were dumber than dirt. The only way their farm could have survived is from government grants, which you can figure Lassie filled out the paperwork."
Lassie is a long-running television series that originally aired from 1954 to 1973, and featured the exploits of heroic collie dog Lassie. It is one of the archetypal Heroic Pet Story series, inspiring many later imitations and parodies. In the series, Lassie was the pet of Jeff Miller (Tommy Rettig), and in later seasons Timmy Martin (Jon Provost), of "What's that, Lassie? Timmy's fallen down a well?" fame -- although a well was one of the few things Timmy didn't fall down in the course of the series.
It may be a little hard for modern tropers to really grok, but this series was a big deal back in the day. It was on the air at the very dawn of mass-consumption television, and it hit exactly the perfect note for young baby-boom families of the time. Lassie was one of the first true super-smash television hits, alongside shows like Leave It to Beaver, that demonstrated just how potent television was as a medium - not just for storytelling, but for making obscene amounts of money.
Six different dogs portrayed Lassie over the course of the series; all were owned and trained by professional trainer Rudd Weatherwax, and the five successors were descended from the original, whose off-screen name was Pal. Pal was the original Lassie, who had starred in the 1943 film Lassie Come Home (based on a novel by Eric Knight) and six sequels; when the film series ended, Weatherwax acquired the Lassie trademark (in lieu of unpaid wages, according to one account), and the television series resulted. All six dogs were actually male; male collies were thought to be more visually impressive, and less subject to seasonal shedding issues.
- Timmy in a Well: Even though Timmy never did actually fall down a well.
- An Aesop: Frequently prefaced with the words "You see, Timmy..."
- And Starring: "Starring Hugh Beaumont, June Lockhart, Jon Provost as Timmy, and, of course, Lassie."
- Animals Lack Attributes: Lassie is a female dog (note the root of the name is Lass not Lad) played by males with their belly hair coiffed very carefully to cover up the naughty bits.
- Unbelievably, Lassie even had puppies one season. Don't ask.
- Amplified Animal Aptitude: Lassie can apparently not only understand human speech, but can also bark in some sort of code that humans understand to mean Timmy in a Well.
- A Boy and His X: Boy and his dog.
- Caught in a Snare: A black-and-white episode has young Timmy caught in a snare intended for a loose wildcat, which sees him hanging like grapes on a bough. Lassie arrives to kick the wildcat's tuchus.
- Character Title
- Common Knowledge: For all of the other trouble he got into, Timmy never did fall down a well.
- Crosscast Role: Lassie, as described above.
- Heartwarming Orphan: Timmy.
- Heroic Dog/Heroic Pet Story: One of best known examples.
- Missing Episode: One episode in which Timmy comes across a fallen satellite and is exposed to radiation wasn't shown originally due to a widespread radiation fears at the time. It was eventually aired much later.
- The Other Darrin: The various Lassies; and among the human cast, the actors playing Timmy's adoptive parents were both replaced after one season.
- Pet Baby Wild Animal: In one episode, Lassie adopted a raccoon, which was later killed by a speeding car. Everyone learned an important lesson about careful driving.
- Product Placement: For Campbell's Soup, the show's major sponsor.
- Put on a Bus: The Millers move to the city, leaving Lassie behind with the Martins; later the Martins move to Australia, leaving Lassie behind with a friend who is a forest ranger.
- Quicksand Sucks: The swamp version of this is just one of the many dangers to befall Timmy.
- The Red Stapler: Collies gained quite a bit of popularly from this show.
- Stage Names: Pal and his successors were all credited as "Lassie".
- Syndication Title: The early seasons were syndicated as Jeff's Collie, and later seasons as Timmy and Lassie.
- Too Dumb to Live: Considering all the non-well based trouble Timmy got into it is a miracle he's alive at all.