Those who fondly recall this archetypal 1950s family sitcom may be surprised to learn that when the series debuted in 1954, it did so poorly in the ratings that CBS canceled it in March of 1955. A flood of protests came from viewers insisting that the show be reinstated. It was moved to an earlier time, and gradually became a hit.
The show took place in the town of Springfield. Even though it was never specified in which state the town was located, several times characters mentioned Altoona, an actual city in Pennsylvania. Iowa also has a city called Altoona.
The NBC radio series on which the show was based had Jim being somewhat clumsy and slow-witted, often getting himself into embarrassing scrapes. On the TV version he's a lot wiser and makes far, far fewer mistakes.
Friday, November 22nd, 1963, when New Yorkers first witnessed breaking news of John F. Kennedy's assassination over WABC-TV, a rerun of "Father Knows Best" was interrupted to make way for the unfolding news coverage.
When the sitcom first aired in 1949 on NBC radio at 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays, it was sponsored by Maxwell House. When the series moved from NBC radio to CBS television in October 1954, Robert Young was the only member of the radio cast to make the transition to the TV sitcom adaptation.
The show began on radio in 1949 and was then produced for television by Eugene B. Rodney and star Robert Young. The show ran for six years, eventually airing original episodes on NBC and CBS. Both CBS and later ABC continued to air reruns as late as 1967.
The setting is very possibly Springfield, Illinois, since there is mention of a wedding in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a new girl from Chicago, and in one episode, Bud's homing pigeon is released in Rockford, all relatively near Springfield, Illinois.
Here is what Billy Gray, who played son James Anderson Jr., better known as Bud, said about this excessively idyllic series: "I wish there was some way I could tell the kids not to believe it. The dialogue, the situations, the characters they were all totally false. The show did everyone a disservice. The girls were always trained to use their feminine wiles, to pretend to be helpless to attract men. The show contributed to a lot of the problems between men and women that we see today.... I think we were all well motivated, but what we did was run a hoax. 'Father Knows Best' purported to be a reasonable facsimile of life. And the bad thing is, the model is so deceitful. It usually revolved around not wanting to tell the truth, either out of embarrassment, or not wanting to hurt someone. If I could say anything to make up for all the years I lent myself to (that), it would be, You Know Best.