Father Knows Best was a serial TV situational comedy that was broadcast in the U.S. during the black-and-white era of the 1950's. It's one of those early shows that young disdainful liberals like to laugh at for being simplistically idealistic in their moralism. So very different from say, The Simpsons. They're wrong.
The show's basic message is that the family values of mutual love, devotion and loyalty, along with religious faith, determination and occasional sacrificing of personal goals will get a family and its individual members through all personal problems, times of difficulty and crises. The medium for that message is the daily life of the Anderson family.
Jim Anderson (played by Robert Young) is the husband, father and breadwinner. He illustrates the ideal family head, but is not personally perfect and strays from the ideal often enough to show us our mistakes. Despite the show's title, he does not always know best. He can also lose his temper, be unreasonable, take others for granted and so on, although he always comes to recognize his lapses and make up for them by the end of the program.
Margaret Anderson (played by Jane Wyatt) is the wife, mother and homemaker. She is three years younger than Jim and college educated. As a person and family member, she is a peer to Jim rather than just a meek and smiling prop. She has interests, aspirations and the usual human faults. She is recognized for her accomplishments outside the home. She is capable of getting fed up and walking out on the family. Of course the family recognizes its errors and she's back by end of show, with everyone appreciating her more. Not infrequently, Mother knows best.
Betty Anderson (played by Elinor Donahue) is the oldest child. She was 17 in the first season. Like her mother, she has her own mind and sometimes knows best. She contributes various problems and solutions to the family.
Bud Anderson (14 in the first season, played by Billy Gray) is not particularly outstanding in any way. He is no James Dean, but he is somewhat prone to rebellion. He can have social or academic problems at school and can even have minor brushes with the law.
Kathy Anderson is the youngest (9 in the first season, played by Laurin Chapin). She adds the cute humor to the show and presents the family with all of the young kid problems and occasionally surprises everyone with her own sense and wisdom. And yes, she has her turn to know best
The Andersons live in a modest but impeccable suburban home in Springfield, Ohio. Jim comes home from work at an insurance company, the kids come and greet him and Margaret appears from the kitchen. Jim changes from suit coat to sweater, some problem is presented and then resolved in the course of the show. The Simpsons you say?
The show's six seasons ran in prime time from 1954 to 1963. The fact that the last three years were reruns that nevertheless stayed in the prime time slots is testimony to the program's broad popularity. Wyatt won three Emmys and Young won two for performances in this series.
The show was openly moralistic, and in spite of the perfectly neat and clean house and neatly dressed and groomed characters, it strived for realism in the types of problems that were faced and overcome by the Andersons. Considered in the proper social context of the time, the show was probably not perceived by the audience much differently than we perceive modern family sitcoms like Malcom in the Middle or even, with lenient stretching, Modern Family. It was certainly more realistic and balanced than was Leave It to Beaver, for example. The episodes were mostly based on the family experiences of the two producers, Robert Young and Eugene B. Rodney. The show was transferred to TV from radio. The radio program had the same title, but with a question mark at the end, which better represented the message and content.
On YouTube (Bud gets bongos)
and some very vague memories