Big Star = Big Head = Big Hair


TV shows with a historical setting were big in the 1960s and 70s. The only thing bigger than the shows was their stars’ hair.

Producers put some effort into making sets and costumes historically accurate, but often fell flat with the hairdos.

Pa Ingalls: No man living on the prairie in the 1800s would have had the shiny, luxuriously flowing mane of hair that Michael Landon sported. Neither would a woman, for that matter. Given that their Little House On the Prairie was likely a soddie made of dirt and grass, all sorts of critters would have dropped from the roof into Pa Ingall’s hair-nest the moment he stepped out of the tub. Even if he did wear his hair long, he wouldn’t have gone near that tub more than once a month. His locks would have looked more like stringy, black licorice than fluffy, cotton candy.

Potsie: Young men in the 1950s wore their hair slicked back in a DA. That’s what Richie Cunningham’s friend Potsie sported in the first years of Happy Days, but he abandoned the Brylcreem at the end.  In the last season, his thick, shining cap of 1980s hair could have earned him a spot as a Breck Girl.  If he’d worn it that way in the 50s, it would have earned him a spot behind the bleachers…getting beat up by the T-Birds.

Audra Barkley: Baby-pink lipstick and long, teased platinum blonde hair were all the rage in the 1960s. Who knew this was also the preferred style for a woman living in The Big Valley in the 1870s? In order to keep her bouffant in place during the heat and humidity of a wild, wild west summer, Audra must have kept a trough of Aqua Net hairspray right next to the horse trough.

Major Margaret Houlihan: MASH was set in a military hospital in Korea in the 1950s, and in the early years the show tried to be true to that period. In the end, their only concession to that setting was that the actors still wore olive green. Pesky details like historical accuracy and humor were cast aside in favor of a constant barrage of holier-than-thou lectures to us, the viewers.

The worst offender was Major Margaret Houlihan. If her deep tan, blindingly white tooth veneers, snug designer t-shirts and artfully tousled, streaked hair were truly representative of life in a Korean field hospital, the Army must have drafted all of their barbers from the ranks of Beverly Hills beauty salons.

These shows started out relatively faithful to their time periods, so what changed?

They made it big.

I suspect that the actors got more powerful as the shows got more popular, and after a couple of years on top of the ratings, even the secondary characters gained creative control. In Hollywood lingo that means, “if historical accuracy makes me look bad, then historical accuracy be damned.”

Hollywood has done a total turnaround in the last 40 years, and TV stars must have no creative control at all anymore. How else can we explain the fact that so many of today’s reality TV stars allow themselves to look so bad on screen? And by bad I mean shallow, selfish, immoral and stupid.

The good news is that most of them have really nice hair.

About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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59 Responses to Big Star = Big Head = Big Hair

  1. Mema says:

    This post is hilarous…and accurate! Let’s face it…I don’t think the American public is ready for Mariska Hargitay on Law & Order looking like something the cat drug in. The little screen is reserved for classic vixens like Eartha Kitt and Lynda Carter. TV conditions prepubescent boys that detectives should look like Farah Fawcett on The Charlies Angels and everyone follows suit like moths to flames. But what if? That’s why network cable shows like Deadwood are so groundbreaking…But I don’t think standard networks can handle an ugly, bald, aging world. The audience doesn’t want to voluntarily suspend their disbelief that far, which is why you end up with sexy Tarzan and hot chick Jane.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, Pa Ingalls and that glorious mane of his! I often wonder how long it took him to get ready before shooting. Did he make Laura Ingalls and Mary with their sad breads wait outside his dressing room? His hair is legendary. They should do a documentary based just on his hair care products.


  3. Carrie Rubin says:

    I haven’t thought of Pa Ingalls for far too long. What a crush I had on him. And Mary’s husband too. He had his own nice hair as I recall…


  4. Al says:

    Speaking on behalf of the follicley challenged everywhere, I’d have to say I would have been much better cast as Pa Ingalls in that show. An interesting side plot each week would have been seeing how much by hairline had receded from the week before. Now that’s reality TV!


  5. Elyse says:

    My big hair along should have guaranteed me stardom. I was robbed. Here I sit at a desk job. Life sucks.


  6. koehlerjoni says:

    This post makes me think of Doctor Who. Maybe you don’t watch it, but last year they exchanged the good looking, young doctor with a gray-headed character actor with actual wrinkles. I stopped watching Doctor Who. I have a gray headed man with actual wrinkles sitting next to me on the couch. I’d like some variety in my life, please.


  7. List of X says:

    That was probably just a manifestation of TV actors’ success literally going to their heads.


  8. What, you mean those shows weren’t real? I can’t tell the difference anymore between fake shows, real shows, reality shows…and showreels, yes showreels!


  9. Gotta say I was never a big fan of Little House on the Prairie Lot. However, I do love watching Michael Landon in the angel show, Highway to Heaven (I think that’s the title). I catch it sometimes off our TV antenna, extended channels. He was a handsome dude.


  10. Dana says:

    Yeah, that kind of bugs me, when it’s something I know and like. There was a re-run of Quantum Leap, last night, where Sam lept into the life of Elvis. All the inaccuracies took me right out of the story.


  11. k8edid says:

    And exactly how did the Star Trek characters always look so crisp and fresh? Must have been a pretty great salon on the Enterprise…


  12. The hell with all those guys. Do you know who had 30 episodes of mad-perfect hair? Honey West. You betcha.


  13. Funny you should bring a Pa Ingalls hair, I always thought it looked a bit odd and certainly out of date too. And what is with these police characters like Detective Beckett on Castle wearing practically designer clothes and 4 inch heels on the job?


  14. Barb says:

    I love big hair. Of course, maybe because it’s because I’m short and add a few inches to my power-woman stance.


  15. Nicole Roder says:

    Oooh Pa Ingalls! I don’t care if it was historically accurate. I loved his hair! Great post! Hilarious!


  16. If you think these guys had big hair, you should get a load of my high school yearbook photos. It was so big it got cropped out of the photo.


  17. I never questioned, never. I just assumed (Like all good Texans) ‘the bigger the hair the closer to God’ and this was the reason for big hair.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Good points. I’m always astounded by shows that take place in olden times and everyone has gorgeous hair. Unfortunately, that’s why so many people back then wore wigs. As for Papa Ingalls, he would’ve probably been dirty, unshaven and smelly, not at all Michael Landon.


    • pegoleg says:

      He was pretty good looking, wasn’t he? I always think that historical TV would be much more authentic if it came with Smell-o-Vision…but then nobody would want to watch it.


  19. So that’s why I’m not making it big on the silver screen–my hair’s too small. Shizzle sticks!


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