Here’s the thing: Pamela Bob never planned any of this.
The actress, who has had roles on Broadway, was tucking her son, Henry, in for the night.
As she was snuggling with him, in the state somewhere between waking and dreaming, the idea just popped into her mind.
“It was like an electric bolt going through my body,” she says. “It made me sit straight up in bed.”
The idea – to create a comedy series about a socially awkward woman obsessed with the long-running TV show Little House on the Prairie — was no stretch.
Pamela, who is 43, watched the show when she was a child and became a life-long fan.
“I used to have Little House parties in college,” she confides.
When you meet Pamela, who has hair the color of copper and neon green eyes the size of saucers, don’t ever admit that you’ve never seen the show, a drama based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s series of Little House books that was on NBC from 1974 to 1983.
She will excitedly tell you everything you don’t want to know, over and over again, episode by episode, until you agree to binge-watch the show, which she reminds you has never been off the air in all of its 46 years.
Here’s why – or at least part of the reason why she’s so keen on it:
“I don’t know any other show that gets to the psyche of a person as this one does,” she says. “It’s a very serious show – it’s incredibly deep and has some dark and serious episodes. It affects people at a very deep level, and it affects how they look at the world. It has affected me in ways I’m not even aware of. I know its other fans feel this way, and they’re in the closet because the show’s not cool.”
Pamela’s Livin’ on a Prairie, an award-winning six-part series whose episodes run about 3 to 6 minutes each, became a pandemic hit, leading her career in a different direction.
“I wanted to be an actor,” she says. “I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer and a producer, too. It was a eureka moment – I was able to use all my tools.”
There was never a doubt that Pamela, who was born in New York City and raised in Teaneck, New Jersey, would be an entertainer.
“My mom was an actor, and my dad was a writer,” she says, adding that her older sister’s a pianist. “I came out of the womb knowing what I was going to be.”
Although Pamela did perform in the Metropolitan Opera’s Children’s Chorus, she had a panic attack at an early audition in front of an agent.
“They wanted me to sing, and I just froze,” she says. “I didn’t audition again until after I was in college.”
Indeed, after earning a degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Pamela began picking up parts in regional theater and television shows as well as Off-Broadway and Broadway productions.
You may have seen her as a sub in the Broadway play Hand to God (she understudied the parts of both women in the cast) or the Broadway musical comedy A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (she understudied six parts and was featured in more than 300 performances).
Pamela, who describes herself as an actor who sings and dances (she was a serious ballet student until an injury sidelined her) has a number of side jobs that keep her finances flush when she’s not on the stage.
By the time she got the idea for Livin’ on a Prairie, Pamela considered herself a success at her craft.
“But I had just finished six years of back-to-back shows, and I was burned out and frustrated because I thought that more doors would open for me,” she says. “I knew I had more to offer.”
Little House was all about family and community, and as she’s talking, she’s sitting on her front porch, waving and calling out hellos to neighbors as they pass by.
Hal Fraser, her husband, is doing the laundry. Henry, who is 10, is off to visit a friend, and 2-year-old Margot runs to sit in mommy’s lap.
Just like the TV show, Livin’ on a Prairie became an obsession for Pamela. She worked on the series for six months, releasing it in 2018.
She’s proud to note that two of the TV series’ original cast members – Charlotte Stewart, who played Miss Beadle, the schoolteacher, and Alison Arngrim, who played Nellie Oleson – appear in Livin’ on the Prairie.
Once the series was released, big things started happening, and before Pamela knew it, she was working with a Los Angeles producer to create a half-hour series based on it.
But by the end of 2019, everything was put on hold, and before Pamela could regroup and resume work on it, the pandemic arrived.
So did another idea.
Pamela released Livin’ on a Prairie online and produced a Zoom reunion of the cast of the original series to accompany it.
“I was working 20-hour days,” she says. “It gave me a purpose.”
It also gave her a platform to re-present Livin’ on a Prairie: She’s found another producer for the half-hour series.
And if the Livin’ on a Prairie series doesn’t work out – or even if it does – Pamela already is working on another idea.
“It’s about a jaded children’s music star,” she says. “It’s a cross between Veep and Spinal Tap. I’m dying to make it.”
Copyright 2020 by Nancy A. Ruhling