Lassie: Famous Collie Returning to TV; Jon Provost Open to Revival

Lassie with young Jon ProvostW.C. Fields once said, “Never work with children or animals.” Well, one of the world’s most famous canines is returning to television and it looks like producers will get to avoid working with both real-life kids and dogs.

The character of Lassie the collie first appeared in a 1938 short story, written by Eric Knight. It was later expanded into a novel called Lassie Come-Home. An MGM film based on the book, starring Roddy McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor, hit theaters in 1943. That spawned additional Lassie stories in print, on radio and in movie theaters.

In 1954, the Lassie TV show debuted on CBS. Aside from the famous canine, the family show features the talents of Tommy Rettig, Jan Clayton, George Cleveland, Jon Provost, June Lockhart, Hugh Reilly, Robert Bray, Jack De Mave, Jed Allan, Ron Hayes, Larry Wilcox, Pamelyn Ferdin, Cloris Leachman, and Jon Shepodd. Lassie had a number of human friends during the show’s run but Provost played one of the most memorable, young Timmy Martin.

The Lassie show ran for an impressive 17 years on CBS. It moved to first-run syndication for two more seasons and ended on March 24, 1973 with a total of 588 episodes.

Though that series closed, Lassie didn’t leave the airwaves. An animated series called Lassie’s Rescue Rangers began airing Saturday mornings on ABC in the Fall of 1973. It had no direct relation to its live-action predecessor (other than the title character) and lasted for one short season.

Should Provost be included in the new series?

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In 1989, The New Lassie series returned the canine heroine to television for two seasons in first-run syndication. This time, Lassie was owned by the McCullough family. They are played by Christopher Stone, Dee Wallace Stone, Wendy Cox, and a young Will Estes (credited as Will Nipper).

Provost, who’d played Lassie’s young owner on TV from 1957 to 1964, played Uncle Steve McCullough on the new series. In a strange twist, it was later revealed that Steve was actually the grown-up Timmy and Lockhart reprised her role as Timmy’s mother for one episode. Fellow Lassie veterans Rettig and McDowall also made guest appearances during The New Lassie’s limited run.

In 1996, Lassie returned to television, this time in a Japanese anime series. A Canadian live-action show followed in 1997 and 10 years later, Lassie became the co-host of a reality TV show on PBS for Lassie’s Pet Vet.

Now, Lassie is poised to return to television in a new set of adventures. Partnered with Lassie rights holder Classic Media, DQ Entertainment is set to co-produce a 3D cartoon series. The two companies previously worked together on the CGI project, Casper’s Scare School, based on the classic friendly ghost character. With other partners, India-based DQ has also produced a 3D Iron Man series, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and many other animated projects.

Lassie with adult Jon ProvostThe new Lassie animated series is set to begin airing in late 2010 or early 2011 and 26 half-hour installments have been ordered.

It’s unknown what approach this new version will take but Provost, now 59, tells us he thinks it’s a good idea. He says, “Every five years, there’s a new generation of children. The Lassie series has been sold several times in the past few years; and during that time, the image languished. For the first time in 50 years of public appearances, I am meeting children who do not know about Lassie. They lost a generation or two who will be difficult to capture now. With a cartoon, a new generation will grow up with Lassie — just as all us Baby Boomers did.”

Though the medium of this new series will be slightly different for the famous collie, the former child star believes the tone should remain the same. Provost says, “I hope CM will remain loyal and true to the innate goodness of the story. That’s what has carried the legend of Lassie in our hearts for nearly 70 years. I hear from people around the world who tell me they first learned to love and respect animals because of the show. I am very proud of that legacy.”

The author of an autobiography, Provost is currently involved in other cartoon projects — voicing Prancer the reindeer in one and also preparing to direct an animated pilot about a pink poodle — but would be happy to be part of the new Lassie series. Provost says, “CM and I have had a good working relationship in the past. It appears that the new Lassie cartoon won’t be made in the US, but naturally, I would love to participate.”

He concludes, “Lassie came when I called for seven years. I will always return the favor.”

Canceled and renewed TV show

11 Comments · Read them below or add one

  1. says

    I absolutely loved watching almost every episode of Lassie over the years! I have been trying to find the name of Timmy’s best friend and the name of his dog. The boy was a somewhat overwieght for his age and I think the dog was a bassett hound or beagle. It seems that it had short legs. I would appreciate any help in finding out this information. Thank you.

    • Rhonda says

      I just watched this episode yesterday where Timmy and his friend (I am still thinking, but i am pretty sure his name is Porky and his dog bassett hound (i cant remember right now…You can watch on the internet with Hulu…

  2. Dee says

    It would be great to see Lassie again even in cartoon, which I would watch if I had small children or grandchildren. Dog shows always steal my heart, they teach wonderful things and are just great clean pure entertainment. Good luck to everyone involved.

  3. says

    I like to see Lassie comback to Tv.That would be great.Shes a great collie.I Remember Lassie in the 1994 movie Lassie.Shes a great dog. I like to see her back on Tv by 2010 or 2011.

    • Rhonda says

      Lassie is in reruns ..I get the show on cozi tv..Check your tv listings (Cozi tv is listed as WMFP… Just got through airing on MeTv , I asked the station to bring Lassie back…Hope this helps….

  4. miss josh emmett says

    jon is a great guy and loves his fans. (has a great wife, laurie, too!) i would like to see jon acting more. thanks for writing the nice article.

  5. Paul says

    I agree, it would be great to have a new Lassie series on TV so that a new generation of kids could be introduced to the character. Hopefully, the original Lassie series will also be released on DVD when the new series airs.

  6. Helmut Heisig says

    Jon Provost belongs to Lassie like salt in a soup.So I voted for Jon,that he will be included in the new Lassie series.
    Best from Stuttgart in Germany,

  7. says

    I would love to be contacted about this vote. I would like to know what I can do to help out. I think the photo of Jon and Lassie make a beautiful tableu. I hope to see them back on the screen. Best regards Cindy pekarek

  8. Jenny says

    Hooray for Lassie! I’d love to see a new Lassie series with the real dog again but it’s time to move on from Lassie & Timmy.

    BTW, Your photo of Jon Provost is not with Lassie! Lassie has always had a full white blaze going up the center of his nose!

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