Jerry Mathers, born Gerald Patrick Mathers on June 2nd, 1948, is an American actor best known for playing Theodore “The Beaver” Cleaver in the iconic television sitcom “Leave it to Beaver” for 234 episodes over 6 full 39-week seasons from 1957 to 1963. He reminisces about his career, shares behind-the-scenes stories and answers fan questions at his 2019 Niagara Falls Comic Con Q&A panel.
“Leave it to Beaver” is a late 1950s black-and-white American television sitcom about the inquisitive and often naive “Beaver” and his adventures at home, in school and around his suburban neighborhood. The show also starred Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont as Beaver’s parents, June and Ward Cleaver, and Tony Dow as Beaver’s brother Wally. The show attained an iconic status in the United States since the Cleavers exemplified the idealized suburban family of the mid-20th century.
The show was created by writers Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher, veterans of radio and early television who found inspiration for the show’s characters, plots and dialogue in the lives, experiences and conversations of their own children. “Leave It to Beaver” is one of the first primetime sitcom series written from a child’s point of view. Like several television dramas and sitcoms of the late 1950s and early 1960s (“Lassie” and “My Three Sons”), “Leave It to Beaver” is a glimpse of middle-class American boyhood. In a typical episode, Beaver gets into some sort of boyish scrape, then faces his parents for reprimand and correction. Neither parent was omniscient or infallible; the series often showed the parents debating their approach to child rearing, and some episodes were built around parental gaffes. The still-popular show ended its run in 1963 primarily because it had reached its natural conclusion: In the show, Wally was about to enter college and the brotherly dynamic at the heart of the show’s premise would be broken with their separation.
Contemporary commentators praise “Leave it to Beaver” with Variety having compared Beaver to Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer. The show has enjoyed a renaissance in popularity since the 1970s through off-network syndication, a reunion telemovie (“Still the Beaver” in 1983), a sequel series titled “The New Leave it to Beaver” (1985–1989) and a 1997 movie version based on the original series. Although the show never broke into the Nielsen ratings top 30 or won any awards, it placed on Time magazine’s unranked 2007 list of “All-TIME 100 TV Shows.”