Video: Exit Smutcoms, Enter Sweetcoms

TV's new children: sugar or sass and nothing very nice

Twice upon a time there were terrific child actors: Margaret O'Brien in '40s movies and Billy Gray on '50s TV. O'Brien's sad-eyed face, a Keane portrait with angst, told moviegoers that even if Phyllis Thaxter were your mother or Judy Garland your big sister, childhood could be an unending melotrauma of nightmares and broken ideals. Gray was the winsome lad, then the sturdy teen-ager of Father Knows Best; he navigated adolescence like a middle-class Huck Finn. O'Brien and Gray were natural, winning, resourceful actors...

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