appeared at age 8 as a Mouseketeer on Disney's TV show, The Mickey Mouse Club
. But he gained greater fame as a teenage heartthrob appearing as son "Jeff" on The Donna Reed Show
, an ABC family sitcom airing between 1958 and 1966. The show featured Donna Reed as his mom ("Donna Stone"), Carl Betz as his make-believe-doctor dad ("Dr. Alex Stone"), and Shelley Fabares who played his sister ("Mary Stone").
When the show's producer, Tony Owen, (Donna Reed's real husband), said to Petersen, "You're going to be singing on TV," Petersen said, "Great! I hope I can be as successful as Ricky Nelson. "Rick was singing on his show and getting all the girls. I wanted to have my share," Petersen added.