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Archive for July 1st, 2017

by Lucille Juliano

I challenge anyone who is old enough to have seen The Waltons when it originally aired not to admit that they have not at least once in their lives quoted those immortal words from the show.  Those words that I myself will use do when put into a group sleepover situation.  In fact, a few weeks ago on our trip to Gettysburg, PA a family friend said to me, “Goodnight, Mary Ellen” to which I replied, “Goodnight, John-Boy” before we retired for the night.  Richard Thomas (John-Boy Walton) himself says that to this day people will yell out “Good-night, John-Boy!” when they see him whether it’s in a restaurant, on the streets in NYC or even while he is performing in a play.

I can recall sitting in front of the television every Thursday night at 8:00 pm with my family to watch The Waltons on CBS.  Yes, we could have been watching The Flip Wilson Show on NBC or The Mod Squad on ABC but there was just something about this show that kept us coming back.  Rumor has it that CBS put it up against these two popular shows in response to congressional hearings on the quality of television.  The network did not have the confidence that it would survive.  Ralph Waite (John Walton) was hesitant to audition because he didn’t want to be hooked up with a long-running TV series.  His agent convinced him that it would never sell and to just do the pilot.  The network executives may have been fooled, but not us!

The show went for nine seasons and had six television movie sequels in the decades that followed.  The Waltons did reasonably well in the Nielson Ratings (measures audience size and composition) during its first six seasons.  It ranked its highest for the second season placing at #2 and tied with The Partridge Family, Medical Center, M*A*S*H, Little House on the Prairie, and ABC Sunday Night Movie during its run.  The Waltons won a number of Primetime Emmy Awards including Outstanding Drama Series, Lead Actor in a Drama Series, Lead Actress in a Drama Series, Supporting Actress and Actor in a Drama Series as well as Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series.  So what was it about this show that kept audiences watching and enabled it to win about a dozen Primetime Emmy Awards?

 Earl Hamner Jr. is the creator of the show as it is based on his book, Spencer’s Mountain, in which he wrote about his real-life family and their experiences.  Walton’s Mountain is a fictional place in fictional Jefferson County, Virginia. The show takes place from about 1933 to 1946, during the Great Depression and World War II, and the presidencies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman.  Admittedly there could be some chronological errors historically with the show, but it was the Walton family, the relationships between them and others, the acts of kindness, the life lessons, the teachable moments and a general sense of the importance of home and family that kept audiences watching. (more…)

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