Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
the Nanty Glo in My Mind'
Jonal entry 1196 | August 12 2011
Considering that I totally missed The
Waltons when it was originally broadcast by CBS from 1972 to 1981,
it seems ironic that through watching TV movies spun off from it and
reruns of it in the intervening years that I've come to regard it
as most likely the best and most important TV show, generally speaking,
that has ever come over the tube. In the past four months I've been
having an accelerated recapitulation of the whole series, on Inspiration
Channel which has been running the whole series from the first episode
on, two back-to-back episodes per day (and the Hallmark Channel is
rerunning three episodes of it every day). The fact that the show
ran for ten seasons contributes to its significanceit had time
to mature and make an impactthough some of its weak points can
also be attributed to its longevity. The most apparent of these is
the loss of three of its principal players, Richard Thomas (John-Boy,
the narrator of the stories and the alter ego of the series creator,
Earl Hamner), Michael Learned (mother), and eventually even Ralph
Waite (father). The grandfather (played by Will Geer) actually died
while the series was still being created and the grandmother (played
by Ellen Corby) suffered a debilitating stroke, though the writers
were able to work both the death of one and the stroke of the other
into the storylines. Of the principals who quit the series for other
opportunities, only Richard Thomas was replaced by a substitute actor
in the latter seasons of the show's run; the Learned and Waite characters
were written out of the story.
Though the loss of principal actors was
somewhat detrimetal to the series' quality, to me the greatest failing
of The Waltons is its second-rate production values. Most of
the scenes are filmed on a movie lot in Hollywood rather than "on
location," and when there is real use of the natural substitutes
for the Blue Ridge Mountains which are the stories' setting, it is
obvious to anyone who has ever been in the Blue Ridge area (or even
the Allegheny Mountains farther north, for that matter) that the filming
was done in California rather than any place east of the Mississippi.
The preponderance of pine trees and lots of bare spots on the mountains
is unacceptable. Even mountains that have been logged (as Waltons'
Mountain has been in the story) begin looking overgrown rather than
bare in short order, the deciduous foliage of the East being so prolific
and lush. And the close-up scenesall of the house, yard, mill,
and general store and school sceneswere filmed in a movie lot,
which is apparent by the fact that backgrounds of all of those "outdoor"
scenes fade to black rather than suggesting that there is more of
the world out there beyond the Waltons' yard.
I have looked in vain for a scene showing
the layout of the village of Waltons' Mountain (the story's substitute
for Schuyler, Virginia, where Earl Hamner grew up), but the producers
substituted desired and desirable long shots of the village with close
ups that almost never get more than one house or place of business
in the scene, in the interests of budgetary economies. Once one of
the characters describes the village as little more than two churchesa
Baptist and a Methodist, by far the two largest denominations in the
South in the story's time linethe general store and houses scattered
But this is about the extent of my negative
criticisms of The Waltons. These "nits" are greatly
offset by my positive impressions and lessons learned through the
story that traces a family's coming of ageeleven people living
in the same modest housein the Great Depression and World War
II. I'll begin discussing those aspects of the series next time.
Meanwhile, let me know your thoughts. What
show is your all-time favorite (or shows/favorites)? Maybe you thought
of The Waltons as corny (I do remember seeing and laughing
along with Carol Burnett's sendups of the show as "The Walnuts")
or maybe you now think I'm around the bend or slipping into sentimental
senility (no arguing that).
and share alike!
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You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the
dog will give you this look that says, "Gosh, you're right! I never
would've thought of that!"
Thought for today
The Gospel is good news of mercy to the undeserving.
The symbol of the religion of Jesus is the cross, not the scales.
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Jon Kennedy's recent book, The
Everything Guide to C.S. Lewis and Narnia, from Adams Media, F&W
Publications, is available for purchase in support of the
Liberty Museum in Nanty Glo and can be ordered here.
It is also available on Amazon.