ENTRY 1197 | AUGUST
three responses to my pleas for input on this topic constitute the
best response to a Jonal in some time. The first two, unsigned but
identified by their return addresses, were casual not-for-publication
comments (though they were not negative). The third, from Sallie Covolo,
makes an excellent transition to the topic I want to address this
time, what I consider makes The Waltons television's best series
ever. But before going there, I should interject a side comment: I
am now into the 1975 (third) season of The Walton reruns (on
Hallmark Channel...INSP has disappeared from Dish network) and it's
obvious that the producers were putting more effort and money into
the production quality by this season than they had in the first two.
I actually watched the last two seasons of the show (1980 and
1981) on INSP first, and as I recall my criticism of their
lacking quality was back by those final seasons. But the show must
have been building strongly by the third season. Though the long shots
of the faux Blue Ridge Mountains still are apparently California hills
and forests, not eastern ones, the sets on which the house, lumber
mill, campus, Rockfish, and the village are shot are much improved.
No longer are the backgrounds fading to black, but they seem to lead
to other places. The grass now looks real and even the pond is big
enough to look like a location rather than a studio set (though reports
are that all such scenes were shot on studio lots, not out in actual
countryside). So this is a corrective to give credit where due.
for Sallie Covolo's thoughts:
Jon, We have
been watching some of the series The Waltons. I can see partly
why you like it, since you are also a writer from the Appalachian
Mountains (even with the name of Jon (Boy). I remember watching
Spencer's Mountain with Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Hara.
I like programs
about the South during depression times, since I was born there.
One of my all-time favorites was To kill A Mockingbird, written
by Harper Lee and made into a movie with Gregory Peck as Atticus.
Both movies and tv shows remind me of a more innocent time, and
childhood aspirations and life, a time that will not come again.
Well, thanks for reminding us of these tv shows and we are adding
them to our favorites. I hope you and your family are well.
Mountain was the name of the book Earl Hamner wrote about growing
up in a large family in the place his family had owned in Virginia's
Blue Ridge mountains for generations (and Hamner is the "real"
writer depicted by the John-Boy character in the TV series and Hamner's
voice is the actual voice recalling the stories in the background,
when he is switching places with Richard Thomas by being the John-Boy
of forty years after the times of the stories). But the movie with
Fonda and O'Hara was shot and set in the Rocky Mountains, so although
I have not seen it, I'm sure it must have a much different feel (I
am looking for it on some TV rebroadcast sooner or later and hope
to "TiVo" it if possible). Still following all this?
captures two of the reasons I rate the show so highly. The first are
strictly personal, as John-Boy is "me" in more than a few
ways. I was the son of a Baptist mother and a non-church-going father
growing up in the mountains, who decided to be a writer in my teens,
was the first in my family to go to college, and worked as a newspaper
writer while in college, all of which I share with John-Boy. And though
the Great Depression was over when I was in grade school, we hardly
knew it (Mom and Dad still lived by its rules). We lived on a dirt
road like the Waltons, had no telephone, and had only radio for entertainment
until I was age eight.
the second (and more important) thing that I love is the show's values.
The family members take turn saying grace at mealtimes. Mother Livvy
(Olivia) metes out copying Bible verses as punishments for the kids'
failings (especially when they're moral-ethical ones). Grandma (as
my Mom was) is so strict in her Baptist faith that she even opposes
the church's holding a raffle (Mom would have declined to join one
that used such fund raisers). Both of the Walton ladies oppose fraternizing
with the old lady bootleggers in Walton's Mountain village (but of
course the men and boys do it anyway).
are the reasons I consider the show TV's best one ever, because I
feel it instilled a nostalgia in the generation that grew up with
it for more of this simpler (and as Sallie says, more innocent) way
of life. Other shows have made similar contributions, but the others
were not as long-lived as The Waltons, or as widely watched
on the show next time. Meanwhile, keep the email thoughts and opinions
coming. What other shows would you put at or near the top?
Webmaster Jon Kennedy