15 June 2006 | roghache
Wonderful, nostalgic series of family warmth and closeness
This is a delightful series with wholesome values that my own family often watched together during my son's earlier growing up years. It chronicles the ongoing story of a Depression Era family living in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia...often seen though the eyes of the oldest son John Boy, a budding author, who relates his family's experiences in a journal. The series follows the Walton family through both the Depression and World War II. It also portrays the career paths, courtships, & marriages of many of the children, the births of new grandchildren, and the illnesses, aging, & deaths of some of the characters.
The mother, Olivia, is a devout Baptist who must deal with an extended stay in hospital as she suffers from tuberculosis. The father, John, though perhaps a little lapsed in his own faith, runs a saw mill and is a hard working man of integrity. The couple have seven children. John Boy eventually goes off to Richmond for college, Boatwright University, and later embarks upon a journalistic career in New York. Mary Ellen, a feisty tomboy, grows up to become a nurse and marries a doctor, Curtis Willard, sent to Pearl Harbour just prior to the Japanese attack. Jason is the family's budding musician, sometimes providing lively entertainment at the local Dew Drop Inn. Ben marries at a young age the pretty Cindy, and the two are set up with charming little accommodations adjacent to the main Walton house. Erin, the pretty one with her various beaux, is employed at the local telephone switchboard and later by G.W. Haines. Jim Bob is a mechanical tinkerer, and Elizabeth the rather spoiled and generally irritating baby of the family.
Also living under the same roof are John's parents, the devilish but wise old Grandpa Zebulun and the strict & proper but feisty Grandma Esther. Years ago, it became a family chuckle that if Grandma Walton wouldn't have approved of the language, then it just wasn't acceptable! The banter between these grandparents is absolutely precious. I liked the multi generational aspects of the program with eventually four generations of Waltons. An ongoing storyline involved the stroke suffered by Grandma (and actress Ellen Corby), which restricted her movement and left her with a severe speech impediment. Also, actor Will Greer passed away, so the family was forced to grieve the loss of Grandpa.
The likable country store keeper, Ike Godsey, and his prim & snooty wife, Corabeth, appear regularly on the show. Other local characters are featured, including Yancy Tucker and a succession of various parsons (one was portrayed by actor John Ritter). Of course my favourites are the charming, elderly Baldwin sisters with their legendary Recipe inherited from their dearly departed father! Olivia and Grandma were strongly opposed to alcohol, but Grandpa would sometimes stop by at the Baldwins for a wee nip of the Recipe, actually moonshine whiskey. Some episodes also featured interactions with 'outsiders', including circus acrobats and gypsies.
Most of the individual episodes are quite engaging, and the family's interactions even during conflict show an underlying warmth. Their famous extended calls of Good Night are of course legendary! Many plot lines revolve around their various financial struggles to live a decent life during the Great Depression. The marital relationship between John & Olivia is well captured, as well as the siblings' interactions and their relationship with their parents & grandparents.
Sadly, I am not surprised that this heartwarming series is receiving a few disparaging reviews these days. Perhaps life wasn't all rosy and moral back in the 1930's with issues of poverty, racism and so forth. However, its values were generally preferable to the decaying ones of today, where materialism reigns supreme, parents & offspring alike feel entitled to their self absorbed attitude, rudeness is the norm in human interactions, the nuclear family and moral absolutes are becoming obsolete, and faith is mocked everywhere. This series represents the very antithesis of all such modern views, but thankfully, the vast majority of reviewers here still seem to appreciate it. Yes, better the Waltons than the Simpsons. My son is now a college sophomore, but admits to looking back fondly upon the series.
Indeed, these Walton characters are almost like family members in many homes, including my own. My compliments to actors Ralph Waite (John), Michael Learned (Olivia), Richard Thomas (John Boy), and all the others who brought them so vividly to life. Yes, the series can be sappy at times and may not always be realistic, but it is really not overly sentimental as some claim. Rather it is a depiction of the way we should ALL treat each other and the love, closeness, concern, warmth, and often unselfish giving that should be found in ALL our homes. Pity there aren't more TV programs nowadays that give us something worthy to aspire to.