Season one title screen
|Created by||Earl Hamner, Jr.|
Mary Elizabeth McDonough
David W. Harper
|Narrated by||Earl Hamner, Jr.|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||9|
|No. of episodes||210 (List of episodes)|
|Producer(s)||Robert L. Jacks
|Running time||45–48 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Lorimar Productions
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television Distribution|
|Original run||September 14, 1972– June 4, 1981|
|Preceded by||The Homecoming: A Christmas Story (1971)|
|Followed by||A Wedding on Walton's Mountain (1982)|
The Waltons is an American television series created by Earl Hamner, Jr., based on his book Spencer's Mountain, and a 1963 film of the same name. The show is centered on a family in a rural Virginia community during the Great Depression and World War II.
The series pilot aired as a television movie entitled The Homecoming: A Christmas Story and was broadcast on December 19, 1971. Beginning in September 1972, the series originally aired on CBS for a total of nine seasons. After the series was canceled in 1981, three television movie sequels followed in 1982, with three more in the 1990s. The Waltons was produced by Lorimar Productions and distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution in syndication.
The main story takes place in Walton's Mountain, a fictional town at the foot of a mountain in fictitious Jefferson County, Virginia. The time is during the Great Depression and World War II, during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. During the first season, John Walton Jr.—known to nearly everyone as John-Boy—is seventeen years old, and his parents have been married to each other for eighteen years.
The series' timeframe takes the viewer from 1933 to 1946. The year 1933 is suggested by a brief shot of an automobile registration, and it is divulged in episode 18 that the date is in the spring of 1933. The series finale, "The Revel", evolves around a party and the invitation date is given as June 4, 1946. A span of 13 years is therefore covered in nine seasons. There are some chronological errors, which ostensibly do not hinder the storyline.
The last episode of season one, "An Easter Story", is set in February–April 1934. The year 1934 takes two seasons to cover, while some successive years are covered over the course of a few months.
John and Olivia Walton, along with John's parents Zebulon "Zeb" and Esther Walton, raise their seven children during the Great Depression and World War II. The family's story is narrated at the opening and closing of each episode by the middle-aged John-Boy (Narration by author Earl Hamner), the oldest son who becomes a journalist and novelist. John manages to eke out a living by operating a lumber mill with the help of his father, and his sons as they grow older. The family income is augmented by some small-scale farming, and John occasionally hunts to put meat on the table. Relatives and strangers occasionally pass by, with whom the family shares its hospitality as they are able. The small community named after their property is also home to folk of various income levels, ranging from the well-to-do Baldwin sisters, two elderly spinsters who distill moonshine that they call "Papa's recipe"; Ike Godsey, postmaster and owner of the general store with his somewhat snobbish wife Corabeth (a Walton cousin); an African-American couple, Verdie and Harley Foster; Maude, a sassy octogenarian artist who paints on wood; Flossie Brimmer, a friendly though somewhat gossipy widow who runs a nearby boarding house; and Yancy Tucker, a good-hearted handyman with big plans but little motivation. Jefferson County sheriff Ep Bridges keeps law and order in Walton's Mountain. The entire family (except for John) attends a Baptist church, of which Olivia and Grandma Esther are the most regular attendees.
Nearly every episode opens, following the opening credits, with Hamner's voice-over (ostensibly speaking as the present day John-Boy), briefly reminiscing about the events about to be depicted and setting up the story.
In the signature scene that closes almost every episode, the family house is enveloped in darkness, save for one, two or three lights in the upstairs bedroom windows. Through voice-overs, two or more characters make some brief comments related to that episode's events, and then bid each other goodnight.
After completing high school, John-Boy attends fictional Boatwright University in the fictional nearby town of Westham. He later goes to New York City to work as a journalist.
During the latter half of the 1976–77 season, Grandma Esther Walton suffers a stroke and returns home shortly before the death of her husband, Grandpa Zeb Walton (reflecting the real life stroke suffered by Ellen Corby and the death of Will Geer, the actors who portrayed the characters).
During the last five years of the series, Mary Ellen and Ben marry and begin having families of their own. Erin, Jason and John Boy are married in later television movie sequels.
World War II deeply affects the family. All four of the Walton boys enlist in the military. Mary Ellen's physician husband, Curtis "Curt" Willard, is sent to Pearl Harbor and is reported to have perished in the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941. Years later, Mary Ellen hears of sightings of her "late" husband, investigates and finds him alive (played by another actor), but brooding over his war wounds and living under an assumed name. She later remarries.
John-Boy's military plane is shot down, while Olivia becomes a volunteer at the VA hospital and is seen less and less and eventually develops tuberculosis and enters an Arizona sanitarium. Olivia's cousin, Rose Burton, moves into the Walton house to watch over the brood. Two years later, John, Sr., moves to Arizona to be near Olivia. Grandma appears in only a handful of episodes during the final season (she was usually said to be visiting relatives in nearby Buckingham County).
After the series run, six feature-length TV movies were made, set from 1947 through 1969, airing between 1982 and 1997.
A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion takes place in 1963, 30 years after "The Homecoming", even though the actors are only 22 years older. The Walton family characters would have been in their 30s–40s by then, as well as John and Olivia being in their 60s. John Walton makes a reference to Grandpa having been dead "15 years", although by the original series timeline it would have been 22 years. Esther Walton and the Baldwin sisters would have been in their late 90s–100 by the last three reunion movies.
The last movie, 1997's A Walton Easter was set in 1969, and contains a serious anachronism that contradicts the setting of the series. John and Olivia celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary, which would have advanced their marriage to 1929, and John-Boy's birth to 1930. Yet in the series, younger Erin graduated high school in 1937 and was born in 1919 ("The Career Girl", 1977). This would make Erin eleven years older than John Boy. Earl Hamner Sr., the basis for the John Walton character, died in 1969 (a fact referenced by Hamner in a voiceover at the conclusion of The Homecoming pilot), the year "A Walton's Easter" takes place. Since they celebrated their 20th anniversary in 1935, this would have made them married 54 years by 1969.
The following is a brief summary of the central recurring characters. See main article for a more complete list.
- John "John-Boy" Walton, Jr. (Richard Thomas, pilot, series seasons 1–5, guest season 6, three movie sequels; Robert Wightman, seasons 8–9 and one movie sequel), the oldest of seven children, aged 17 in season one
- John Walton, Sr. ( Andrew Duggan pilot; Ralph Waite series and movie sequels), the family patriarch
- Olivia Walton (Patricia Neal pilot; Michael Learned series seasons 1–7, guest season 8, and movie sequels), John's wife
- Zebulon Tyler "Zeb/Grandpa" Walton, (Edgar Bergen pilot; Will Geer seasons 1–6, not replaced after Geer's death), John's father
- Esther "Grandma" Walton (Ellen Corby, appears regularly from season 1 until Corby's stroke midway through season 5; returns in the last episode of season 6 and remains through the end of season 7; then appears only occasionally in seasons 8 and 9 and subsequently in five of the six sequels), John's mother
- Jason Walton (Jon Walmsley), John-Boy's younger brother, aged 15 in season 1; musically talented
- Mary Ellen Walton (Judy Norton Taylor), the oldest Walton daughter, about two years younger than Jason; becomes a nurse, and is the first Walton child to marry and have children
- Erin Esther Walton (Mary Elizabeth McDonough), second Walton daughter; graduates from secondary school in season five; works as a telephone operator, and attends business (secretarial) school
- Benjamin "Ben" Walton (Eric Scott), third Walton son; has an entrepreneurial spirit
- James Robert "Jim-Bob" Walton (David W. Harper), youngest Walton son; mechanically inclined, his ambition is to become a pilot. His twin brother, Joesph Zebulon Walton, died at birth.
- Elizabeth Walton (Kami Cotler), youngest of the seven children
- Rose Burton (Peggy Rea), seasons 8–9; Olivia's matronly cousin who fills in as matriarch during Olivia's absence
Earl Hamner's rural childhood growing up in the unincorporated community of Schuyler, Virginia, provided the basis for the setting and many of the storylines of The Waltons. His family and the community provided many life experiences which aided in the characters, values, area, and human-interest stories of his books, movies, and television series. Hamner provided the voice-over of the older John-Boy, usually heard at the beginning and end of each episode.
John-Boy Walton's fictional alma mater, Boatwright University, is patterned after Richmond College, which became part of the University of Richmond on Boatwright Drive near Westham Station in The West End of Richmond, Virginia, about seventy miles east of Schuyler.
The town of Walton's Mountain was built in the rear area of the Warner Bros. Studios, but the mountain itself was part of the range opposite Warner studios in Burbank, California. The Walton's house facade was built on the Here Come the Brides set on the Columbia Ranch studio, now one of the Warner Brothers studios. The Waltons' house is still used as scenery at Warner Brothers. For example, it served as the Dragonfly Inn on The Gilmore Girls
Broadcast and release 
Some sources indicate CBS put the show on its Fall 1972 schedule in response to congressional hearings on the quality of television; backlash from a 1971 decision to purge most rural-oriented shows from the network lineup may have also been a factor. The network gave The Waltons an undesirable timeslot – Thursdays at 8 p.m., opposite two popular programs: The Flip Wilson Show on NBC and The Mod Squad on ABC. "The rumor was that they put it against Flip Wilson and The Mod Squad because they didn't think it would survive. They thought, 'We can just tell Congress America doesn't want to see this'," Kami Cotler, who played Elizabeth Walton, said in a 2012 interview. Ralph Waite was reluctant to audition for the part of John Walton because he didn't want to be tied to a long-running TV series, but his agent persuaded him by saying, "It will never sell. You do the pilot. You pick up a couple of bucks and then you go back to New York."
- 1972–73: #20
- 1973–74: #2
- 1974–75: #8
- 1975–76: #14
- 1976–77: #15
- 1977–78: #21
- 1978–79: Not in the Top 30 
- 1979–80: Not in the Top 30 
- 1980–81: #30 
The Waltons won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series in 1973. Also in 1973 Richard Thomas won the Emmy for Lead Actor in a Drama Series. Michael Learned won the Emmy for Lead Actress in a Drama Series three times (1973, 1974, and 1976). Ellen Corby was also a three-time winner in the Supporting Actress category, winning in 1973, 1975, and 1976. Will Geer was awarded the Supporting Actor Emmy in 1975. Veteran actress Beulah Bondi won an Emmy in 1977 for Lead Actress in a Single Performance for her guest appearance as Martha Corrine Walton in the episode "The Pony Cart" (Episode #111). She first appeared in The Waltons episode "The Conflict" (Episode #51) as the widow of Zeb Walton's brother.
DVD releases 
Warner Home Video has released all nine seasons and six TV movies of The Waltons on DVD in Region 1. Seasons 1–4 have been released in Region 2. The pilot movie, The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, was released by Paramount Home Entertainment. Lorimar produced the series, CBS produced the pilot film, which is why Paramount, under CBS Home Entertainment, handles home video rights for The Homecoming.
|DVD Name||Ep #|
|Region 1||Region 2 (UK)|
|The Homecoming: A Christmas Story||1||September 23, 2003||N/A|
|The Complete 1st Season||24||May 11, 2004||November 1, 2004|
|The Complete 2nd Season||24||April 26, 2005||July 3, 2006|
|The Complete 3rd Season||24||April 25, 2006||September 11, 2006|
|The Complete 4th Season||24||January 23, 2007||March 5, 2007|
|The Complete 5th Season||24||May 8, 2007||September 12, 2007|
|The Complete 6th Season||22||January 8, 2008||March 20, 2008|
|The Complete 7th Season||23||April 29, 2008||N/A|
|The Complete 8th Season||24||January 6, 2009||N/A|
|The Complete 9th Season||22||April 28, 2009||N/A|
|TV Movie Collection (not including the original movie)||6||January 26, 2010||N/A|
Cultural references 
- During a speech in January 1992, then-president George H. W. Bush mentioned that he wanted to "make American families a lot more like the Waltons and a lot less like The Simpsons" Later, in the cold opening to an episode, Bart Simpson responded to the comment, quipping, "We're just like The Waltons. We're praying for an end to the Depression, too."
- A country store down the road from the Waltons Mountain Visitors Center in Schuyler, VA, is called the Walton's Mountain Country Store
- In Gilmore Girls, (season 1 episode 6) Lorelai tells Rory about her birth in detail and Rory replies, "I wonder if the Waltons ever did this."
- In Dawson's Creek, (season 3, episode 8) Dawson's parents make life seem exactly like the past, leading to Dawson's remark, "Why do I suddenly feel like I'm stuck in an episode of The Waltons?"
- In Misfits (episode 2 of season 4), Rudy declares excitedly that living in the community centre will be like The Waltons.
- "The Waltons" The Homecoming: A Christmas Story (1971) at the Internet Movie Database
- There is a Jefferson County, West Virginia, but not in Virginia.
- "The Foundling", Season one, episode 1
- "The Sinner", Season one, episode 7
- "The Courtship", Season one, episode 18
- A significant anachronism occurs in the first season. In the first episode, the Waltons listen to Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy's radio program (in tribute to Bergen, who played Grandpa in the pilot film). However, Bergen's radio show did not begin airing until 1937.
- King, Susan. (2012, September 28). 40th anniversary celebration of 'The Waltons. The Los Angeles Times
- ClassicTVHits.com: TV Ratings > 1972–1973
- ClassicTVHits.com: TV Ratings > 1973–1974
- ClassicTVHits.com: TV Ratings > 1974–1975
- ClassicTVHits.com: TV Ratings > 1975–1976
- ClassicTVHits.com: TV Ratings > 1976–1977
- ClassicTVHits.com: TV Ratings > 1977–1978
- ClassicTVHits.com: TV Ratings > 1978-1978
- ClassicTVHits.com: TV Ratings > 1979-80
- ClassicTVHits.com: TV Ratings > 1980-1981
- "The Waltons". peabodyawards.com. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
Further reading 
- Conley, Joe (2010). Ike Godsey of Walton's Mountain. Albany, BearManor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-508-5.
- The Waltons at the Internet Movie Database
- The Waltons at TV.com
- The Waltons at the Encyclopedia of Television
- Walton's Mountain Museum official website
- The Waltons website
- A Walk with Grandpa Walton and the Walton family
- The Walton's Mountain Community Center
- Rockfish-river.com Fanpage in (German)/(English)
- Waltons Mountain
- The Waltons Unofficial Home Page
- "A Tribute To The Waltons" - Cast Interviews
- The Waltons at HallmarkChannel.com