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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Waltons is a classic, long-running drama series based on a book by Earl Hamner, Jr., who used his own upbringing in rural Virginia as inspiration for the characters and storylines. The show focuses on a large extended family living in a small community during the Depression and World War II and offers a glimpse at how people coped with the time's turbulent changes. There's little content here likely to raise eyebrows, and life lessons abound in every episode, making it a wonderful choice for family viewing with kids who can grasp the timely worldly events.
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What's the story?
Created by Earl Hamner, Jr.,THE WALTONS was based on his book, Spencer's Mountain (which also inspired the same-named 1963 film starring Henry Fonda). The series follows the daily lives of the extended Walton family, led by parents John (Ralph Waite) and Olivia (Michael Learned), who live with their seven children and John's parents, Zeb (Will Geer) and Esther (Ellen Corby), in rural central Virginia during the 1930s and 1940s. Narrated from the point of view of eldest son/aspiring author John-Boy (played first by Richard Thomas, then by Robert Wightman), the show chronicles the family's determination to withstand the emotionally and physically trying times that saw the repercussions of the Depression and the devastation of World War II. While storylines often stay close to home, relating household happenings (like their first telephone) and the coming-of-age of the Walton kids, John-Boy's exodus to New York City to pursue journalism after college broadened the show's geographic scope. When he heads overseas to report on the war, the global events of the time become a larger part of home life for the Waltons, and viewers get a peek at how such far-off events can infiltrate an otherwise secluded and peaceful existence.
Is it any good?
Parents -- many of whom likely grew up watching this classic in first-run episodes and the ubiquitous reruns -- will love sharing this classic show with their own school-age kids. There's not much content here likely to cause concern. With wonderful stories and characters who are civic-minded and hardworking, The Waltons delivers first-rate family entertainment. Just make sure your kids can grasp the historical significance of storylines that occasionally include war battles, scenes of soldiers training with weapons, and air raid drills. (You might even want to brush up on your history lessons so you can answer any questions they have about the time period.) Serious topics like a family member's death also pop up occasionally and may require some additional discussion.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about family life in The Waltons. How is their living situation different from yours? How do they cope with the economic constraints of the time period? Does there seem to be a greater sense of community among their neighbors than what you're used to?
The show also offers parents and kids a chance to discuss world and national history on large and small scales. What historical events were going on at the time? How did the Depression and the war affect the Waltons' home life? What's happening around the world today? How are your family's lives changed by these events?
What can viewers learn from the Waltons? Do you think audiences got different messages from this show when it first aired in the '70s?
- Premiere date: September 14, 1972
- Cast: Michael Learned, Ralph Waite, Richard Thomas
- Networks: Hallmark Channel, Syndicated
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters, Friendship, Horses and Farm Animals
- Character strengths: Compassion, Gratitude, Humility
- TV rating: TV-G
- Available on: DVD, Streaming
- Last updated: March 30, 2020
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