The Waltons

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The Waltons
The Waltons Title Screen.png
Genre Historical drama
Created by Earl Hamner Jr.
Based onThe Homecoming
by Earl Hamner Jr.
Narrated byEarl Hamner Jr.
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons9
No. of episodes221 (list of episodes)
Executive producers
  • Robert L. Jacks
  • Andy White
  • Rod Peterson
  • Claylene Jones
Running time4548 minutes
Production company Lorimar Productions
Distributor Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Original network CBS
Picture format 480i, 1080i
Audio format Mono
Original releaseSeptember 14, 1972 (1972-09-14) 
June 4, 1981 (1981-06-04)
Preceded byThe Homecoming: A Christmas Story (1971)
Followed byA Wedding on Walton's Mountain (1982)
External links

The Waltons is an American historical drama television series about a family in rural Virginia during the Great Depression and World War II. It was created by Earl Hamner Jr., based on his 1961 book Spencer's Mountain and the 1963 film of the same name.


The television movie The Homecoming: A Christmas Story was broadcast on December 19, 1971. [1] Based on its success, the CBS television network ordered one season of episodes based on the same characters and that became the television series The Waltons. [2] Beginning in September 1972, the series subsequently aired on CBS for nine seasons. After the series was canceled by CBS in 1981, NBC aired three television film sequels in 1982, with three more in the 1990s on CBS. The Waltons was produced by Lorimar Productions and distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution in syndication.

The show’s end sequence featured the family saying goodnight to one another before drifting off to sleep, and according to the BBC (which also aired the series) "Goodnight, John Boy" was one of the most common catchphrases of the 1970s. [3]



The main story is set in Walton's Mountain, a fictional mountain-area community in fictitious Jefferson County, Virginia.

The real place upon which the stories are based is the community of Schuyler in Nelson County, Virginia.

The time period is from 1933 to 1946, during the Great Depression and World War II, during the presidential administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S Truman. The year 1933 is suggested by a reference to the opening of the Century of Progress exposition in Chicago, a brief shot of an automobile registration, and it is divulged in episode 5 that the date is in the spring of 1933. [4] The last episode of season one, "An Easter Story," is set in February April 1934. The year 1934 takes 2 seasons to cover, while some successive years are covered over the course of a few months. [5]

The series finale, "The Revel," revolves 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 inconsistencies, most of which do not hinder the storyline.

The first 3 reunion movies (A Wedding on Walton's Mountain, Mother's Day on Walton's Mountain, and A Day for Thanks on Walton's Mountain), all produced in 1982, are set in 1947. Of the later reunions, A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion, filmed in 1993, is set in 1963, and revolves around President John F. Kennedy's assassination. A Walton Wedding, made in 1995, is set in 1964, and A Walton Easter, filmed in 1997, is set in 1969.

The series began relating stories that occurred 39 years in the past and ended with its last reunion show set 28 years in the past.


John, John-Boy, and Olivia Walton Waltons 1972.JPG
John, John-Boy, and Olivia Walton

The story is about the family of John Walton Jr. (known as John-Boy): his 6 siblings, his parents John and Olivia Walton, and paternal grandparents Zebulon "Zeb" and Esther Walton. John-Boy is the oldest of the children (17 years old in the beginning), [6] who becomes a journalist and novelist. Each episode is narrated at the opening and closing by a middle-aged John Jr. (voiced by author Earl Hamner on whom John-Boy is based). John Sr. manages to eke out a living for his family by operating a lumber mill with the help of 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. In the simpler days of their country youth, all of the children are rambunctious and curious, but as times grow tough, the children slowly depart from the innocent, carefree days of walking everywhere barefoot while clad in overalls and hand-sewn pinafores, and into the harsh, demanding world of adulthood and responsibility.

The family shares hospitality with relatives and strangers 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; she calls her husband "Mr. Godsey"); an African-American couple, Verdie and Harley Foster; Maude Gormley, 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, who fought alongside John in World War I, 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.

In the signature scene that closes almost every episode, the family house is enveloped in darkness, save for 1, 2 or 3 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 which the lights go out.

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.

Grandma and John-Boy The Waltons 1976.JPG
Grandma and John-Boy

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 Ellen Corby's real-life stroke and the death of Will Geer; they were the actors who portrayed those characters).

During the series' last few years, Mary Ellen and Ben start their own families; Erin, Jason and John-Boy are married in later television movie sequels. Younger children Jim-Bob and Elizabeth struggle to find and cement true love.

World War II deeply affects the family. All four 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 divorces him and 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. She eventually develops tuberculosis and enters an Arizona sanatorium. Olivia's cousin, Rose Burton, moves in at the Walton house to look after the family. Two years later, John Sr. moves to Arizona to be with Olivia. Grandma appears in only a handful of episodes during the eighth season. She was usually said to be visiting relatives in nearby Buckingham County. Consistent with the effects of Ellen Corby's actual stroke, Grandma rarely speaks during the remainder of the series, usually limited to uttering brief one-or two-word lines such as "No!" or "Oh, boy!"

Six feature-length movies were made after the series run. Set from 1947 to 1969, they aired between 1982 and 1997.


SeasonEpisodesOriginally airedRankRating
First airedLast aired
Pilot December 19, 1971 (1971-12-19)N/AN/A
1 25September 14, 1972 (1972-09-14)April 19, 1973 (1973-04-19)1920.6 [lower-alpha 1]
2 25September 13, 1973 (1973-09-13)March 14, 1974 (1974-03-14)228.1
3 25September 12, 1974 (1974-09-12)March 6, 1975 (1975-03-06)825.5
4 25September 11, 1975 (1975-09-11)March 4, 1976 (1976-03-04)1422.9 [lower-alpha 2]
5 25September 23, 1976 (1976-09-23)March 17, 1977 (1977-03-17)1522.3 [lower-alpha 3]
6 26September 15, 1977 (1977-09-15)March 30, 1978 (1978-03-30)2020.8 [lower-alpha 4]
7 24September 21, 1978 (1978-09-21)March 22, 1979 (1979-03-22)37 [7] 19.0 [7]
8 24September 20, 1979 (1979-09-20)March 13, 1980 (1980-03-13)N/AN/A
9 22November 27, 1980 (1980-11-27)June 4, 1981 (1981-06-04)3018.6
TV Movies 6February 22, 1982 (1982-02-22)April 27, 1997 (1997-04-27)N/AN/A


The following is a brief summary of the main characters. See List of The Waltons characters for a more complete list.

Grandpa and Grandma Walton The Waltons 1974.JPG
Grandpa and Grandma Walton



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 70 miles east of Schuyler.

Television film

The Homecoming: A Christmas Story (1971) was not made as a pilot for a series, but it was so popular that it led to CBS initially commissioning one season of episodes based on the same characters, and the result was The Waltons. [8] Except for the Walton children and Grandma Esther Walton, the characters were all recast for the TV series. The musical score was by Oscar-winning composer Jerry Goldsmith and was later released on an album by Film Score Monthly paired with James Horner's score for the 1982 TV movie Rascals and Robbers: The Secret Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. (Goldsmith also scored several episodes of the first season, but the producers believed his TV movie theme was too gentle and requested he write a new theme for the series. [9] )

Patricia Neal (as Olivia) won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Television Series Drama. The movie was also nominated for 3 Emmys: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie (Neal), Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama - Adaptation (Earl Hamner), and Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Drama - A Single Program (Fielder Cook). [10]


The town of Walton's Mountain was built in the rear area of the main lot at Warner Bros. Studios, bordering the Los Angeles River, but the mountain itself was part of the Hollywood Hills range opposite Warner studios in Burbank, California, the reverse side of which, and slightly to the east, is Mount Lee and the Hollywood Sign. The Waltons house façade was built in the back of the Warner Brothers lot. After the series concluded, the set was destroyed. For the reunion shows, a replica Waltons' house façade was built on the Here Come the Brides set on the Columbia Ranch studio, now part 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 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 2 popular programs: The Flip Wilson Show on NBC and The Mod Squad on ABC. [11] "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. [11] However, CBS had enough faith in the show to devise a full-page newspaper ad flanked with the show's positive reviews, urging people to watch the show. Radically increased ratings were attributed to this ad, saving The Waltons. [12]

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." [11]

The cast at the 40th Anniversary of the show in 2012 The Waltons cast 2012.jpg
The cast at the 40th Anniversary of the show in 2012



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 3 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.

The series itself earned a Peabody Award for its first season. [13] In 2013, TV Guide ranked The Waltons No. 34 on its list of the 60 Best Series of All Time. [14]

In 2017, from March 20 to March 24 INSP network remembered the life of Earl Hamner Jr. (who had died in 2016) by featuring clips of interviews (once per episode) with him about his time involved with The Waltons during the breaks while its syndicated reruns aired from 3-5pm and again at 7pm.

Cultural significance

On January 27, 1992, then-President George H. W. Bush said, "We are going to keep on trying to strengthen the American family, to make American families a lot more like the Waltons and a lot less like the Simpsons." [15] In response, The Simpsons made a short animated segment for a repeat showing of the episode "Stark Raving Dad", where the family watches the speech, and Bart remarks, "Hey, we're just like the Waltons. We're prayin' for an end to the Depression, too." [16]

Reunion movies

The Walton's Reunion Movie Collection:

  1. A Wedding on Walton's Mountain (1982)
  2. Mother's Day on Walton's Mountain (1982)
  3. A Day for Thanks on Walton's Mountain (1982)
  4. A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion (1993)
  5. A Walton Wedding (1995)
  6. A Walton Easter (1997)

Home media

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.

German-release DVDs provide German or English soundtrack options, with dubbed German voices, or the original English soundtrack, although episode titles, in German, are not always either literal or precise translations of the original English-language titles.

DVD nameEpisodes
Region 1Region 2 (UK)Region 4 (AU)
The Homecoming: A Christmas StoryN/ASeptember 23, 2003N/AN/A
The Complete 1st Season24May 11, 2004November 1, 2004November 11, 2015
The Complete 2nd Season24April 26, 2005July 3, 2006March 9, 2016
The Complete 3rd Season24April 25, 2006September 11, 2006May 11, 2016
The Complete 4th Season24January 23, 2007March 5, 2007July 13, 2016
The Complete 5th Season24May 8, 2007September 12, 2007March 15, 2017
The Complete 6th Season22January 8, 2008March 20, 2008August 9, 2017
The Complete 7th Season23April 29, 2008N/ANovember 8, 2017
The Complete 8th Season24January 6, 2009N/AMarch 7, 2018
The Complete 9th Season22April 28, 2009N/AMarch 7, 2018
TV Movie Collection (not including the original movie)6January 26, 2010N/AN/A


Seasons 1–9 are available via streaming in SD as well as HD through services such as Amazon Prime Video. [17]


Lorimar sold the distribution rights of The Waltons to Warner Bros. Television to avoid a lawsuit owing to the similarities between the series and the film Spencer's Mountain (1963), which Warner owned. [18] Warner Bros. acquired Lorimar in 1989, and has continued to syndicate the series ever since.

Reruns have aired in the U.S. on MeTV since January 1, 2020, [19] and also on INSP and Hallmark Drama, and formerly aired on Hallmark Channel. In Canada, The Waltons airs on Vision TV and BookTelevision.

In the UK, the series was broadcast on BBC 2 and BBC 1 and during the 1970s/1980s – the first 3 seasons were broadcast on BBC 2 from February 18, 1974 [20] to May 17, 1976, [21] on Mondays at 20.00 GMT, and seasons 4 and 5 were shown on BBC 1 from September 5, 1976 [22] to August 30, 1977, [23] on Sundays at 16.10 in 1976 and Tuesdays at 19.00 through 1977. After that, seasons 6-9 would be broadcast on BBC 2 again, starting on April 30, 1979 [24] and concluding in April 1983. [25] The 3 reunion TV movies filmed in 1982 were also shown on BBC 2 from December 21 to December 28, 1983. [26] [27] [28] The show was repeated on Channel 4 in the 1990s. It last aired on Sony Channel until March 31, 2020 in the UK.

See also

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  2. "All About The Creator". All About The Waltons. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  3. "Goodnight John Boy". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved July 4, 2021.
  4. "The Typewriter", Season one, episode 5
  5. 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.
  6. "The Foundling," season 1, episode 1
  7. 1 2 "Ratings info" (PDF). Retrieved 2020-06-29.
  8. Crump, William D. (2013). The Christmas encyclopedia (Third ed.). p. 434. ISBN   9780786468270.
  9. Jon Burlingame, p. 153, TV's Biggest Hits: The Story Of Television Themes From "Dragnet" To "Friends", Schirmer Books, 1996, ISBN   0-02-870324-3
  10. "The Homecoming-A Christmas Story".
  11. 1 2 3 King, Susan (2012-09-28). "40th anniversary celebration of 'The Waltons'". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 2016-04-30.[ dead link ]
  12. IV, J. Garland Pollard. "Earl Hamner and the CBS Brand | BrandlandUSA" . Retrieved 2017-03-12.
  13. "The Waltons". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  14. "TV Guide Magazine's 60 Best Series of All Time". 23 December 2013.
  15. Griffiths, Nick (April 15, 2000). "America's First Family". The Times Magazine. pp. 25, 27–28. Archived from the original on August 11, 2014.
  16. Ortved, John (August 2007). "Simpson Family Values". Vanity Fair . Archived from the original on August 27, 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-26.
  17. Prime Video: The Waltons: The Complete First Season Retrieved October 22, 2013
  18. Lee Rich Interview: Archive of American Television. Retrieved on June 14, 2014.
  19. "The Waltons, Adam-12 and Dragnet join the MeTV schedule in January". Me-TV Network. 14 December 2019. Retrieved 7 January 2020.
  20. "BBC Two England - 18 February 1974 - BBC Genome".
  21. "BBC Two England - 17 May 1976 - BBC Genome".
  22. "BBC One London - 5 September 1976 - BBC Genome".
  23. "BBC One London - 30 August 1977 - BBC Genome".
  24. "BBC Two England - 30 April 1979 - BBC Genome".
  25. "BBC Two England - 29 March 1983 - BBC Genome".
  26. "BBC Two England - 21 December 1983 - BBC Genome".
  27. "BBC Two England - 23 December 1983 - BBC Genome".
  28. "BBC Two England - 28 December 1983 - BBC Genome".

Further reading