Reviewed by Alice Chapman Newgen
Earl Hamner created a TV series that was loosely based on his family and childhood while growing up in the 1930s. His smooth and even-pitched voice laced with familiarity of the characters made him the ideal person to narrate each episode of "The Waltons." The show took viewers on a journey back in time to visit a family living in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia during the Depression. John and Olivia Walton (Ralph Waite and Michael Learned) raised their seven children in a two story house with Grandpa and Grandma Walton (Will Geer and Ellen Corby) under one roof. John ran a sawmill on their mountain property as a way to provide a meager income for his large family.
In the fifth season of the show it is evident that a number of changes are being experienced in the Walton household. John-Boy (Richard Thomas) becomes owner, publisher, and editor of the local newspaper. Mary Ellen (Judy Norton-Taylor) gets married, and Jason (Jon Walmsley) gets a job playing the piano, God forbid of all places at the Dew Drop Inn. Grandma Walton gets sick and winds up in the hospital, and the Walton's have a Christmas they will never forget.
It was a time when gas was fifty cents a gallon and Model A's roamed the city streets and back roads as the current mode of transportation. The first episode of the fifth season begins with John-Boy opening up a small county newspaper called "The Blue Ridge Chronicle." John-Boy, the oldest of the siblings, dreams of traveling to New York, attending college, and becoming a novelist some day. For the time being, publishing a newspaper is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately he encounters problems almost immediately when trying to gather up and print local informative news for the readers in the community. Telling the truth without compromising his ethics as an editor gets put to the test when a judge running for reelection slams into a building while under the influence of alcohol. The judge tries to sway his reporting the actual facts of the case. Things get worse when John-Boy finds out that his younger brother, Ben (Eric Scott) and some of his friends were caught trespassing on someone's property. Olivia stresses to John-Boy that airing their family's dirty laundry will bring shame to the Walton name. Tempers flare and heated words spew out, but John-Boy sticks by his principles.
One of the episodes that caught my attention was when John Ritter guest starred as Reverend Matt Fordwick. This time it's John that is put on the spot when Olivia and the reverend try to convince him that he needs to go down to the altar and make a public confession of Christ as his savior. Getting baptized wouldn't hurt either. In "The Baptism," Ben and Yancy Tucker (Robert Donner) are also encouraged to get right with God when an evangelist finds the two of them sitting at a table in the Dew Drop Inn, an unsavory place where people go to get a few drinks, relax, and socialize with wayward sinners. Their guilty feelings win out much to Olivia's relief as she witnesses Ben and Yancy heading down to the altar. John decided he would attend the revival meeting after lightning almost struck him during a recent storm. Unfortunately he didn't follow his son and Yancy down the aisle. Instead he exits out the door before the service is over. Olivia tells him later that she is not giving up on him. They both smile at each other knowing it will be a struggle to see who wins out in the end.
"The Pony Cart" starred Beulah Bondi as the highly opinionated Martha Corinne Walton. She comes bearing gifts during a visit to see the family in the summer of 1937. The happy reunion turns sour when Martha Corinne starts taking over the daily routines around the house. She even makes her presence known out in the sawmill and barn where the men are working. She insists on helping Ben paint a pony cart he is building to sell. Everyone is amazed when they see the intricate detail of her artistic endeavor when the pony cart is completed. In the end, they realize she was displaying her love the only way she knew how. This was also her way of saying goodbye for the last time. The feisty old woman knew her days were numbered because of her ailing health. Beulah Bondi won an Emmy for her outstanding portrayal of Martha Corinne in this heartwarming story.
Color • Dolby Digital • Standard Version presented in a format preserving the aspect ratio of its original television exhibition • Dual-Layer Format • Closed-Captioned
There are no special features with this five-disc (24 episodes) boxed collection.
Each character had an endearing quality that added depth to the show. Many of the good times and hardships the family went through were easily recognized as circumstances that most families at one time or another can relate to. This was a series that left viewers feeling good about life with a healthy respect for a simpler, albeit tough time in our country's past. Every episode honed in on issues where one or more of the main characters dealt with situations that oftentimes required a moral and well thought out reaction. If there was an instance when someone deviated from the right path, the circumstances would usually exhibit a reason for the behavior. Reruns on TV and DVDs of "The Waltons" continue to bring a soothing effect to the viewer in an ever-changing world of uncertain times. "The Waltons" original air dates were from September 14, 1972 to June 4, 1981. Owning this DVD collection is a must for those who occasionally like to drift back to a special time and place where family members echoed their goodnights after the lights went out and whippoorwills could be heard in the evening shadows on Walton's Mountain.