Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Waltons Movie Collection

In May of last year I had the honor of reviewing one of my favorite television shows of all time, The Waltons, Season 9. While I was somewhat disappointed with the DVD series from Season 9, due to the lack of special features, I still believe the series is worth watching. I could say many of the same things about the new DVD boxed set, The Waltons Movie Collection. While there are those disappointments there is also much to appreciate.

The Waltons Movie Collection covers 6 television movies from the series, ranging from 1982 – 1997. One of the really enjoyable things about the boxed set is we get to see sequences featuring all of the cast, including original cast with Michael Learned, (Olivia/Mother), Richard Thomas (John Boy), both characters that were either not in later seasons or were played by other actors as in the case of John Boy where the character was played by Robert Wightman. There is something about the characters I especially appreciated from this movie set, one is the incorporation of old footage and allusion to Grandpa, played by Will Geer who had died early in the series, and the inclusion of Grandma, played beautifully by Ellen Corby. Corby suffered a stroke in 1977 and was greatly limited in episodes afterwards, especially so in the movies, that said, I can’t help but notice the brilliance of this actress when she is on screen. I loved every moment of it.

Odds are, most people interested in this movie collection already know about the series. One of the most acclaimed, loved television series of all time, The Waltons are a Virginia family filled with love and what some may call ‘old fashioned’ values. The exploits follow the family from The Great Depression through World War 2 and into the 1960’s and beyond. This longstanding series featured the exploits of this family in a little mountain town.

In looking back on this set of television movies, I can’t help but notice the dating of the series created by Earl Hammer, (of which the John Boy character is based) It resembles a lot of television of the day, and unfortunately shows the progress that television has made over the years, from the acting, to set design, direction, special effects and beyond. What the new television shows don’t represent nearly as well is the classic storytelling and values presented in The Waltons. It caused me to ponder for this review as to what really were “the good ol’ days.”

Some assume the ‘good ol days’ are a representation of the time, yet, after review of the films, I see something different. In this DVD set and the original television series there is the concept of families staying together and having a deep love, and appreciation for each other. Now a days, we even see commercials understanding the influence of this series in the traditional good night comments included at the conclusion of each episode of The Waltons. We see other things though, like the prayers the family says at each meal, the importance of church, even encouraged by those not attending church on a regular basis, yet all of the characters value and respect those ‘traditional’ beliefs. When looking at The Waltons what we have isn’t much different than the ideals presented in the musical Fiddler on the Roof.

There was something else presented in The Waltons and is beautifully illustrated here, much better than the DVD Series 9. The Movie collection shows the respect given to people in authority, especially family. We see the conflict that comes about as children grow older, especially in the characters of Ben and his Father John Walton Sr. We also see this in the attitudes of others, not only each other, but their parents, friends and others. These growing-up events are one of the things that make The Waltons Movie Collection work. We see enough of a continuation in the movies that we see the grown up years of the children seen in the television series. We see the impact of how they were raised and the influences of the adults on their childhood.

The story presented over the years in this movie collection is one of the things that help us understand the incredible longevity of the series. While I am still disappointed in the non existent special features which would be so easily added, I love this collection. Most of which are centered on the holidays when family is so important. We see the family in their grown years, and the process of getting there. There are lessons that for me at least, cause me to reflect. Is it possible the respect once given to parents, to family, have been lost? In a world where more time is spent on a video game, and more time in the house instead of out of it, I wonder if we have lost something in regards to the importance of communication. I can’t help but believe the reason we long for programming like The Waltons in a world where we see too much ‘reality programming’ is because the reality we see portrayed on ‘reality television’ remind us of the negative of what we have become instead of the positive relationships we used to have? I don’t know the answers to all of this, I appreciate the convenience, I appreciate the technical advances, but I have to wonder, at what cost have these things come? In a series where we see families sit down to eat together, offering a prayer while holding hands, I don’t know if we can even comprehend it, after all, with dinner from a local fast food restaurant, eaten on the run while taking the kids to some kind of practice, I can’t help but think those things of convenience can be all that good.

Some think the ‘good ol days’ are something besides a simple faith with a respect and worship of God, and exhibition of loving each other. I don’t know; it seems The Waltons remind us it is exactly those things. I am reminded of the words of another who said that, Love God, Love Others! I just miss that message in today’s world, it seems like we hear more now about, Love Whoever, Love Me. Unfortunately, with that message, give me the good ol days presented in the DVD set, The Waltons Movie Collection.

With a retail price of $24.99 this is a set that is well worth the cost, pop some pop-corn, bring the family together, sit down and watch a few episodes. Then why don’t you do something really unusual, talk about life then, as opposed to life now. I think that you may just be surprised at what the kids think they would rather have.

To see some clips from the series, just click on the video’s. If the video don’t appear, just click on the link:



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