Commentary

'The Waltons' Comes Back Home With New TV Movie

Welcome home, “Waltons.”

While previewing the new “Waltons” TV movie coming to The CW this Sunday, I was struck by the lost worlds it represents.

One of them is the 1930s -- the decade of the Great Depression. Like the original series that aired on CBS from 1972 to 1981, this new made-for-TV movie depicts the Walton family living in rural Virginia on a piece of land that includes their own mountain.

In the show, the Depression is in full flower and having various consequences for the Waltons and their friends and neighbors. 

It is Christmastime, and the Walton family is awaiting the return home of the head of the family, John Walton (Ben Lawson).

Because of the impact on labor and job opportunities presented by the financial downturn, John has been working 90 miles away in a factory, and returning home only on weekends.

But despite the distance, John informs his wife, Olivia (Bellamy Young), via telegram that he plans to be home for Christmas.

But then, inclement weather intervenes and puts John’s and the family’s hopes of a true Christmas homecoming in jeopardy. Will John Walton get home in time for Christmas? You will get no answer from me.

I thoroughly enjoyed this “Waltons” TV movie (also starring Alpha Tivette as Grandpa Walton, pictured above). It is genuinely heartfelt and, because of the quality of its production, it is very attractive to look at too.

“The Waltons’ Homecoming” not only depicts the lost world of the 1930s (although with what you might call network-TV-level authenticity), but it also serves as a reminder of another lost world when there was still room on network television for a show as literate, family-friendly and wholesome as “The Waltons.”  

This TV movie is connected to the original show in two ways. It is narrated by the original John Boy himself, Richard Thomas, 70, who also appears on-screen to introduce it.

In addition, the show starts with the familiar “Waltons” theme music composed by Jerry Goldsmith, a melody that many of us can still hum 40 years after the original show ended.

It is possible to pick a few minor nits about this new “Waltons,” however. For one thing, the Walton family is depicted as not having two nickels to rub together, but their mountain home is in great condition and apparently well-maintained for a family in such dire financial straits.

There is also a race relations storyline in which the Waltons, Virginians in the 1930s, boldly break the local color barrier to attend a Christmas Eve service at a local black church. 

When the Finch family did this in “To Kill a Mockingbird” in the Alabama of the 1930s, they briefly became the talk of the town, but not in a good way.

None of this nitpicking should spoil this show for anyone, though. “The Waltons’ Homecoming” is highly appropriate for the first Sunday evening of the holiday season.

But here is a nit to pick that is not so minor. The running time of this TV movie is one hour and 20 minutes, or 80 minutes out of a possible 120 minutes in the two hours in which it is scheduled to run.

This means it will contain 40 minutes worth of commercials, half the time allotted to the actual show.

The version of this and other shows that networks such as The CW provide to TV reporters and columnists come to us without commercials. That means that, for us, commercial interruptions never present an obstacle when previewing upcoming TV shows.

But the apparent commercial load -- or burden, if you will -- that this new “Waltons” TV movie is being saddled with could conceivably have the potential to make viewing this movie at home a frustrating experience.

Long experience has shown that the TV Blog writing about this issue occasionally will not persuade anyone in the TV business to take a look at this and make changes.

But at the risk of repeating myself, in this particular instance, where this lovely TV movie is concerned, the commercial interruptions built into it are just a shame.

“The Waltons’ Homecoming” airs Sunday (November 28) at 8 p.m. Eastern.

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