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The Waltons
File:The Waltons Title Screen.png
GenreFamily drama
Created byEarl Hamner, Jr.
Based onThe Homecoming
by Earl Hamner, Jr.
  • Richard Thomas
  • Ralph Waite
  • Michael Learned
  • Ellen Corby
  • Will Geer
  • Judy Norton
  • Jon Walmsley
  • Mary Elizabeth McDonough
  • Eric Scott
  • David W. Harper
  • Kami Cotler
  • Peggy Rea
  • Joe Conley
  • Ronnie Claire Edwards
  • Leslie Winston
Narrated byEarl Hamner, Jr.
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons9
No. of episodes221 (list of episodes)
Executive producers
  • Lee Rich
  • Earl Hamner Jr.
  • Rod Peterson
  • Robert L. Jacks
  • Andy White
  • Rod Peterson
  • Claylene Jones
Running time45–48 minutes
Production companyLorimar Productions
Original networkCBS
Original releaseSeptember 14, 1972 (1972-09-14) –
June 4, 1981 (1981-06-04)

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

The series pilot aired as a television movie entitled The Homecoming: A Christmas Story and was broadcast on December 19, 1971.[1] Beginning in September 1972, the series originally aired on CBS for a total of nine seasons. After the series was canceled by CBS in 1981, NBC aired three television movie 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.


Main article: List of The Waltons episodes


The main story takes place in Walton's Mountain, a fictional town at the foot of a mountain in fictitious Jefferson County, Virginia.

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

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 18 that the date is in the spring of 1933.[2] The last episode of season one, "An Easter Story", is set in February–April 1934. The year 1934 takes two seasons to cover, while some successive years are covered over the course of a few months.[3]

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 errors, which ostensibly do not hinder the storyline.

A Thanksgiving reunion show, A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion, filmed in 1993, takes place in 1963, and revolves around President John F. Kennedy's assassination; A Walton Wedding, made in 1995, is set in 1964; and, the latest reunion show, A Walton Easter, filmed in 1997, is set in 1969.

The series began relating stories that occurred 38 years in the past, and ended with its last reunion show set 28 years in the past.


File:Waltons 1972.JPG

John, John-Boy, and Olivia Walton

The story is about the family of John Walton Jr. (known as John-Boy): his six siblings, his parents John and Olivia Walton, and the elder John's parents Zebulon "Zeb" and Esther Walton. John-Boy is the oldest of the children (17 years old in the beginning),[4] 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 his sons' help as they grow older. The family income is augmented by some small-scale farming, and John occasionally hunts to put meat on the table.

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, 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. The church that the Hamners actually attended was Schuyler Baptist Church, near the Hamner homeplace and is still in operation.[5] The church has helped host several events honoring Earl Hamner, Jr., including one in 2014.

In the signature scene that closes almost every episode, the family house is enveloped in darkness, save for one, two or three 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.

File: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, the actors who portrayed the 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.

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 sanitarium. Olivia's cousin, Rose Burton, moves into the Walton house to look after the brood. Two years later, John Sr. moves to Arizona to be near 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).

Six feature-length movies were made after the series' run; set from 1947 through 1969, they aired between 1982 and 1997.


Pilot movie[]

The Homecoming: A Christmas Story (1971) was not originally intended to be a pilot for a series, but it became one because it was so popular.[6] Except for the children and Grandma Walton, the actors for the movie were not the same as for the series. The musical score was by Oscar-winning composer Jerry Goldsmith (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[7]) 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.

Patricia Neal (as Olivia) won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Television Series Drama. The movie was also nominated for three 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).[8]


Main article: List of The Waltons characters
File:The Waltons 1974.JPG

Grandpa and Grandma Walton

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

  • John "John-Boy" Walton Jr. (Richard Thomas, seasons 1–5, guest season 6, three movie sequels; Robert Wightman, seasons 8–9 and one movie sequel), the eldest of the seven children
  • John Walton Sr. (Ralph Waite), the family patriarch
  • Olivia Walton (Michael Learned, seasons 1–7, guest season 8, and four movies), the matriarch
  • Zebulon "Grandpa" Walton (Will Geer, seasons 1–6), John's father
  • Esther "Grandma" Walton (Ellen Corby, seasons 1–5 & 7, sporadically in other seasons, and in five movies), John's mother
  • Jason Walton (Jon Walmsley, entire series and six movies ), second-oldest brother; musically talented
  • Mary Ellen Walton (Judy Norton Taylor, entire series and six movies), headstrong oldest daughter; becomes a nurse
  • Erin Walton (Mary Elizabeth McDonough, entire series and six movies), second Walton daughter; works as a telephone operator and as manufacturing supervisor
  • Benjamin "Ben" Walton (Eric Scott, entire series and six movies), third Walton son; has an entrepreneurial spirit
  • James Robert "Jim-Bob" Walton (David W. Harper, entire series and six movies), youngest Walton son; mechanically inclined
  • Elizabeth Walton (Kami Cotler, entire series and six movies), youngest of the seven children
  • Cindy Walton (Leslie Winston), seasons 7-9 and four of the reunion movies, Ben's wife
  • Rose Burton (Peggy Rea, seasons 8–9 and one sequel), Olivia's matronly cousin who fills in as matriarch during Olivia's absence


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 seventy miles east of Schuyler.


The town of Walton's Mountain was built in the rear area of the Warner Bros. Studios, but the mountain itself was part of the range opposite Warner studios in Burbank, California. The Waltons' house facade 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 facade 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 The 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 two popular programs: The Flip Wilson Show on NBC and The Mod Squad on ABC.[9] "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.[9] 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."[9]

File:The Waltons cast 2012.jpg

The cast at the 40th Anniversary of the show in 2012


Nielsen ratings[]

Season Time slot (ET) Rank Rating
1 (1972–73) Thursday at 8:00-9:00 pm (Episodes 1-24)
Thursday at 9:00-10:00 pm (Episode 25)
#20[10] 20.6 (tied with The Partridge Family and Medical Center)
2 (1973–74) Thursday at 8:00-9:00 pm (Episodes 1-10, 12-25)
Thursday at 9:00-10:00 pm (Episode 11)
#2[11] 28.1
3 (1974–75) Thursday at 8:00-9:00 pm (Episodes 1, 3-25)
Thursday at 9:00-10:00 pm (Episode 2)
#8[12] 25.5
4 (1975–76) Thursday at 8:00-9:00 pm (Episodes 1-18, 20-25)
Thursday at 9:00-10:00 pm (Episode 19)
#14[13] 22.9 (tied with M*A*S*H)
5 (1976–77) Thursday at 8:00-9:00 pm (Episodes 1-7, 9-25)
Thursday at 9:00-10:00 pm (Episode 8)
#15[14] 22.3 (tied with Little House on the Prairie)
6 (1977–78) Thursday at 8:00-9:00 pm (Episodes 1-7, 9-11, 14-21, 23, 25-26)
Thursday at 9:00-10:00 pm (Episodes 8, 22, 24)
Monday at 8:00-9:00 pm (Episode 12)
Monday at 9:00-10:00 pm (Episode 13)
#21[15] 20.8 (tied with ABC Sunday Night Movie)
7 (1978–79) Thursday at 8:00-9:00 pm (Episodes 1, 3-24)
Thursday at 9:00-10:00 pm (Episode 2)
Not in the Top 30[16] N/A
8 (1979–80) Thursday at 8:00-9:00 pm (Episodes 1, 3-24)
Thursday at 9:00-10:00 pm (Episode 2)
Not in the Top 30[17]
9 (1980–81) Thursday at 8:00-9:00 pm (Episodes 1, 3-22)
Thursday at 9:00-10:00 pm (Episode 2)
#30[18] 18.6


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 three 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 also earned a Peabody Award for its first season.[19]

In 2013, TV Guide ranked The Waltons No. 34 on its list of the 60 Best Series of All Time.[20]

Home media[]

The Waltons Reunion movies:

The Walton's Reunion Movie Collection : 1. A Wedding on Walton's Mountain 2. Mother's Day 3. A Day for Thanks on Walton's Mountain 4. A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion 5. Wedding 6. Easter

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 sound-track 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 name Episodes
Region 1 Region 2 (UK)
The Homecoming: A Christmas Story N/A September 23, 2003 N/A
The Complete 1st Season 24 May 11, 2004 November 1, 2004
The Complete 2nd Season 24 April 26, 2005 July 3, 2006
The Complete 3rd Season 24 April 25, 2006 September 11, 2006
The Complete 4th Season 24 January 23, 2007 March 5, 2007
The Complete 5th Season 24 May 8, 2007 September 12, 2007
The Complete 6th Season 22 January 8, 2008 March 20, 2008
The Complete 7th Season 23 April 29, 2008 N/A
The Complete 8th Season 24 January 6, 2009 N/A
The Complete 9th Season 22 April 28, 2009 N/A
TV Movie Collection (not including the original movie) 6 January 26, 2010 N/A


Seasons 1–9 are available via streaming through services such as Amazon Video.[21]


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, which Warners owned.[22] Warner Bros. acquired Lorimar in 1989, and has continued to syndicate the series ever since. Reruns currently air in the U.S. on INSP, the Hallmark Channel. In Canada, The Waltons airs on Vision TV and BookTelevision.

In the UK, the series was broadcast on BBC 1 and BBC 2 during the 1970s/1980s - the first three seasons were broadcast on BBC 2 from February 18, 1974[23] to May 17, 1976,[24] on Mondays at 20.00 GMT, and seasons 4 and 5 were shown on BBC One from September 5, 1976[25] to August 30, 1977,[26] 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[27] and concluding in April 1983.[28] The three reunion TV movies filmed in 1982 were also shown on BBC 2 from December 21 to December 28, 1983.[29][30][31] The show was repeated on Channel 4 in the 1990s; it currently airs on True Entertainment in the UK.


  1. "The Waltons" The Homecoming: A Christmas Story (1971) on IMDb
  2. "The Courtship", Season one, episode 18
  3. 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.
  4. "The Foundling", season one, episode one
  5. [1]
  6. Crump, William D. (2013). The Christmas encyclopedia (Third edition. ed.). p. 434. ISBN 9780786468270.
  7. 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
  8. "The Homecoming-A Christmas Story".
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 King, Susan (2012-09-28). "40th anniversary celebration of 'The Waltons'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  10. TV Ratings > 1972–1973
  11. TV Ratings > 1973–1974
  12. TV Ratings > 1974–1975
  13. TV Ratings > 1975–1976
  14. TV Ratings > 1976–1977
  15. TV Ratings > 1977–1978
  16. TV Ratings > 1978-1978
  17. TV Ratings > 1979-80
  18. TV Ratings > 1980-1981
  19. "The Waltons". Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  20. TV Guide Magazine's 60 Best Series of All Time
  21. Amazon Video: The Waltons: The Complete First Season Retrieved October 22, 2013
  22. Lee Rich Interview: Archive of American Television. Retrieved on June 14, 2014.
  23. BBC Genome: BBC Two England, 18 February 1974. Retrieved on July 4, 2016.
  24. BBC Genome: BBC Two England, 17 May 1976. Retrieved on July 4, 2016.
  25. BBC Genome: BBC One London, 5 September 1976. Retrieved on July 4, 2016.
  26. BBC Genome: BBC One London, 30 August 1977. Retrieved on July 4, 2016.
  27. BBC Genome: BBC Two England, 30 April 1979. Retrieved on July 4, 2016.
  28. BBC Genome: BBC Two England, 29 March 1983. Retrieved on July 4, 2016.
  29. BBC Genome: BBC Two England, 21 December 1983. Retrieved on July 4, 2016.
  30. BBC Genome: BBC Two England, 23 December 1983. Retrieved on July 4, 2016.
  31. BBC Genome: BBC Two England, 28 December 1983. Retrieved on July 4, 2016.

Further reading[]

External links[]

Template:EmmyAward DramaSeries 1951-1975 Template:GoldenGlobeTVDrama 1969-1989