Popular Family Drama that aired on CBS from 1972 to 1981. The Waltons is about the life and trials of the Walton family in the 1930s and 1940s.The Waltons are a large country family in rural Virginia who run a saw mill on Walton Mountain in the grinding struggle to make ends meet in the The Great Depression. As the initial lead character and narrator in his adulthood, Eldest son John-Boy Walton, noted, they didn't have much money, but they had a lot of love and fortitude to keep the whole brood going through thick and thin.The remarkable thing is that this series began on CBS around the same time as its notorious "rural purge" in which shows like The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres were cancelled en masse as not appealing to the desirable audience demographics from 1968 through 1973. It was expected to die a quick death like the few remaining survivors of the "rural purge" would eventually do. Instead of dying a quick death against The Mod Squad and The Flip Wilson Show as expected, the show soon killed them and went on for a successful nine-year run. Some have called it the lone survivor of the "rural purge" although the show began during it, not right before it. The show and its cast also picked up several Emmy Awards and a Peabody.Series creator Earl Hamner, Jr. based the show on his own childhood experiences, which he had previously mined for the 1961 novel Spencer's Mountain (itself adapted as a 1963 film starring Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Hara). Prior to the actual series, CBS aired a Pilot Movie in 1971 called The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, which featured Patricia Neal as Olivia Walton and Edgar Bergen as Grandpa; these roles would be re-cast for the series.
The Waltons includes examples of the following tropes:
Aborted Arc: When Jenny Pendleton appears in 'The Thanksgiving Story' she mentions that she'll be going to the same college as John-Boy next year, which suggests she was probably planned to appear in Season 3 (when John-Boy starts college) but she's never seen again.
Absentee Actor: Grandma, after coming home from her stroke anyway. She was not seen or mentioned in some episodes after she returned home.
Beach Episode: In 'The Seashore' the Waltons have to look after the Baldwins' beach house for a while.
Beware the Nice Ones: John Walton may the iconic loving father, but do not think you can take advantage of him. One drifter thought he could when he was bunking with the family and tried to steal some money before making his escape; the next thing that happened is that he was staring down a shotgun wielded by John who is quite adament that the thief put back the money and explain himself. John-Boy is no pushover either when facing bad guys, once forcing a young girl con artist to confess her crimes in front of the family and later on beating up both boys singlehandedly that jumped him earlier in the episode.
In 'The Achievement' John-Boy leaves to become a writer, fulfilling his dream, but leaving his family.
'Grandma Comes Home' is this in hindsight, since it was the final appearance of Will Geer as Zebulon, who, in real life and within the show, died shortly afterward.
Bizarro Episode: The episode 'The Changeling' is about a poltergeist invading the Walton home. No other episode features any overt supernatural elements (though 'The Ghost Story' is ambiguous about a Ouija Board) and this is never mentioned again.
Brilliant but Lazy: Jim-Bob. Seriously, he'd be a renowned genius if he tried. His achievements include being able to repair virtually ANY mechanical item, building his own car from pieces he finds, building his own shortwave radio which he uses to talk to people in the UK and building his own aeroplane!
Call Back: In the very first episode Mary Ellen has a bird's nest for the Christmas tree, and that same nest is seen again in 'Day of Infamy'.
Cartwright Curse: Many of the guys Erin has shown interest in end up dead not long after (of the ones that survive, they turn to be of poor character).
The Cast Show Off: Will Geer. He had a Master's Degree in Botany from the University of Chicago, and worked as a professional botanist after being blacklisted in 1950. Grandpa's knowledge of plants makes a lot more sense now...
Jon Walmsley's musical talents were often showcased on the series, as well.
Esther often says "Good Lord!" and, in later series, "Oh boy...".
Zebulon usually says "awomen" after grace has been said, rather than "amen".
All episodes end with everyone saying "Good night [insert name]!"
Celebrity Paradox: The family were occasionally seen listening to their favorite radio shows, including Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy...after Bergen appeared in the pilot movie as Grandpa!
Character Development: Both Olivia and Esther became much less strict and more easy going as the series went on.
The Character Died with Him: After Will Geer died following the sixth season, the show opened season 7 with an episode depicting the aftermath of Grandpa's (offscreen) death. The same episode also deals with the death of Flossie Brimmer, whose actress (Nora Marlowe) had likewise died during the show's hiatus.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The Godsey's adopted daughter Aimee during season 7. She was last seen dealing with Corabeth's alcoholism and then suddenly the show acted as if she never existed for the rest of the season. Most notably in the episode when her father Ike had a heart attack. She was never shown or mentioned once during the episode. Not even when Ike told John who would get what in his will in case he ever died.
Clip Show: A Decade of the Waltons, a movie-length 1980 special introduced by an onscreen Earl Hamner, Jr.
Creator Cameo: Series creator Earl Hamner Jr. appears as a minor character in 'The Journey'.
Cringe Comedy: Some of the pranks played on John-Boy in 'The First Day' could be called this. For example, somebody tells him he needs to deliver a goat to a specific room, he goes there very eagerly, unaware that he's taking it to the room of Proffessor Gote, a man who does not appreciate jokes about his name...
Doorstop Kid: The first episode had a young deaf girl that was unable to communicate left on the Waltons' doorstep by her mother to prevent the father (who mistook her for mentally retarded) from sending her to an orphanage. One of the earliest examples of a clip show.
'The Hiding Place' suggests that Hilary and her husband may have be destined to be killed by Nazis.
'The Empty Nest' ends with the family sitting around and talking to Zebulon's grave.
'The Parting' ends with Olivia having to move to a sanitorium due to illness.
Expy: The addition of pretentious and gossipy cousin Corabeth as Ike's new wife seemed to serve no other purpose than to make her and Ike the Walton Mountain versions of Harriet and Nels Oleson of Little House on the Prairie (which had premiered a year before Corabeth's introduction).
Happily Married: The show is a big fan of this one: Grandma Esther and Grandpa Zeb, John Sr. and Olivia, most of the kids eventually, Rev. Fordwick and Rosemary, Ike and Corabeth, Sheriff Bridges and Sara. Even when they have arguments, they rarely erupt into anything big except for a few times in the later seasons.
Hey, It's That Guy!: Sissy Spacek, who plays Sarah Simmons, went on to play Carrie White in the film Carrie.
On that subject, the actor who plays Joanie from Happy Days is also in an episode.
Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Almost every episode is titled like this 'The [X]'. The first set of specials all have 'Walton's Mountain' in the titles, and the second set of specials are all titled like this 'A Walton [X]'.
Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In 'The Threshold' Elizabeth talks to John-Boy about what he'd call a TV show he'd make about the family, and he says it'd be called 'The Waltons'.
Long Runners: Nine seasons, and this for a series not expected to last one.
No Ending: Season 9's final episode 'The Revel' was not written as a final episode for the show, neither was the final special 'A Walton Easter' and so, sadly, The Waltons does not have a proper ending.
Nostalgic Narrator: Series creator Earl Hamner Jr., as the voice of the older John-Boy Walton.
One Steve Limit: Averted. There are two Johns, two Bens, two Esthers and two Sarahs.
The Other Darrin: Every adult character (with the exception of Ellen Corby's Grandma Walton) was played by a different actor in the pilot film.
John-Boy, after being virtually absent for two seasons following the departure of Richard Thomas from the cast, reappeared in Season 8 with Robert Wightman in the role. Thomas would return to the role in the reunion films.
Paranormal Episode: Of all shows, this one had an episode about one of the kids being haunted by a poltergeist. It was the seventies, after all.
Put on a Bus: In the second to last episode of Season 6 John-Boy literally leaves on a bus (though he had already been 'put on a bus' a season before when he moved to New York) (but the season still followed his exploits in The Big Apple).
Reasonable Authority Figure: John Walton may be the undisputed head of the household, but it's hard to find a father more understanding under such difficult circumstances. He's even changed his mind on unpopular decisions and will admit when he's made an error, especially to Olivia and John-Boy.
Retcon: In 'The Homecoming' Olivia finds out about John-Boy's writing when he is fifteen years old, in a Season 8 episode she mentions knowing about him and his writing when he was a little boy.
'70s Hair: The adult males and the girls had hair that was too long for the period. One Troper's grandmother spat "we girls didn't have our hair hanging down in our faces back then!" Her reaction to the Walton girls's feathered hair towards the end is unprintable.
Title Drop: In one episode John-Boy mentions that, if he made a TV show, it'd be called The Waltons.
Tomboy and Girly Girl: Mary Ellen is a complete tomboy to Erin's totally girly girl. This causes many, many arguments for the girls when they are young.
Uncertain Doom: Hilary and her husband may or may not have been killed by Nazis.
Unreliable Narrator: Not an intention trope, in this case, but he does contradict himself, for example, one time saying that Zebulon outlived Esther, when the opposite was true, and another saying that AJ Covington never returned to the mountain (he was back a few years later).
What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to Bullet the calf? Elizabeth and Jim-Bob try so hard to save him, but then he's never seen again.