Series / The Waltons

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A popular Family Drama that aired on CBS from 1972 to 1981, The Waltons is about the life and trials of the eponymous family in the 1930s and '40s.

The Waltons are a large family who run a saw mill on Walton's Mountain in rural Virginia, and the series depicts their grinding struggle to make ends meet during The Great Depression, and later World War II. As initial lead character (and adult narrator) 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 Made-for-TV Movie in 1971 called The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, which featured Patricia Neal as Olivia Walton, Andrew Duggan as John Walton Sr., and Edgar Bergen as Grandpa; these roles would be re-cast for the series (and the movie hadn't been intended as a pilot; a series was only proposed after the favorable critical and audience reaction to the movie).

This was the first series to come from Lorimar Productions, which went on to produce such popular shows as Eight Is Enough, Dallas, Knots Landing, Falcon Crest, and half of ABC's TGIF lineup.

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. Probably just another case of a crush that didn't work out in the long term for John-Boy.
  • Absentee Actor: Grandma, after coming home from her stroke anyway. She was not seen or mentioned in some episodes after she returned home.
  • Adaptation Expansion: There is a lot more that happens in The Waltons than in the novel Spencer's Mountain.
  • Animated Adaptation: Not officially, but in 1974 Hanna-Barbera created an Expy called These Are the Days, about the early-
20th-century Day family (who might as well have been called Walton).
  • Anyone Can Die: After the war starts this sort of happens... One main and two recurring are killed.
    • Four seasons after his first heart attack and running himself ragged waiting for his wife Esther to come home from the hospital, Zebulon Walton has a second heart attack climbing up the mountain to plant flowers. He is implied to have been died instantly and by himself, and was found keeled over dead up there. Even though he and Esther had plans to be buried together, rather than go to the difficult and heartwrenching task of carting down to the burial plot, the family found it more fitting to bury him up on the mountain, because he loved it so much.
    • G. W. Haines proposes to Erin, but she turns him down, so he ends up joining the Army to cope with the rejection. In a cruel twist of fate, when Erin begins to reciprocate his feelings, World War II has completely sucked him into the Army, and he ends up taking part in a routine training exercise where the men practice throwing dummy grenades. Unfortunately, it just so happened that someone decided they were ready for live ammo, and a wayward bunny bounded too close to the testing site as G. W. wound up to throw an active grenade. His kindness toward the bunny caused him to redirect his grenade, but cost him the time he should have used to chuck it far enough away that it wouldn't blow up in his face, which it did, and G. W. became Walton's Mountain's first casualty of World War II. Instead of seeing their son off to the army with high hopes, they would see his casket off to the grave. Worst of all, he wrote a posthumous letter to Erin telling her that he really loved her, which was enough to make her run out into the field outside his grieving parents' house and bawl her eyes out in the arms of her father.
    • Widow Flossie Brimmer died under similar circumstances as Zebulon around the same time, joining her late husband in paradise. Her boarding house was boarded up until another recurring character, Zulieka Dunbar, took it over.
  • Adorkable: John-Boy acts all gawky around women has a thing for and gets bashful when given praise for his work.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Elizabeth says in one episode that she does not believe in ghosts, even though she attracted a poltergeist in the previous season.
  • Author Appeal: This is based on Earl Hamner's real life childhood.
  • Bar Brawl: John-Boy and John get into one in one episode. Ben and Jason also end up caught up in a lot of these because the former has a Hair-Trigger Temper that detonates when his pride gets insulted, and Jason actually worked at a bar to make ends meet and was witness and bouncer to many drunken disputes.
    • Jason got into a brawl personally when he got flak for signing up to be a conscientious objector in front of a very loose-lipped recruiter who didn't have the sense to talk to him in private about how people got blasted as cowards for this, thinking it would have been enough to talk him out of it right from the front desk.
  • Barefoot Loon: Cassie, who appears in "The Grandchild", a shoeless hill person and a mother-to-be who takes the stillbirth of her child very badly. She begins acting really off, believes a curse has fallen on her and expectant Mary Ellen, chants a Madness Mantra so potent that Mary Ellen freaks out and runs off into a raging thunderstorm in hysterics, stalks Mary Ellen until she gives birth, then snatches her baby without warning and finally holes herself up in a rotting cabin in the woods, having borrowed newborn John Curtis Willard to play pretend mother. Bizarrely, there is absolutely zero malice behind her actions.
  • Barefoot Poverty: A few of the hill folk went around barefoot in the later seasons, including a recurring patient of Mary Ellen's who lost some her children to sickness. The Walton children seemed like this in the earlier seasons, but it's actually a case of Does Not Like Shoes.
    • Mary Ellen dumbfounded a snooty rich girl who came onto the mountain in "The Spoilers" by tromping into her house barefoot straight from school. She grabbed a pair of spare dress shoes from her collection and eagerly slammed them on her dresser as if pitying the fact she had no shoes, and then gifted them to her along with a fancy ballroom dress and turban. When Mary Ellen got home that day, she turned some heads, both in good ways and bad.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: After Bob is given a chivaree in "The Chivaree", he's so angry about his kidnapping against his will (which the locals think is all in good fun) that he shouts, "I WANNA KILL!" Come next season in "The Loss" we learn he got killed instead when he hurried out onto an open road in the pitch dark back home to his wife after getting off work and a passing car ran him down.
  • 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 adamant 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.
    • Zeb was even scarier than his son in this respect. As soon as he heard his kinfolk were being threatened off their property by a highway developer, he took up a gun and was ready to fight to death if need be!
    • In an early episode, John took John-Boy out on his first real father-son hunt to christen him, but John-Boy got cold feet at the idea of killing creatures for sport. As for self-defense, the line was crossed between fight or flight and John-Boy made a stand when a wounded bear on its last legs stumbled upon John during a later outing. It was desperate to survive to the point it attacked anything in its way and had been foreshadowed the whole episode. As soon as John encountered it, the bear got the drop on him. It nearly killed him but John-Boy emptied his shotgun into the bear and felled it, and he would brag about his first kill for years to come because he effectively saved his father's life!
  • Big Brother Instinct: In 'The Big Brother' John-Boy talks about how he feels this for everybody.
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition: Used thematically with Calico in "The Loss". Calico was a very pregnant stray cat that Elizabeth discovered wandering onto the property, but was far too old to give birth without killing herself in the process. It didn't help that the entire episode was dedicated to the fact that one of the Walton's relatives had just lost her husband after he got hit by a car in the dark and temporarily went mad from the grief of losing him.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Several episodes end this way. Most of the time it's because the Waltons can't get involved with people who have to move on while they have to stay put. Or they have to move on while those people want them to stay put at their own expense.
    • 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.
  • 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'.
  • Captain's Log: John-Boy's memoirs.
  • 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). Even when she got married, her husband already had an infamous reputation as a Northridge and ended up being unfaithful, so she had her marriage annulled, only to run into another unfaithful suitor who was already in the process of cheating on his own spouse to avoid an unhappy marriage. Sadly, she shot herself in the foot with the one person who truly loved her (G. W. Haines) by rejecting his marriage proposal because she had already gone through the pain of a previous proposal falling through the cracks, which made him join the Army when it was too much to bear and ultimately led him to get killed in a training accident when their relationship actually took off and she realized the feelings between them were genuine.
    • Ashley Longworth Jr. consistently tried to court Erin, but he rejected religion and also pulled a Dear Joan letter on her. Ironically, it backfired on him when his lover suddenly died (perhaps as karmic punishment for spurning Erin and the heathen lifestyle he had chosen) and he was on the receiving end of the curse instead of Erin.
    • Jim-Bob also had notoriously bad luck with girls, and was the least church-going man in the family next to John. Eventually, he just embraces his bachelorhood, lets himself go, and becomes a rotund mechanic.
  • 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.
  • Catch-Phrase: A few characters have some.
    • Esther often says "Good Lord!" and, in later series, "Oh boy..." note 
    • Zebulon usually says "awomen" after grace has been said, rather than "amen".
    • Jim-Bob sometimes peppers his sentences with the word "swell", usually as a snide retort.
    • 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 easygoing as the series went on.
  • Characterization Marches On: The slightly snobbish, judgemental side of Corabeth is not present in her early appearances.
    • In her first appearances, Corabeth was a very timid and withdrawn woman because she had lived a sheltered life and was forced to come out of it now that her mother had died. After getting married to Ike, she gained a sense of confidence, and subsequentlly changed. Her inner desires begin to emerge as she becomes constantly fed up with the unappetizing and sometimes boorish nature of country life, and she explodes into a needy trend-keeper with a love of fine culture.
  • Christmas Episode: Several, not counting the Pilot Movie.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The Godseys' 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 - even when Ike told John who would get what in his will in case he died.
    • It was later mentioned that at some point, Corabeth got Aimee in private school; thus she was Put on a Bus. She did, however, come back for the Easter post-series special, having finished private school. She made a brief reappearance in the Thanksgiving reunion movie in 1963, where it was revealed she had eloped with a Marine and that Corabeth disapproved of the match, which may have somewhat accounted for her lack of mention because Aimee tended to be rebellious and follow the daring trends instead of the prim and proper ones, so naturally, it strained their relationship. However, when Aimee comes back bearing a grandchild, Corabeth's iced up heart thaws.
  • Clip Show: A Decade of the Waltons, a movie-length 1980 special introduced by an onscreen Earl Hamner, Jr.
  • Cousin Oliver: Olivia's cousin Rose and her young grandchildren Serena and Jeffrey were brought on briefly during season eight and nine. Rose filled in for Esther after Ellen Corby left the show and Jeffrey and Serena took on the cute kid roles now that Elizabeth and Jim-Bob were both teenagers. When they proved to be unpopular additions, their roles swiftly and quietly vanished.
  • 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...
  • Dead Guy Junior: Ben was named after John's brother Ben, who died in World War I.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Curt Willard is one of these. Jim-Bob and Elizabeth also fall into this category when they become teenagers and develop attitudes.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Both John and John-Boy smoked pipes earlier on in the show. John eventually kicked the habit because he stopped enjoying it, and John-Boy, even though he was old enough to smoke, always did so in private until he had a horrific experience in "The Burn Out" when the Walton House caught on fire and he was led to believe his pipe was the cause (though it's implied Zeb's unattended space heater was the true culprit). Feeling guilty, he resolved to never smoke again.
  • 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 disabled) from sending her to an orphanage. One of the earliest examples of a clip show.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Absolutely all of the Walton children preferred to go barefoot around the mountain when they were young and the weather allowed, and also went barefoot to school, as well as some of their friends, like Marsha Woolery. When Olivia joked in "The Boy From the C.C.C." about using a 50 dollar bill to buy them all shoes for the winter so they wouldn't be running around barefooted, the kids whined and moaned at the thought of wearing shoes, especially Mary Ellen, who at that point was a full-blown tomboy who loved being barefoot (and who got her dirty feet pushed off the table by her mother in "The Star" while churning butter with them propped up rather thoughtlessly), and Jim-Bob, who groaned, "Shoes?! ...SHOES...!" Their father replied, "It's mighty cold". Come season 5, the show underwent Cerebus Syndrome, only worsened when Esther was hospitalized and the kids could no longer afford to enjoy barefoot and carefree lives. All of them had to pitch in with work, and all of them dropped the habit completely because their society was creeping into World War II and it marked their loss of innocence. A few of them already did drop this habit by then, because they had taken on jobs and educational responsibilities. Each time a Walton child permanently shoes their feet, you can take it as a mark of their maturity and their shift from child to young adult.
    • Taken Up to Eleven in "The Stray" with the introduction of Josh. He preferred to be totally barefoot at all times, and for that reason, had no shoes at all. His presence in the story was revealed when because of this choice, he got his foot mangled from stepping on a fishhook and left a nasty blood trail, exposing him as a stowaway on the Walton's property. Even when Olivia donated some old shoes to him, Josh kept going barefoot, defending his reason for keeping them off as, "My feet aren't free." It wasn't until he went out to meet Verdie Foster (who then adopted him as Josh Foster) that he was convinced to start using his new shoes.
    • John-Boy suggested to Bob in "The Chivaree", a City Mouse who kept obsessively shining his Nice Shoes, that he should try going barefoot because it was fun. Bob scoffed at this. True to form, he got chivareed after his marriage and ended up stumbling through the would in his pajamas with bare feet.
  • Every Episode Ending: The family members all telling one another good night. There are a few exceptions, such as "The Marathon", where the ending takes place in the morning and Elizabeth wishes John-Boy a "good morning", "The Long Night", where the ending extends to Zeb outside Esther's hospital window, and, "The Medal", where the good night takes place at the Godseys because the plot centered around Corabeth's loyalty to her husband Ike.
    • Most episodes will end with the Waltons turning off the lights in their house as they go to bed, but a lot of the time John-Boy will keep his light on as he stays up writing and/or journaling. However, sometimes the lights of the house will come on instead when something stirs the family back to life, be it arguing, all getting in the mood for ice cream, a crying John Curtis, or the stunning announcement that John-Boy's love interest Janet said yes to his wedding proposal.
    • It got a Dark Reprise at the end of the season 9 opener, which featured the Waltons standing outside their house in the night instead of going to sleep. They were listening to the sound of a train going over the nearby trestle... the funeral procession for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who just signed a pardon for their friend Harvey Foster, one of the last things he did before he succumbed to polio. They, along with practically everyone else in the state of Virginia, had arisen that night to pay last respects to their fallen leader as his casket crossed the nation.
    • Memetic Mutation: This ending became so iconic that as late as 2010, it was still bring parodied in commercials.
  • 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's Mountain versions of Harriet and Nels Oleson of Little House on the Prairie (which had premiered a year before Corabeth's introduction). The show's producers saw this and tried to avoid making her tyrannical like Harriet, and rationalized her behavior as a pained desire to enjoy the finer things in life and high society while stuck in the humdrum boonies.
  • Family Drama
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Averted with John Walton; in the very first story, his Christmas present to John-Boy is writing material saying that while he might not understand his son's dream of being a writer as opposed to being a laborer, he expects his son to apply himself with real diligence to succeed.
  • Fiery Redhead: Ben and Elizabeth both have their moments, as does Olivia, who was originally a redhead whose hair faded in season 2 to a straw color.
  • Flashback with the Other Darrin: In the Season 5 episode 'The Achievement' there are clips of the pilot movie, and all the clips of the adult characters were refilmed with the new actors.
  • The '40s: The show starts in The Thirties, but most of its most integral events take place during this time period. The reunion specials cover The '60s.
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble: John (The Realist), Olivia (The Apathetic), Zeb (The Optimist), and Esther (The Cynic).
    • Among John's sons and son-in-law: John-Boy (the Realist), Jason (the Conflicted), Ben (the Optimist), Jim-Bob (the Apathetic), and Curt (the Cynic).
    • John's daughters and daughter-in-law as well: Mary Ellen (the Realist), Erin (the Cynic), Elizabeth (the Optimist), and Cindy (the Conflicted).
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The adults: John (phlegmatic), Olivia (melancholic), Zebulon (sanguine), and Esther (choleric).
    • John's sons + son-in-law: John-Boy (choleric), Jason (phlegmatic), Ben (sanguine), and Jim-Bob (melancholic), and Curt (leukine).
    • John's daughters + daughter-in-law: Mary Ellen (choleric), Erin (melancholic), Elizabeth (sanguine), and Cindy (phlegmatic).
    • The Godseys: Corabeth (melancholic/choleric) and Ike (phlegmatic/sanguine).
    • The Baldwin sisters: Emily (melancholic/phlegmatic) and Mamey (sanguine).
  • Frozen in Time: Very much averted. The series advanced from 1933 to 1945, while the last reunion movie was set in 1969.
  • Gentle Giant: Jason. One of the tallest characters and probably the most gentle and tender-hearted of all.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In an early episode, Ben chants at Elizabeth, "Teacher's pet! Teacher's pet! Gonna get your panties wet!"
    • Called back in a later episode, with Jeffrey repeating the line. Rose promptly sends him to his room.
    • There's this gem from the first episode ("The Foundling", where a deaf girl is left on their property):
    Elizabeth: Daddy, where did you find me..?
    John: Well sweetie... I found you hiding behind one of your mother's smiles.
  • Gilligan Cut: "I wouldn't marry you, Curtis Willard, if you were the last man on Earth!" Cue the wedding.
  • The Great Depression: The first three seasons of the show take place in the midst of the Great Depression, but by season 4 it begins to come to an end.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Several examples of this. Often Esther, John-Boy, Mary Ellen, Ben, and Erin. Occasionally John, Curt, and Elizabeth.
  • Halloween Episode:
    • Season 2's "The Ghost Story" when John-Boy and Jason use the Ouija board.
    • Season 5 has two. "The Nightwalker" revolves around an unknown person wandering the mountain at night, while "The Ferris Wheel" centers around Elizabeth's recurring nightmares of being trapped on a Ferris wheel.
    • Season 7's "The Changeling" has Elizabeth harassed by a poltergeist on the cusp of her 13th birthday.
  • 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.
  • 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]'.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: Composed by Jerry Goldsmith.
  • Large Ham: The episode which introduces John Ritter as Rev. Fordwick paints him this way, especially when practicing his sermons in the Waltons' backyard. "REPAAAAAYNT, YE SINNERS!" He does get better as the show goes on, though he still retains much of his intensity.
    • Zeb is the life of the party and a perpetual jokester, often annoying his Wife.
    • John-Boy slips into this when he has a victory shout of, "YAAAAAHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!"
  • 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 six post-series specials, and this for a series not expected to last one.
  • Look Both Ways: Both Bob Hill and Boone Walton make the mistake of walking onto unlit sections of highway roads in the middle of the night as shortcuts instead of taking streets like normal, reasonable people should, and both are summarily killed by oncoming cars. The former was stubborn as they come and a thoughtless person by nature who did things his way or the highway, and the highway did him one in return. The latter is an even worse case, as the narrator version of John-Boy feeds us an epilogue that he was 85 years old, and implied to be possibly drunk at the time, as he was found with two full helpings of moonshine, and he once survived a flood that took away his wife and child. At least they're back together now...
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: John-Boy. You start to realize how small and under-educated the population of Walton's Mountain is when they rely on a teenage boy to take on every prestigious task you can think of.
  • Manly Tears: Almost nothing makes John Walton cry. The only thing that evoked real tears from him was seeing his oldest son lost in a coma with very little evidence that he was recovering.
  • Multigenerational Household: There's Zeb and Esther, their son John, his children, and eventually the children's children.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: No pun intended, but in season 5 "The Firestorm," the anti-German Rev Fordwick, in response to Hitler burning the Holy Bible (a passage in Revelation warns of punishment to all those who seek to destroy the Bible), plans on burning Mein Kampf and any other German literature they could get his hands on in protest. John-boy stands up to them, trying to get them to see how wrong it was and spots one black book in the pile and picks it up. Mrs. Brimmer comes forward to read the German words and then the English. Rev Forwick and those assembled were nearly in tears as they realized she was reading the Holy Bible.note 
  • No Ending: Season 9's final episode 'The Revel' was not written as a final episode for the show, nor was the final special 'A Walton Easter'; and so, sadly, The Waltons does not have a proper ending. Keep in mind, though, that the show is based on real life, and Life Goes On, so we can assume it's not necessarily meant to.
  • Nostalgic Narrator: Series creator Earl Hamner Jr., as the voice of the older John-Boy Walton. In the finale of season 7, he notably gives a very touching monologue that almost seems like he's setting the stage for the show to end, but it doesn't.
  • Once an Episode: The "good night" sequence. Played with as it wasn't always the Waltons who bid each other goodnight. Occasionally it was other people who were central to the episode who did this.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. This was a time when people often used the names of their parentage as components of their children's names. There are two Johns (John-Boy's real name is John Walton, Jr., but he affectionately goes by John-Boy to differentiate himself from his father, sometimes getting laughed at for his nickname by the snooty), two Bens, two Esthers and two Sarahs. There is also a second Olivia who comes from a very unfortunate side of the family that is pockmarked with death. Mary Ellen's second name is Esther's middle name, Erin has Esther for her middle name, and John Curtis is named after his father Curtis.
  • Opposites Attract: Several examples of this. Easygoing joker Zeb married rigid, strict Esther. Hot-headed, workaholic Ben married sweet, quiet Cindy. While not as obvious as Zeb and Esther or Ben and Cindy, John and Olivia are different.
  • 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.
    • "A Day For Thanks On Walton Mountain" provides a subplot with a downplayed example. Zeb's spirit is allegedly seen by his great-grandchildren and implied to be watching over the family.
  • Pilot Movie: As noted above, The Homecoming wasn't technically one of these, but its critical and ratings success did pave the way for the series that followed.
  • Posthumous Character: Ben Walton, who was killed in action in France during World War I and reported buried there in some place (likely a mass grave) that none of his loved ones know about. He is only mentioned in passing, but his family eventually erects a memorial for him on the mountain in lieu of having a burial site to go to.
    • Judge Baldwin, the long-dead father of the Baldwin ladies. His portrait hangs on their fireplace mantle wall, and they constantly praise their papa for being their father, but the man sounded like a terror in the flesh, as he was bent on keeping his daughters single, lived 20 years after a stroke in a half-vegetated state, and Ashley Longworth was his own personal Berserk Button. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to hear about their mother considering how little she gets talked about compared to him.
  • Present Day Past: In the episode "The Silver Wings", Jim-Bob meets an attractive older woman who looks and dresses like a woman from the 1970s. From her nearly Farrah-like hair to her too-skimpy-for-the-1940s wardrobe (which seems to consist mainly of bathing suit tops), she looks like something straight out of Three's Company rather than Walton's Mountain.
  • Promoted To Opening Credits: The show used to only credit the integral Walton Elders at the beginning, but ironically, the setup flipped after John-Boy stopped being center stage midway through and the younger Walton children took over, and starting with season 7, they were given opening credit billing instead of the end credits. In season 9, Joe Conley and Ronnie Claire Edwards (Ike and Corabeth Godsey) get this treament, having become breakout characters and filling in the space that the Walton adults had left behind.
  • 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. The Bus Came Back in Season 8, but with a new actor until the fourth reunion movie, when his old actor reprised the role.
    • Esther, in a case of Real Life Writes the Plot, was out of the story for the latter half of Season 5 all the way to the tail end of Season 6 because Ellen Corby had a very debilitating stroke. Although she came back for Season 7, she was Commuting on a Bus because Corby's health was precarious and her stroke rendered her nearly incapable of speaking, and by Season 8, she was reduced to a single guest appearance at the end of the season and did not come back until the reunion movies, all of which featured her.
    • Olivia contracts tuberculosis and has to leave for a sanatorium midway through Season 8. She comes back for the first half of Season 9 and is back for the reunion movies.
    • John follows Olivia midway through season 9 when her tuberculosis relapses and he needs to be with her in the hospital to comfort her for the long term.
    • Aimee is sent to private school sometime off-screen in Season 7, but comes back in the second reunion movie.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Jason in season 4's "The Breakdown." After becoming irritated with being compared to his older brother John-Boy, working his job, and keeping up on schoolwork, he can't take it anymore. One afternoon when he and John-Boy are driving home from school, Jason begins shouting at his brother in the car. Soon after, he apologizes.
    • While John-Boy is being cared for during his coma and the doctors see his son as a liability because he's just taking up space, John explodes.
  • Reality Ensues: Jim-Bob desperately wanted to be a pilot in the Air Corps and even went as far as to get a tattoo of the Air Corps Insignia (which, to this day, he regrets). Unfortunately, bad eyesight runs in the Walton family (Esther, John, and John-Boy all need reading glasses). To his great dismay, a vision screening revealed his eyesight was poor and he would never be able to qualify to fly for them and killed his dream half-grown. This sort of soul-crushing thing happens to a multitude of people who try to fly in the military only to learn their vision, the single most crucial aspect of the screen, doesn't cut the mustard.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: This is the reason behind Esther's stroke and Zebulon's death.
  • 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 is even shown to change his mind on unpopular decisions, and will admit when he's made an error, especially to Olivia and John-Boy.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Near the end of season 2, the Walton's prized milk cow, Chance, got sick and died of old age. By the next season, John has purchased a new milk cow, who they also name Chance.
    • Somewhat the case regarding Jeffery's relationship with the family hound Reckless. Although Reckless wasn't actually his dog, he loved her like she was his. By the time he met her, though, she was an old dog who had sired a single pup with Tiger, Yancy Tucker's dog (which, being the only pup of the litter, he claimed for himself as owner of the sire while remarking Reckless went for quality over quality). Unfortunately, as Jeffery bonded with Reckless on a walk through the woods, Reckless's time came and she went to the big doghouse in the sky, breaking Jeffery's heart. A few episodes later, Jeffery met a half-German war refugee/POW who gifted him with a puppy. Since it was Christmastime, Jeffery named the puppy Nick after St. Nick. Jeffery then forgot to let Nick out to do his business and the puppy widdled in his bed.
  • Replaced the Theme Tune: Jerry Goldsmith scored The Homecoming: A Christmas Story and he returned when it became a series (he did six episodes in the first season), so you'd think the producers would have retained his quiet, rustic theme music. You'd be wrong:
    They thought [the original] was too gentle. Today, I would have argued with them. I like the theme for The Homecoming better. It was certainly more authentic.
  • Retcon: In The Homecoming, Olivia finds out about John-Boy's writing when he is fifteen years old, but in a Season 8 episode she mentions knowing about him and his writing when he was a little boy.
  • Reunion Show: Several reunion movies aired in the '90s.
  • Romancing the Widow: This is how Harvey Foster (himself a widower) ends up with Verdie Grant.
    • One of Esther's old beaus comes to visit her after Zeb passes on, having gone through a stroke like she did and outlived his wife Betty.
    • Rose Burton outlived her husband Burt, a train conductor on the Northwestern line. However, she had a beau prior to him named Stanley Perkins, who was a traveling salesman and a dancer. Eventually, he comes back into her life and tries once to win her heart, but she declines him. The second time, he's ready to give up Rose turns him down again, and Rose considers saying yes, but she discovers her heart itself is too weak for them to go traveling like he has always done. However, True Love Conquers all and Stanley doesn't care if he can't travel anymore, so the two get married.
  • Running Gag: In the early seasons, Mary Ellen was a raging tomboy who was always getting into trouble, and Olivia's go-to punishment was to make her go read ten Bible verses until she memorized them. The other children were not exempt to this punishment, either, and any backtalk would net them more verses on top of the first volley.
    • Olivia frequently urges her husband to come to church more often because she is a straight-laced Baptist and he is a realist who is a little skeptical of the faith. She also encourages John to get baptized, as does Elizabeth at one point, but John was stubborn enough that, according to John-Boy's narration, he went to the grave unbaptized.
    • The Baldwin ladies, being naive, shut-in spinsters who live stuck exclusively in their own worlds and never leave the mountain, always refer to their family's bootleg moonshine as "the recipe". They don't even realize it's totally illegal.
    • Emily Baldwin is constantly going on about her star-crossed romance with Ashley Longworth and how they kissed under an old oak tree under a swirl of falling autumn leaves, and how her father effectively killed it by shooing him away for good. She even continues harping on about it long after learning he has up and died and had a son. When we first hear about him, it's 1934. The last time she brings him up, she and her sister have finally been busted and put out of the moonshine business, both of them are rickety old ladies, and it is 1963.
    • Zeb has a fixation with naming plants (Will Gear was a real-life botanist), especially trailing arbutus flowers, arguably his favorites.
    • The Waltons have to keep going to Ike Godsey's store to place phone calls and receive them because they don't have a telephone installed in the house. It isn't until John and Olivia's silver anniversary that they finally get one.
  • Same Character, but Different: Curtis was originally a loving, loyal husband and father who died an honorable death at Pearl Harbor; they brought him back as a broken drunk who faked his death and left Mary Ellen out of pure selfishness.
  • Series Finale: "The Revel" was retooled into this when it became clear the show would not be picked up for a tenth season. It features the Baldwins reflecting back on the past, and as most last episodes do, this can be a corollary to looking back at the long journey the characters have gone through up to this point. It also features a closing narration with older John-Boy. However, breaking pattern from all the other episodes, instead of his words reflecting on just the events of the episode and the characters of the show telling each other good night, old John-Boy directly addresses the audience. He essentially thanks the viewers for watching the show and tells them that he hopes that they will remember the peaceful image of the Walton household just as he does, with a light in the window and the blue-ridged mountains surrounding it. he tells us "good night". Fortunately, the show netted six reunion specials and this just closes out the syndicated run.
  • '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' feathered hair towards the end of the run is unprintable.
  • Shirtless Scene: John, John-Boy, Ben, Ike and even Zebulon have had them. Curt also gets one in his final appearance after getting ripped from chopping wood (played by a different actor, however).
  • Shopkeeper: Ike Godsey, who runs his store also as the local post office, auto garage and pool hall, so everyone has a reason to visit.
  • Smoking Is Not Cool: One episode has Ben sneaking around rolling up his own cigarettes and lighting up in the barn trying not to get caught. Inevitably, this task proves impossible in a big family and the cat gets out of the bag sooner rather than later. Zeb had a veteran tactic for this kind of thing and had it down-pat by now to make his grandkids smoke 'em all if they got caught huffing and puffing. When he caught wind of Ben's little hobby, he decided to pull the old reverse psychology tactic on him by making him think Of Course I Smoke and brought him out to Druscilla's Pond to go out and smoke a whole pack together, and Ben promptly got too sick to ever think about smoking cigarettes again, while seasoned Zeb masterfully and dominantly takes his smokes without batting an eyelash. Jason even warned Ben what would happen, because he was subjected to this torture himself.
    • A later episode, "The Furlough" (the first episode with John-Boy out of his coma played by a new actor) reveals that this was the bog standard punishment Zeb used to wean every one of the boys off smoking at one point or another. Ironically, when this conversation comes up, all of the boys are drinking beer in the house in private, a thing which would certainly have put their female elders in arms had any of them been at the house to scold them and Zeb still been alive. The only one who isn't drinking is underage Jim-Bob, who is given a root beer.
  • Thanksgiving Episode: Season 2's "The Thanksgiving Story", as well as two reunion movies centered around the holiday (well, it is a holiday all about family gatherings!).
  • The Thirties: The first few seasons of the show covered the Depression era and the years the Walton family was forced to pinch pennies to make a living.
  • Title Drop: In one episode John-Boy mentions that, if he made a TV show, it'd be called The Waltons. This is right after televisions have started to become commercial products in their time.
  • 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.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: Corabeth and her less sophisticated sister Orma Lee.
  • Uncertain Doom: Hilary and her husband may or may not have been killed by Nazis.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Not an intentional trope, in this case, but he does contradict himself; for example, one time saying that Zebulon outlived Esther, when the opposite was true (though this was due in part to the untimely death of Will Geer, which forced the written-in, unplanned death of his character), and another saying that AJ Covington never returned to the mountain (he was back a few years later).
  • The Unseen: Zeb and Esther's third child, who is only mentioned in passing, and never even named.
  • Vague Age: Jim-Bob's age was never consistently kept straight on the series; as seen in the note under Writers Cannot Do Math.
  • 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. The only logical explanations are that the calf died or it ran away, or the children gave it away to someone who would care for it without slaughtering it.
    • For that matter, Rover the peacock disappears after season 7.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: The 1990s reunion films depict the family at least ten to fifteen years younger than they should be. For example, one of them has the family celebrating John and Olivia's fortieth anniversary in 1969, which would make the year they were married 1929, which results in the kids being too young to have had the experiences they did on the show during the Depression and World War II.3
    • Jim-Bob's Vague Age becomes another issue. After attempting to enlist following the attack on Pearl Harbor; Jim-Bob is told he is too young. Where this becomes an issue is depending on which birth date is correct.note 

Good night, John-Boy; wherever you are.
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