The Waltons: The Complete First Season collects those initial episodes from the series building on the strengths of the Homecoming pilot, which introduced the extended Walton clan led by a strong-willed mill owner, John (Andrew Duggan), and his equally resolute wife, Olivia (Patricia Neal). The Waltons recast those key roles (as well as a few others) with Ralph Waite and Michael Learned (yup, a female), but Richard Thomas carried over as oldest child John-Boy Walton, an aspiring writer whose cusp-of-manhood view informs the series. Will Geer (Seconds) replaced Edgar Bergen as Grandpa Walton, Ellen Corby remained as Grandma, and John and Olivia's large brood (seven kids in all) were filled out by largely unknown, young actors. The episodes, still delightful and touching, strong on production values and unusually tight and polished for primetime drama, tended to focus on creator Hamner's pet themes of self-sacrifice and heroic effort when the going got tough.
Year 1 highlights include "The Carnival," in which the impoverished Waltons, who can't pay for tickets to see a circus performance, end up sheltering stranded carney folk. "The Typewriter" is a classic about John-Boy "borrowing" a museum's antique typewriter, only to have his sister Mary Ellen (Judy Norton) sell it as junk. "The Sinner" concerns the arrival of a fundamentalist minister on Walton's Mountain, finding comfort in the words of religious iconoclast John Walton after the clergyman makes a fool of himself with moonshine. That's Hamner himself providing touches of narration. During the long run of the multiple-award-winning The Waltons, there were many changes in casting and storylines. But this boxed set reveals a fine series in its pristine state. --Tom Keogh
It is wonderful that season one of the multi Emmy award winning "The Waltons",has now received the proper DVD release that it so richly deserves. Being the brain child of creator Earl Hamner Jnr who based the series on his own childhood in Virginia. "The Waltons", premiered on the 14th September 1972 against tough competition from such favourites as the then popular Flip Wilson Show. After a shaky start the series took off in the ratings and stayed in prime time for an amazing 9 seasons which saw the setting move right through the depression years and then into World War 2 and beyond. Obviously over that period of time many changes occured in the series and unfortunately the second half of "The Waltons", run was plagued by cast changes that ultimately damaged the show. First veteran Ellen Corby (Grandma) suffered a stroke, Richard Thomas (John Boy) left to do other projects, Will Geer (Grandpa) died of a heart attack, and Michael Learned (Olivia) also left to do other acting work. Each departure affected the series and I always felt Michael Learned's departure in particular, removing the warm calming mother of the clan was the biggest disappointment and left a hole in the series.
Season one however has all of those difficulties long in the future and these 24 episodes find all the actors settling into their characters that we soon grew to love and know so well. Season one contains some brilliant episodes for you to enjoy such as "The Scholar", which won a writing Emmy award, the superb "The Literary Man", and possibly best of all the heartwrenching two part episode "The Easter Story", which provided Michael Learned with one of her best stories in the series when she is stricken by polio. The writing could always be relied upon to create an emotional story but it was the power and sheer believability of the acting talent involved that made "The Waltons", such first class entertainment. Will Geer and Ellen Corby were born to play Zeb and Esther Walton the grandparents of the clan. Here were no sentimental oldies but two people who were described at the time as the "most realistic elderly couple on television". Ralph Waite as John Walton and Michael Learned as his wife Olivia where acting legends that brought qualities of warmth, reason and sacrifice to their characters of the parents. Even the children were well cast with actors that looked like they could be living on Waltons Mountain. Central to all the action of course was Richard Thomas in his unforgettable role as eldest son John Boy through who's eyes the action each week unfolded.
This DVD set has the complete and uncut episodes set in their correct order so you can follow the families development from the first episode that went to air. I only hope that a similiar treatment will be given to the following seasons of this legendary show. Viewing "The Waltons", again after all these years and seeing stories full of real human spirit and warmth makes me sadly lament the state of alot of our modern television that seems to have lost its way in entertaining people. Do yourself a favour soon and become acquainted with the Walton clan in depression era Virginia, you'll be a better person for the experience.
The kids were cute, the grandparents were fiesty, John-Boy's role was binding and strong, and mom and dad were strong-willed and loving. Remember "Livvy's" sense of morals and ethics? We need more people like her nowadays.
The quality of the video is pristine, as is the audio. It is such a joy seeing this series again in all its splendid glory. I remember loving the theme song, and holding a tape-recorder's hand-mike to the TV speaker, just to record that song.
I'm not sure that I'd buy later seasons (if they are released), as the show got progressively weaker and weaker as the kids grew older and lost their charm, and the stories became trite and silly.
But this DVD set is well worth the price.