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The Waltons

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I was in fifth or sixth grade when the Waltons debuted.   The older I got, the less I watched.   I was in high school by the time season 5 rolled around, so I never saw John Boy's departure until just last month (I'm rewatching the series from start to finish on Amazon Prime).

I was surprised by the hurried manner in which the show ushered John Boy out the door.   An improbable story patched together with a handful of clips and capped off with a sentimental but predictable round of "Good night, John Boy."

More disquieting though is the sharp decline in story quality and production values that followed in Season 6.   The show has a much different feel and not merely because Richard Thomas is absent.   The stories seem painfully contrived as the Walton home is no longer the scene of family drama as much as a venue for other people's drama -- and often at the expense of credibility.  Yesterday I watched one of the most preposterous stories thus far: an elderly Indian and his grandson arrive to lay claim to an old Indian burial ground beneath the Walton's barn.  

There was a scene in this episode that brings me to my next criticism: the characters often no longer act in accordance with the personalities established in Seasons 1-5.   For example, in this episode, John Walton tackles a young Indian boy, maybe 14 years old, dashes him to the ground and pulls back his fist, ready to bash the kid's face in.   John's own face is twisted with rage, until at last a glimmer of sanity prevails.   We see a hint of the same fury an episode earlier when John lashes out at Zeb, causing Zeb to leave (temporarily).  This radical change in personality flies in the face of the patient, determined and gracious man John Walton always was to this point.

Zeb isn't himself either.   I'm several episodes into Season 6 and Zeb hasn't once mentioned Esther, this after pining away for her and literally camping out outside her hospital just the season before.   When the old Indian asks Zeb if he was ever married, Zeb only replies "Yes," failing to mention Esther or the fact she's laid up in the hospital.   He seems to have almost completely forgotten her.  Maybe the show was hedging its bets following Ellen Corby's stroke, not sure if she'd make it back.  Even so, Zeb's reticence where Esther's concerned sticks out like a sore thumb.

I did like "The Recluse."  It's a story that feels like it was written for John Boy, but Jason pulled it off anyway.  

I guess I have noticed the differences in Will Geer's and Ralph Waite's characters because they are the two actors who, in my estimation, deserve the most respect in this series.   It must have been a delight to know Will Geer and I envy those who were lucky enough to work with him.    

Edited by millennium
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Following up on my previous post -- another thing that disturbed me was the way in which John Boy simply abandoned The Blue Ridge Chronicle.  Not a word about its future.   He spent all of Season Five establishing the newspaper and insisting on how important it was that the local region be kept informed, especially with war brewing in Europe ... and then he just walked away.   In less conscientious shows this kind of oversight might be expected, but in the first five seasons The Waltons established its respect for continuity: scripts often included callbacks to turning points and incidents from previous episodes.  So it seems odd to me that the Blue Ridge Chronicle's fate would be left in limbo.  Then again, the show gave Esther the same treatment (as of "The Seashore," Zeb still hasn't addressed Esther's whereabouts; he joins the family at the seaside for an impromptu vacation and utters not a single memory about a visit to the sea with Esther when they were young -- which would have been typical of his character -- or how he wished Esther could be there, not a word).

In the Season 6 episode, "The Stray," we see Ben polishing/oiling the old Blue Ridge Chronicle printing press but are given no clue whether it is still in use or if the paper is still being published.  Maybe not, since in that episode the shed was used as a bedroom for the runaway child, Josh.  A few episodes later, in "The Volunteer," Ben enlists G.W. Haines to "help him with the press."  When G.W. asks why, Ben says "Because it's not working."   Period.   Do we infer that Ben has taken over as publisher of the Blue Ridge Chronicle?   It was established in Season 5 that Ben learned how to operate the press under John Boy.  But at no time has Ben ever shown an inclination for reporting, writing and editing, all of which would be necessary talents to run the paper the way John Boy did.    I suppose Ben could have cut back on the editorial and reduced it to a local advertising sheet ...   I know, I know, we're not supposed to think about these things so much.  

Edited by millennium
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Continuing my observations on Season Six's seeming inconsistencies, I come to the matter of Maude Gormley's paintings.   Maude was introduced in an earlier season as an elderly neighbor woman who gave the Waltons custody of her pet goat.  She was then temporarily confined to a nursing home by her son.  Upon her release, Maude ran up quite a tab at Ike's store, well beyond her ability to pay.   However, when it was discovered that Maude was a skilled amateur painter of birds, she was invited to display and sell some of her work at Godsey's store to offset her bill.

Maude's artistic ability is revisited in Season 6's "The Volunteer," wherein Maude contracts with Ike to act as an agent for her work.  Opportunistic Ike hears Maude is planning to hire an agent in New York City so he talks her into displaying her work at the store instead.

Two things:  First, Maude had already been displaying her works at Ike's, so why do the characters act as if the arrangement is a brand new concept?  And second, Maude was introduced as a painter of birds and wildlife, her style primitive yet realist.   But the paintings Maude exhibits in "The Volunteer" are really bad folk art pastiches of meeting houses, farm fields, etc.   The one wildlife painting -- of Rover, the peacock -- is garish and resembles the work of a fourth-grader.

But the most aggravating part of this episode is that it begins with Maude painting a portrait of Erin.   Erin asks to see the painting, but Maude tut-tuts, "Not until I have put my special touches on it."   It is only natural to expect a reveal later.  But by the end of the episode, Erin's portrait is entirely forgotten and never shown.  No such thing as "Chekov's portrait," I suppose.

Maude's sass is consistent throughout the series but her skill as a painter has declined so drastically by "The Volunteer" that either she's secretly subcontracting the task of painting to Elizabeth or she has possibly suffered a mild stroke and nobody realizes it.  

Edited by millennium
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I recently found The Waltons in the INSP channel (wish it were being shown ANYwhere else).  INSP was about mid-way through season 2 when I picked up, and now nearing the end of S3.  It's already starting to feel a little repetitious and occasionally contrived, but the quality level is still pretty high.  I wish I'd been able to pick up from the start.  I'll keep an eye out for when INSP gets back to that point.  I've skipped a few episodes in S3.  The acting by the youngest siblings was not very good -- those playing Ben, Erin, and Jim-Bob tended to rush their lines and not sound very natural.  Elizabeth, the youngest, was actually better than them, IMO (Kami Colter).

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I'm getting tired of the way everyone treats Elizabeth like a baby.  Yes, she's the youngest by far, but by Season 4, which I'm now watching, she has to be at least 7, and she's a sharp little cookie, when she wants to be.  In yesterday's episode, The Search, a tire blows out while Olivia is driving with Elizabeth and Jim-Bob to visit a friend on the other side of the mountain.  The older boys, Ben and Jason, had been instructed to replace that tire before Olivia set out, but they neglected to do so, and were chastised for this later.  But here's why fries me:  Elizabeth goes wandering away from Olivia and Jim-Bob to follow a loose chicken without saying anything to either person.  As a result, they go looking for her and find themselves lost in the woods, away from the road.  And no one EVER says to Elizabeth "Don't you ever do that again."  I can understand not coming down hard on her while they're lost and she's afraid, but after they were rescued and safely back home?  She would have gotten an earful from me.  

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