I had always known about the show The Waltons but I never actually watched an episode of it until last June 2004. It was the morning of a one day trip to Omaha, Nebraska, and, due to that trip, I ended up in New Jersey for 3 months. That my friends is whole other story...
In this first episode (I think it was pretty late in the series), John-Boy was despondent over not selling his book. This despondency led to him to getting into an altercation in a bar and at about the 3/4 point of the show, I had to leave to catch my plane. I regularly watched The Waltons after that until it seemed TV LAND took it out of it's morning lineup. So imagine my sheer glee, my unmitigated happiness, when Movieweb asked me if this was a boxset that I wanted to review? Not only was it something that I wished to own, but to able to watch it and then write about it was something that made me quite excited.
I think that The Waltons is one of the best shows to have ever been on TV. It is sort of a more introspective Happy Days which I also own and love. The Waltons - The Complete Second Season is a 5 disk set filled with 24 well made episodes. To the uninitiated, these shows are about the lives of America's favorite Depression Era family, The Waltons. We see the ups and downs of 3 generations of family, as they live and love their way through a very trying period in US history. You have Grandma and Grandpa Walton as the aged, wise older folks, always around to offer advice and kick up a little dust. John and Olivia Walton, the parents of the Walton Clan, and the glue that really holds this family together. Lastly, you have the Walton children, most notably, John-Boy, whose narration's(as an older man) bookend each episode and give us a sense of perspective. Amazingly, they always seem to perfectly capture the feeling and mood that each episode is trying to get across.
What I loved about this show right off is that it doesn't feel as if you are watching a TV show. It is like you are watching short one hour movies. They are so well done, so well crafted, that it never feels rushed, forced or moving at a pace that goes against the nature of the show. It handles each character so richly, that any of the subplots seem like they could be entire shows unto themselves. Truthfully, out of all the episodes in The Waltons - The Complete Second Season, I don't really have a favorite show. I enjoyed all the episodes equally. The acting is so strong from every character, that it's even hard for me to decide which character I like the best. As someone who has been writing since the age of 10, I naturally gravitate quite a bit toward John-Boy. However, I love the strong, proud manner of his father John. The way he seems to be able to weigh every situation and never falter when it comes to having to display good judgment. Yet, at the same time he can be wrong and stubborn, but this doesn't cloud his character so much as it illuminates the different aspects of it.
No extras came with this 5 disk DVD boxset. I would have loved a retrospective piece on this show. It would be nice to have heard from the cast and found out where they are now. I wouldn't have cared if this was 5 minutes or 50 minutes. Anything would have been nice. I mean, maybe I feel this way because The Waltons is one of my favorite shows? There is something about it that I just relate to. However, this DVD boxset not having any extras does nothing to hurt it in my opinion. I mean, they did have to cram and compress 1248 minutes onto 5 disks so it isn't like I can hold too much against the makers of these DVDs, right?
Standard Version presented in a format preserving the aspect ratio of it's original television exhibition. Full Screen. Okay, I know that these shows are over 20 years old, but this is my only true bone of contention with these DVDs. THEY DON'T LOOK LIKE THEY WERE CLEANED UP AT ALL!!! I mean, they aren't awful, and I will admit that the "hits" or "specks" that appear from time to time on the picture add a bit of nostalgic charm, but there just shouldn't be so many of them!! The transfers do look good for the most part, and I don't like being this nit picky, but there is something about the way these DVDs look that seem to say ... RUSH JOB. This show was so amazingly shot. I truly think that it's "look" has influenced a lot of the films today that are set in similar times. The photography is beautiful and there is a still quietness to it that I think is rare for TV. The pace is slower then most shows. There isn't a ton of action. The only thing this show is subservient to is human emotions, feelings and experiences. The camera just records these things as they happen before it ... as The Waltons and the people around them live their lives.
Dolby Digital: English Mono. I had to turn up my TV a bit a louder for The Waltons - The Complete Second Season. I hate to seem like I am slagging these DVDs, especially when I have come out as such a strong proponent of them. I just noticed that of all the box sets I was really looking forward to, I expected a better picture and a better quality of audio. These things don't sound bad, I just was surprised that I had to hike the volume up to the levels that I did. I will say that hearing the opening strains of The Waltons theme was like hearing from an old friend that I had sadly lost contact with. Then, to hear the older John-Boy's narration, I got caught back up in this show all over all again. The audio certainly isn't terrible, I was just expecting it to be a little bit better.
Pictures of The Walton Family adorn the cover as if it's a photo album. A slight effect has even been done to them to make the pictures seem a little older. The back features one picture of the Walton clan that one can only imagine was either a publicity still or was taken at some family function. Inside this 5 disk set are more pictures, episode listings with descriptions and a cast credits sheet. This layout is very simple. It is perfectly suited for this show. In fact, I think the creators almost went out of their way not to muddy things up here. You have a show about a family that is set in the depression, so how crazy can you really get, right? People who like Little House on the Prairie and other shows of that ilk, are the main audience for this DVD boxset, I think. I also like how this set, while 5 disks deep, doesn't ever seem too bulky or unmanageable.
It is a shame that I can't find The Waltons on TV anymore. I am sure that it is on but with all the other nostalgic TV I have available, I really haven't looked to hard to find it. I really think that the people in charge of making decisions as to what shows end up on TV, should do everything they can to make another show like The Waltons . In fact, I think it's high time we have another show that takes place in the old west like Bonanza or Gunsmoke. I know that we are in the year 2005, but it seems like viewers would welcome a show like The Waltons. A show that stresses the values of family and togetherness. Things are certainly different now and it would be wrong of me to want a show like this, and then ignore the fact that these shows seemed to ignore so many different groups of people. I just think that there is a way to do these shows without ignoring these groups. It would be tricky but I think it could be done, and using The Waltons as a jumping off point would be a very good start.
I am so happy to have this 5 disk set in my collection. The Waltons - The Complete Second Season from top to bottom is top notch TV. It cleverly interweaves classic stories, with depression era tales and even though it is dated in it's look, I still found many of the episodes to be timely. It deals with issues of money such as Episode 12, The Bequest, or family pride like Episode 4, The Theft, and lastly, Episode 18, The Gift, in which the characters have to deal with the condition of leukemia.
I know that a lot people might find it hard to take this show seriously now. Cynicism seems to reign supreme in our society, but this is exactly why we need TV shows like The Waltons. They are uplifting, they take strong positions and they truly deal with issues that effect all of us. While I do admit the show is dated, it is only dated in the fact that it was made some time ago.
The Waltons - The Complete Second Season is television at it's best.
The Waltons was released .