Hamner, Earl, Jr. John J. O'Connor - Essay

John J. O'Connor

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The mode [of "The Waltons"] is almost brazenly sentimental.

The narrator is John-Boy, the oldest son, reminiscing from the present. As he puts it, though, the Depression years were harsh, the family was "sustained with gingerbread, laughter and sharing, but, most of all with a wonderful mother and father."

As a special, "The Homecoming" disintegrated into a series of episodes that finally lacked cohesion. The episodic form, however, is precisely what is needed for a weekly series, and "The Waltons" should prove a more satisfactory vehicle for the stories of Mr. Hamner….

The key operating device is a disarming simplicity that carefully avoids becoming simple-minded. John-Boy recalls his father and says, "I remember one morning when his hospitality was put to a challenging test," and the viewer is eased into a story about a deaf girl being left on the Walton family's door-step.

The context is a world of large, closely knit families, friendly sheriffs and doctors who occasionally refuse to accept a fee. John-Boy writes poetry in his spare time. Everyone gathers around the radio to listen to Charlie and Edgar. And violence is something that happens in far-away places….

"The Waltons" deserve an audience…. If nothing else, it will be interesting to see if the public has any appetite for good family entertainment. (p. 94)

John J. O'Connor, in The New York Times (© 1972 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), September 14, 1972.