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“The Waltons: Movie Collections”
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: Warner
Genre:
TV-Series
Release Date:
1/26/10
Special Features:

None

Review:

By the time of “The Waltons TV Specials” which ran from after the last season of the “The Waltons” in 1982 (its ninth season was its last) to 1995, the popular and critically acclaimed series had run out of gas. Season nine had characters appearing and disappearing as if in some bizarre magic act with, for example, faux John-Boy stating he was going to be an overseas correspondent in one episode, disappearing for a few and then, suddenly living in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. There was no narrative logic and add in the fact that supporting characters were being recast willy nilly and fans were understandably confused with the results. ***

Creator/producer Earl Hamner, Jr. recognized that this iconic series was now going falling like a down hill race on a steep mountain in new powder. In fact it had been going downhill since the 6th season with the departure of Richard Thomas and with the absence of Michele Leonard and the T.B. plot device that enabled her to have more free time to pursue other projects. The fact is that the strategy of recasting John-Boy for seasons seven to nine was a better decision than having bizarre comings and goings. In retrospect, Hamner probably should have left Waltons mountain and followed the individual Walton children for a series of episodes each season which would have freed up the cast members to pursue other opportunities, created better consistency and then they could tie together each season in a big TV movie either at the end of each season or the first season of the next. It also would have kept the actors around as well. Instead, the producers decided to be neither fish or fowl they essentially did some of what I suggested but spent most of their time on Waltons Mountain with the increasingly disinterested cast members. ***

The movies cover from 1947-1949 and then in the last TV movie jumps to 1963 avoiding the major transitional years of the 1950’s with the Communist witch hunts of Joseph McCarthy, the Cold War and the birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll. It’s a pity that they focused on the years they did because they would have been better served setting up 1 TV movie to wrap up the 40’s having the bulk of the others set in the 50’s and the last set in 1963. The last movie finds the REAL John-Boy (Richard Thomas) returning. He’s covering the assassination of President Kennedy and the film tackles the impact of the murder and John-Boy’s role as a network anchor covering the horrible event and the emotional impact it has on him. It’s a fine final TV movie with the rest of them focusing on weddings, Mother Day’s, etc. with mixed results. ---

Image & Sound:

The ninth season of “The Waltons” looked wildly uneven in its last season DVD set; it’s as if Warner just didn’t care to spent the time to adjust the print as much as possible for their best and only digital presentation. The prints were faded, often having specks, dirt or debris and soft. That’s not to say that the entire run looked bad but there was enough evidence of lack of care to suggest that Warner was going through the motions. ***

Why am I spending so much time on the last season? That’s because it set the bar for the movies and whether or not they would be any better. The good news is that the best of the movies here are an improvement on the last season with stronger colors, better detail and less soft images. That’s not to suggest that these are free from problems though. The 80’s TV movies still suffer from faded colors and there’s still a fair amount of specks that pop up now and again. Nevertheless, on the whole these are an improvement on the ninth season. It’s clear that “The Waltons” are in desperate need of restoration but based on the cost and the shrinking appeal of the series I doubt that will happen. ***

Audio sounds good although there are moments of distortion (a problem with the ninth season set as well) but dialogue remains clear throughout the presentation. ---

Special Features:

There aren’t any and I’m a bit surprised because I seem to recall that CBS put together some promotional pieces that were distributed and aired at the time. Add in the fact that CBS probably did do interviews for “Entertainment Weekly”, CBS and their affiliates suggesting that there IS extra stuff out there IF the studio wanted to search for it. Vintage interviews along with some new ones discussing the transitions and changes between the movies, their impact at the time, etc. would have been nice (heck, Warner I would have done this for you at cost)but beyond some trailers we get nothing. It’s a pity because given that this is likely the only digital presentation of the show and TV movies (I don’t think this will show up on Blu-ray at least not in the foreseeable future) makes this a missed opportunity. ---

Final Words:

“The Waltons: The TV Movies” will be essential as it will provide closure for those who watched the popular series during its run. Quite honestly by the end of the show I had given up on the show as it became wildly consistent and had a narrative that jumped around more often than a jack rabbit in heat. The TV movies provided a sense of calm and closure and even with key cast members missing either because of death or because they were working on other projects (Richard Thomas), they had the flavor of the original show during its peak. I’d recommend this for fans of the series but I would suggest that you lower your expectations on the quality of the TV movies because there has been no attempt to restore these.

 

 
 
 
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