A half-century after the Walton family made its first appearance on televisions across the U.S., a TV film airing on the CW revisits their story.
Posted in , Nov 23, 2021
Where were you on December 19, 1971? That was the night that CBS aired a TV movie called The Homecoming: A Christmas Story. The story, set in the mountains of Virginia in 1933, concerned a poor family whose father had lost his mill job and had to take a job 90 miles away. As the movie opened, he was trying to make his way back home to be with his family before a snowstorm hit.
It was a simple tale of a not-so-simple time, but it quickly won the hearts of viewers across the country and spawned The Waltons, a hugely popular series that ran for 221 episodes over nine seasons and inspired six more TV movies after it was canceled. It was a wholesome but not saccharine, nostalgic but not overly sentimental series that appealed to people of all ages.
Now, in this era of reboots, the CW is betting that Americans are ready to once again embrace John and Olivia Walton and their offspring, as it airs a remake of that 1971 telefilm entitled The Waltons’ Homecoming, with a whole new cast (and one very familiar holdover).
Sam Haskell, the Emmy-winning executive producer behind the film, feels the time is right for another visit to Walton's Mountain. “We could never have predicted what was going to happen to this country as a result of the pandemic,” said Haskell told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I believe people looked inside themselves and rediscovered family."
One holdover from the original cast did take part. Richard Thomas, who played eldest son John-Boy on the original series, provides narration for the film. Most of the other actors are from the South, where the remark, like the original film, is set (it was filmed largely in and around Covington, Georgia).
Bellamy Young and Ben Lawson portray Olivia and John Walton in the new film, while Logan Shroyer steps into Thomas' shoes as John-Boy. It's a happy coincidence that in real life, Shroyer is good friends with Thomas' grandson.
"When they called me and said, 'We’re doing it again! We’re doing The Homecoming!,’ it’s like, what a tribute,” Thomas told ksitetv.com. “What a terrific compliment to all of us who made the original show, that people want to do it again.”
In one welcome update from the original film, Olivia Walton is friends with the wife of a preacher at a nearby Black church. The preacher's wife, played by Marilyn McCoo, former member of the popular singing group The Fifth Dimension and former host of the TV show Solid Gold, invites Olivia and her family to spend Christmas at her husband's church.
The scheduling of the film—it airs on Sunday night, November 28, at 8 p.m. ET, and again on Satureday, December 11, also at 8 p.m. ET—surely was no accident. The holidays bring families together, which is just what Haskell hopes the film will do.
"What I’m trying to do with the Waltons," said Haskell, "is not only bring back the parents and grandparents who know the show but have the kids come to the TV set and watch this movie as well."
Haskell admits to hoping that history will repeat itself, that his film will lead to a new Waltons TV series. If his wish comes true, we may again be hearing "G'night, John-Boy" on a weekly basis for years to come.