Christmas with The Waltons
It's Christmas Eve and the Walton family are looking forward to the return of John (Andrew Duggan - The Secret War of Harry Frigg) who, with things tight during the depression, has taken to working in the city in order to support the family. But when Olivia (Patricia Neal - Heidi) hears of a bus accident near Charlottesville and John doesn't arrive home when he should, she tries to keep her young children's spirits up whilst sending the eldest, John-Boy (Richard Thomas - Wild Hearts), out to try and find his father.
I've mentioned on The Movie Scene before that my childhood was made up of certain shows with one of them being "The Waltons". But being a Brit growing up in the 80s we only ever got to watch the TV series, we never got any of the TV movies and that means I was shocked to discover that before the series there was "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story". It was shall we say a surprise when having grown up on Michael Learned as Olivia, Ralph Waite as John and Will Geer as Grandpa Zebb to find in "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story" that we have Patricia Neal as Olivia, Andrew Duggan as John and Edgar Bergen as Zebb, in fact Grandpa in this is called Ebenezer. Truth be told I don't know how I feel about these actors in these roles even though each plays their parts well.
But in truth whilst we have different actors in certain roles we still have that feeling, those ingredients which made "The Waltons" a much loved TV series by many. We have that sense of a family working together when the going gets tough, happy in what they have but whilst wanting more never moaning. We have Olivia as the tough but beautiful matriarch who keeps things running, the bickering between grandpa and grandma and so on including John-Boy wanting to be a writer but knowing that he is needed to keep things running on Walton's Mountain and as such doesnt want to be a disappointment to his Pa.
Alongside the familiar set up of the Walton's family "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story" also have little episodes such as the local sheriff paying Ike a visit as he is on the hunt for someone who is robbing from companies to give to the needy. We also have a scene involving John-Boy and Grandpa going out to chop down a Christmas tree and discussing the ownership of Walton Mountain. I could go on because we have lots of little episodes including one with Mary-Ellen dealing with growing pains.
All of which gives "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story" that wholesome feel and it is that wholesome feel, the sense of good people working hard, doing right by each other and for each other which makes it still so special. Yes you could moan that the haircuts are probably not right and the location of it doesn't ring true but when you have so much warmth and wholesome entertainment it doesn't matter.
What this all boils down to is that yes I initially struggled with the different actors in certain roles but "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story" is still pure Walton magic. It has the warmth, the honesty and the wholesomeness which made the TV series so popular and it makes this a Christmas classic to be watched each and every year.