Thursday, June 30, 2011

Waltons 1.8: The Boy from the CCC

Airdate: 11/2/72

A wayfaring stranger comes to Walton’s Mountain, and he’s hard-nosed, ill-mannered and something of a fish out of water. The Waltons (of course) take him in after his foot is injured, and learn that his name is Gino and that he has come from a place called Big Meadow. Peeling away his layers of sarcasm and resistance, they further discover his background: he is from a tenement in New York, lost both his parents as a child and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps. When he is caught stealing money, John calls the sheriff, but reconsiders after hearing the boy’s story and watching him console a grieving Elizabeth over the death of her pet raccoon.

Great performance by Broadway actor/composer Michael Rupert as the cynical Gino, who transcends street-smart stereotypes and adds a refreshing dose of irony to the show’s uber-reverential tone. His speech to Elizabeth in the barn rafters is piercingly emotional, and the episode gets extra points for invoking a New Deal program; heads up US History II students!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Waltons 1.7: The Sinner

Airdate: 10/26/72

Matthew Fordwick, a young, somewhat fanatical reverend, arrives at Walton’s Mountain with Miss Prissom (appropriately named!), a missionary he hopes to impress so he can work with her in Asia. The Waltons agree to put Matthew up for a few days, but his fire and brimstone approach to preaching doesn’t always sit well with John’s religious skepticism. When the reverend pays a visit to the Baldwin sisters, and gets drunk on their “recipe,” he is shunned and ostracized by the townsfolk as a sinner, and considers leaving the ministry. John and John Boy go with him to the service and remind everyone to “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

I really enjoyed this one, particularly for its subtext of the nature of sin (as examined by John Boy) and the different ways one can approach religion (as shown through John and Olivia’s disparate viewpoints). The story is borrowed from one of the subplots of Spencer’s Mountain in which Wally Cox plays the new minister, who also gets drunk and hypocritically derided.

As most people know by now, John Ritter got his big break playing Reverent Matthew, and his performance (and final speech in particular) was so well received he appeared in future episodes. Another rising star alert: Richard Donner as Yancy, who later played the role of Exidor, Mork’s looney, schizophrenic friend on Mork and Mindy. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I'm Back!!! Waltons 1.6: The Star

Let's call this one "Picking up where I left off!" Summer's here and it's time to get back to our favorite Virginian clan. Yes, were still in season one, but we'll be picking up the pace, and stay tuned as I feel another classic show may soon be blogged on the Rocket. Keep your ears pricked... 

The Waltons goes astral in this entry about a falling star and the havoc that ensues. Grandpa sees it as an omen of his own imminent death and refuses to get out of bed. Meanwhile the star (or more accurately, meteorite) has fallen through the room of the Baldwin sister’s house, narrowly missing their “recipe” still. When their cousin, Polonius, and his friend come to visit, they devise a plan to take away the still under the pretense that the star was a warning from above to stop moonshining. Grandpa gets a swift pep talk about living again, and goes to the Baldwin’s to set matters straight (and celebrate with a taste of the recipe).

Interesting, somewhat philosophical offering that benefits from two colorful supporting characters, Polonius and Colonel Henderson, who remind me a bit of the con artists in Huckleberry Finn. Ben Walton gets a moment in the spotlight with a subplot in which he competes in a school spelling bee, trying to distinguish himself in such a large family. Get used to it, kid!
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