Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Waltons 5.5: “The Fire Storm”

Airdate: 10/21/76

When John Boy plans to publish excerpts from Hitler’s Mein Kampf in The Blue Ridge Chronicle, a firestorm of controversy erupts, first from Rev. Fordwick, who believes it will spread hatred instead of love, and then the businesses advertising in the newspaper, who pull their ads rather than face negative publicity. The Waltons themselves are threatened when someone throws a rock with a swastika painted on it through their front window. Granndpa’s advice: give the news out gradually – let the people warm up to it, after they read about the weather. John-Boy sticks to his guns, and when Rev. Fordwick stages an ill-conceived German book-burning of his own, an enraged John-Boy argues he is doing the same thing as the Nazis, and asks Mrs. Brimmer, of German anscestry, to read from one of the books to be burned; the Holy Bible.

Another beautifully written episode, with a lump-in-the-throat inducing finale. Courtesy of history, there’s a lot of dramatic irony here, as we know what’s ahead, and that John-Boy's warnings were all-too prescient. His speech at the end is another of his trademark, impassioned entreaties that always tends to represent the lone voice of reason among a chorus of blind conformers.

Subplot: Erin wants to enter a beauty contest, but John protests when it involves a swimsuit competition. Grandpa arranges a compromise to change his mind, but she winds up losing anyway. Hmm, sorry but this feels awfully lightweight next to a story about ignorance, censorship and fascism.

The writers are creating a burgeoning romance with Mary Ellen and her new beau, David Spencer, played by Robert Merritt Woods.

Jason Wingreen plays the owner of the movie theater; he would later play Harry the bartender on All in the Family and Archie Bunker’s Place.

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