After CBS passed on doing the Waltons TV movies, NBC started airing them in February of 1982. The first, “A Wedding on Waltons Mountain,” brings back 14 stars from the series, including Ralph Waite, who departed after episode 7 of the last season. There’s only an eight-month gap here, so everyone’s nearly the same here as when the series ended. In fact, despite a few missing or changed elements, it pretty much plays as season 10 of the show.
The titular wedding is Erin’s, but of course there are complications. Taking a cue from Mary-Ellen’s wedding episode, the writers have created a love triangle to spice things up. Paul Northridge, from “The Lumberjack,” finally pops the question, and Erin accepts, but he and Ben, now business partners, have a humongous lumber order to fill, and needs the supplies of every mill in their co-op. Erin feels that their wedding plans are being marginalized by his work, and to make matters worse, Ashley Longworth returns to the scene to stir up passions once again. After a misguided attempt to use him to make Paul jealous, Erin has an emotional crisis on her hands. What shoulder can she cry on? Her daddy’s, of course: John returns from Arizona to help matters of the heart and bankbook. He helps here realize Ashley is the past, and should stay there, and helps uncover his complicity in sabotaging Ben and Paul’s order. With that settled, all that’s left is to get married. Rev. Marshall (whose bachelorhood offends Corabeth to the point where plays matchmaker for him, only to discover he had already gotten married – Joanna Kerns!) does the honors, and Hamner’s epilogue tells the marriage is still going strong!
All of the original Waltons, with the exception of Olivia and John-Boy (played by either actor), are back - even grandma makes an appearance at the end. As I mentioned, it’s a near seamless continuation, although we don’t have the opening or the theme (instead we get a weird, then-fashionable, animated title opening), and the cinematography is different – with a more soft-focus look. Otherwise, the strum und drang is ever-present, even if the lynchpin moment, Erin realizing “Ashley is then, Paul is now,” is groaningly simplistic. Subplots are fair – Elizabeth pines for Drew, who’s in college now, Jason (mustached, and looking like Ron Howard right after he left Happy Days) is pretty much set decoration (not much Dew Drop Inn here), and Jim-Bob’s best scene is pretending to be a horse getting ridden by little ones John Curtis and Virginia. Better is the story with Mary Ellen’s beau, Jonesy. When we last left him, he was about to teach geology at Boatwright. Now he’s a… veterinarian? His practice isn’t doing so well, but he suspects that a prized racehorse is being poisoned, something its owner dismisses, until he sees the proof and allows the fledgling doctor to begin treatment.
Timeline: Just before Valentine’s Day, 1947.
Most unintentionally dirty line – Erin, coming out of the rain with Ashley: “I haven’t been this wet since I first met you!”