Thursday, June 6, 2013

Waltons 9.17: “The Threshold”

Airdate: 4/2/81

At Boatwright, a new invention is being tested out: television. Unfortunately, the board of trustees has no interest in devoting any money to its study, but John-Boy thinks he can change their minds with a televised demonstration of the nascent medium. After a failed attempt to use Greek mythology to appeal to their academic sensibilities, he realizes that it’s really all about images – something he discusses in his first TV broadcast, one that the family can now enjoy thanks to Jim-Bob’s fixing up of an actual television set – a huge appliance with an enormous… 5” screen. On the other front, Rose is green with envy when Stanley seems to fall prey to the feminine wiles of Zuleika Dunbar, and goes on a health-compromising diet to complete.

Plenty of foreshadowing in this episode, in which John-Bob eyes a potentialcareer in television writing. Of course, most middle-class Americans didn’t get their sets until the 1950s, but this TV is a primitive model, and it makes sense that an institute with money – a university – would have one. As for Jim-Bob building one, well – he is a mechanical whiz-kid after all.

This coming around full circle idea reminds me of the later years of Little House on the Prairie, when Laura Ingalls Wilder starts to get the idea to write the Little House books, or when Alex Hailey at the end of Roots II gets the light bulb to research his ancestors. Final goodnights feature some winking byplay, when Elizabeth speculates what John-Boy would call his show: “I don’t know. The Waltons?”

Anachronism alert: the book John Curtis reads with John Boy to make him rethink his broadcast is Richard Scarry’s “Best Mother Goose Ever,” published in 1964!!!

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