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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Waltons - The Complete First Season
The Waltons - The Complete First Season
Warner Bros. // Unrated // May 11, 2004
List Price: $49.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted May 9, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

In 1972, with the Vietnam War, social unrest, and economic problems making the nightly news, it's no surprise that the hit television show was a sweet (read: sappy) family-centered show. The Waltons moved the story safely back in time to the Great Depression, so that the family's poverty could be quaint and charming, even inspirational, rather than merely realistically depressing; we're invited to see the extended family of John and Olivia, their seven children, and Grandma and Grandpa as an example of all that's wholesome and good.

Though The Waltons was wildly popular at the time (eventually running nine seasons), I'd never seen any episodes of it until the Season 1 collection ended up in my review queue. Nearly thirty years later, the stories hold up passably well, if you enjoy the genre that could be described as "sentimental family fare." In many ways, The Waltons is similar to its contemporary, Little House on the Prairie: both are sweet (often excessively so) family-focused series that are set in periods of the American past that have a great deal of cultural resonance with modern viewers.

I did find Little House on the Prairie to be more to my liking than The Waltons. It's hard to put my finger on why, but it seems to me that Little House has a stronger streak of realism about daily life as a pioneer family, perhaps due to their origin in Laura Ingalls Wilder's decidedly unsentimental books about her childhood. The Waltons seems hard-wired for a rose-colored view of the Depression, in contrast: while Little House is enlivened by the often-rebellious Laura, all the Waltons get along in a harmony that's a bit too complete.

The Season 1 episodes involve various members of the Walton family, from "The Star" involving Grandpa's superstitions, to the two-part season finale "An Easter Story" that puts a seriously ill Olivia on center stage. By far the most screen time, however, goes to the character of teenaged John-Boy (Richard Thomas), who is a poetry-writing dreamer and all-around good fellow, always ready to lend a hand to help someone out (although his goodwill sometimes gets him into a sticky situation, as in "The Bicycle").

I'm sure that nostalgia is a particularly important element in enjoying The Waltons. Coming to the series completely cold, without any attachment from having enjoyed it years ago, I found it watchable but rather too sentimental for my tastes, but long-time fans of the show will likely enjoy being able to see all the episodes, in order.

The DVD

The Waltons is a five-DVD set, with each disc being a "flipper." They're packaged in a cardboard fold-out DVD holder that fits into a glossy paperboard slipcase. All 26 50-minute episodes from the show's first season are included.

Video

The Waltons is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and offers a respectable viewing experience for a 30-year-old television show. The opening credits are in poor condition, but fortunately the image quality improves once the episodes start. There's a slight brownish tint to the image overall, but it's not too strong; colors look reasonable, if slightly faded. Contrast is handled reasonably well, and apart from some scratches here and there, the print is clean.

Rather oddly, the French subtitles are turned on by default. They can be turned off on the fly.

Audio

The Dolby mono soundtrack sounds quite good, offering a clean and clear audio experience that manages to avoid the flat sound of some mono tracks. It's easy to understand all the dialogue, and the music is well balanced with the rest of the track as well. Optional French subtitles are included.

Extras

There are no special features on this set.

Final thoughts

My recommendation for The Waltons: The Complete First Season really depends on whether you're a long-time fan who's been eagerly awaiting the set, or a casual viewer who's curious to check out a famous show. For the latter, a rental is probably the best bet: while the stories here are decently handled, they're still pretty high on the "sappy and cheesy" scale. On the other hand, the good audio and video quality will please fans of the show (though the lack of bonus materials is a disappointment), and for true fans this set would merit a "recommended."

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