Not at all an original concept, The Waltons managed to remain on air for no less than nine seasons, during a time when shows which presented the lives of rural communities (in a rather self-sufficient way) were in decline. This, in a way, is an understatement, since the period in which the show was aired is actually known as a Rural Purge.
This introduction is necessary, since the social and historic context demands an explanation. Like many other previous shows, there was a sense of nostalgia in The Waltons, the series basically focusing on a small community and dealing with the problems of that small community. But times were changing and the world was facing bigger problems than the ones depicted in such shows.
So CBS, who produced The Waltons, green-light the series having in mind its immediate cancelation. It was a project meant to fail, with the purpose of showing that indeed the audiences have lost the interest in any kind of rural themed series.
But there was a sense of nostalgia which kept The Waltons running for so long. It was the life of the family and how that family meets unexpected events that made it successful. In the same way, while the era described was one of extreme poverty (the Great Depression), the series showcased the strength of a family when faced with insurmountable problems.
In more than a way, The Waltons praised the more traditional values, even if the younger audiences considered that they weren’t presenting a viable solution to the more modern times. This is also one of the main criticisms brought to the show.
This wasn’t a problem for many of the fans. Granted, The Waltons didn’t present any solutions for the modern times and, in more than a way, it embellished an era when things didn’t go too well. However, it was a way in which people were reminded that even during harsh times there is always a way out.
And, as some critics said, it was exactly like that. The Waltons was escapism, not necessarily from reality, but definitely to a mythical place where the family’s intimacy was still respected.