There was another long, painful war being wageed, this one in Vietnam, when CBS launched The Waltons in, I believe, 1969. In those days, there was something particularly comforting in the slow-paced, well-acted escapist drama about a rural Virginia family that met hard times with grit and love and a collective heart of gold..
Being from a formerly rural Virginia family, it may have meant even more to me.
I bring this up because Warner Bros. is releasing the fourth season on DVD and It gave me a little lift to think about it.
The conventional wisdom, which I am sure I have relayed before, holds that when times are tough–wars, economic uncertainty–our entertainment tends toward the escapist: Fred Astaire in tie and tails while the outside world waits in breadlines, Mickey Rooney dishing out an Andy Hardy version of trouble–too many girlfriends, an overdue homework assignment.
So it was for me with The Waltons. I watched M*A*S*H, of course, which was Vietnam transplanted to Korea, and I watched the news, which was disturbing on a daily basis. So, as one of my respites, I retreated into the world of the Walton family on Thursday nights, where decency, before that word was co-opted, reigned happily and entertained without apology, though even then it was too much treacle for some jaded critics.
But today, with a long and painful war raging and with seemingly no end in sight, our taste in escapism seems to run to bloody and disturbing–which doesn't seem to me to be an escape at all, unless the problem is the war is too sanitized, so far away and without pictures of the carnage to ponder–but that's another blog, and besides, perhaps American Idol is our form of escapism.
Just a thought or two.
By John Eggerton