It started about half-way through the first episode of The Waltons, at the place where the old lady describes her wedding on board the immigrant ship when all the boats in the harbor blew their whistles in celebration. The tears came streaming down my cheeks. “You idiot,” I swore. “Get a grip on yourself. This is ridiculous.” I snuffled along shamefacedly through the rest of the show, kicking myself, and finally broke down again during the deathbed scene. I had a good little cry through the closing credits and commercials and I felt terrific.
The simple story of a poor farm family in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia during the Depression, The Waltons (CBC — Sunday, 7.30 p.m.) last year won six Emmys and was hailed as the best show on TV by the University of California, which plans to start a library of Waltons films and memorabilia. “It’s easy to get wrapped up with the Waltons,” said the New York Post. “They happen to be real.” Real? Is that how the Depression really was, full of happy loving country folk in starchy new overalls without a mend or a rent who live in a big colonial house and drive a truck and buy lobster dinners for widows in town? The Waltons are about as real as Tom Sawyer, which is why they are such a stunning popu-
lar success, and why I cried. The Waltons is a fairy tale, a romantic dream of a golden age when America, like John-Boy, was young and pure and beautiful. It’s nostalgic and sentimental, a yearning for roots and tradition and history, for a plain, pastoral life when everybody worked hard and knew right from wrong. For Canadians The Waltons does not have the same evocative power (I have to fight off memories of Jalna) but it is a beautiful show, calm and slow and quiet, with epic music and unabashed emotion, an island of peace in the squabble. It has an authentic feeling and it’s full of classic American characters — Mom and Gramps and the Girl Friend. John-Boy is a young Senator Sam Ervin, a son of the soil wrestling with those moral confrontations out of which Twain and Melville and Faulkner fashioned the American Dream. The Waltons is an honest, sensitive attempt to deal with the past and to recapture the innocent belief that life is not about money but about happiness.
It seems that whenever an empire becomes cruel and corrupt it becomes sentimental, searching for an emotional release it no longer genuinely feels: Victorian England wept buckets over the death of Little Nell, America watches The Waltons. Tears are cheap this winter on TV. Maude (CBC — Thursday, 7.30 p.m.) has lost her cool. She screams and rants and pulls her hair; Walter has turned into a cartoon drunk, lost and redeemed in two maudlin episodes. Reeking of fake passion and social diseases, Maude is stuck in the emotional glue she so brilliantly scorned last year. Even The Rookies (CTV — Monday, 8 p.m.) go around with trembling chins trying to rescue their buddy from a maniac with a brain tumor. They kill crooks in particularly bloody and gruesome ways but golly gee they feel bad about it. Everybody blubbers. This kind of cynical melodrama doesn’t make me cry, it makes me sick. There’s not much in the new comedy shows to relieve the blues, except blue humor.
• Lotsa Luck (CBC—Monday, 7.30 p.m.). I never thought I’d see a whole television program about a toilet, but I did. Dorn DeLuise’s sister Olive gets her foot stuck in it, a good excuse for a solid half hour of sniggering bathroom jokes. A kitchen sink comedy of lewd winks and nods and sly references to impotence, nakedness and fornication delivered in a bellowing whine by people dressed only in their bathrobes, Lotsa Luck is the most vulgar show I’ve ever seen.
• Diana (CTV — Monday, 7.30
p.m.). A high-class boudoir show where people wear towels instead of bathrobes and are filmed together in bed or making passes at one another. Nothing ever happens, of course, but there’s a lot of drinking and Playboy rib-pokings about keys to Diana’s apartment. The show is a disaster for Diana Rigg, the sexy and mysterious star of The Avengers.
• Adam’s Rib (CTV — Monday, 9 p.m.). A radical chi-chi domestic comedy about two lawyers who are also husband and wife. It attempts to capitalize on women’s lib in a brittle, glib way which is dated and silly. The pair spend a lot of time winking and waving at each other in court and the script is full of fatuous twitterings which ruin the show’s credibility and spoil a clever, vivacious performance by Blythe Danner as the Rib.
• Delilah (CBC — Thursday 9 p.m.). I never thought I’d see a whole show about a sink, but I did. The sink starred in the first episode of the CBC’s plunge into situation comedy, Delilah, a show about a lady barber which is another one of those painfully strained CBC dramas weighted' down with lines delivered like bowling balls and a cast which performs with the relentless earnestness of windup dolls. It’s going to be a while before the CBC can match the crudity, pace or wit of American comedy. Maybe they could try something simpler. How about the story of a poor Saskatchewan family during the Depression?
THIS MONTH’S TV SHOWS
Watch: Mary Tyler Moore (CBC — Tuesday, 8 p.m.).
Watch for: The Days Before Yesterday (CBC—Sunday, Nov. 4, 10 p.m.). Musicamera (CBC—Wednesday, Nov. 28, 9 p.m.).
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