The Waltons

Season 1 Episode 0

The Homecoming: A Christmas Story

Aired Thursday 8:00 PM Dec 19, 1971 on CBS

Episode Fan Reviews (3)

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out of 10
39 votes
  • In the Beginning...

    It's nice to know there was a time when TV movies weren't all about mega piranhas and avalanche sharks. 'The Homecoming' is the second film based on the novel, 'Spencer's Mountain', and it's not a bad effort at all. Despite its reputation, it's actually a lot less sickly than most Christmas movies, and the lack of background music makes it feel that much more real.

    Our first glimpse of the Walton brood is pitched midway between the earlier 'Spencer's Mountain' film and the later TV series. Like the film, its outdoor scenes are shot in Wyoming, but the characters have been renamed and there are seven children rather than nine. If you've seen the series then you'll recognise most of the characters. Ep is a little less friendly than he will be later on, and we have Charlie Sneed in place of Yancy Tucker, but the rest are there or thereabouts. Other than Esther and the children, however, all the actors are different. It's a little strange at first, but you do get used to it.

    The film falls neatly into two halves. The first half focuses on the Walton household and the dynamic between its members. I really enjoyed this. Patricia Neal is excellent as Olivia. Her take on the part is very different to Michael Learned's, but she creates a wonderful character. The children's scenes are also very good. Even at this early stage, a lot of the behaviour seems very familiar: Jason on his harmonica, Erin telling tales, Elizabeth saying things and getting laughed at. Top marks though go to Mary Ellen; she absolutely rocks in her sulky teen role.

    It all goes a bit off the boil when John-boy is sent to search for his dad. He drives through the woods for a bit, spends aaaaaaages in a boring church service then sings songs with the Baldwins. When the search does at last get going, he finds the road blocked by a fallen tree and simply goes home. I'd much rather they'd spent the time showing what had happened to John.

    There are a few other things that grate. Ben and Jim Bob have terrible seventies hair. Charlie and Hawthorne are set up as regular characters but then hardly appear again (though the actor who plays Hawthorne will later star in 'The Fighter'). I also don't get why John-boy's writing is such a big secret. Lots of people keep journals. The scene where he is sat on the bed explaining himself is very nicely done, but it stands apart from the rest of the film.

    Gripes aside though, this is a great introduction to America's favourite family. I'm glad it got picked up as a series.

    Pick of the bunch: Olivia Walton (Patricia Neal)

    Alternate title: The Best Christmas

    Score: 8.7

  • I always loved this

    I always loved this special Christmas movie and pilot to The Waltons. I remember when it first aired. I have not seen it in quite some time, but I loved all of the so-called "slow" scenes which the other review from April 23, 2015 mentions.
  • A Christmas Must.

    My family always watches this during the Christmas holiday. Yes it does have a few slow moments. The biggest being when John Boy runs out of gas and stops in on the country church and the Baldwins. Just drags out a bit too long. I do miss Will Geer as Grandpa and Ralph Waite as the dad. I must admit I do like Patricia Neal as the mother.
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