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"The Waltons" was all about family, and parents John and Olivia set the example.
The Kardashians are not my idea of a family TV show.
"The Waltons," whose cast reunited on TODAY this morning, now that's a family. Or the Ingalls, from "Little House on the Prairie." The Huxtables. Even The Muppets. (Kermie and Miss Piggy may have argued like crazy, but every one of those furry friends had each other's backs. Except maybe Statler and Waldorf.)
It's easy to dismiss a show like "The Waltons" for being sappy and Pollyanna-esque -- that's the first image I remember too. But watch a few episodes or clips and you remember that none of those family members were saints. They made mistakes, they were sometimes selfish or tried to take the easy way out. But the characters were written to have solid cores and strong hearts, and they overcame the flaws we all have and lived up to the ideals we all strive for.
"The Waltons" is 40 years old, but the first episode can still put a lump in my throat. In it, a woman leaves a little girl, who turns out to be deaf, on the steps of the Walton home. It's the Depression, and they already have seven kids of their own, plus two grandparents and two parents to feed. John and Olivia decide the sensible thing to do is take the girl to the county orphan home. But when the sheriff drives up and starts to lead her away, John breaks. His family might have to make do with a little less, but they're the last line of defense between this girl and any hope for a bright future. He tells the sheriff they'll add the little girl to their family until her own can be found, and the kids cheer wildly with delight.
Corny? Old-fashioned? I don't think so. It's just another reminder that the backbone of shows like these was always the parents. They brought up their kids with honesty and clear heads, never blinded by material things or looks, and the kids rewarded them by making them proud. The same went for Charles and Caroline Ingalls, Cliff and Clair Huxtable, and even Kermit, if you consider him the dad of "The Muppet Show."
You wouldn't see Olivia Walton entering her daughter in one of those "Toddlers and Tiaras" pageants, or Clair Huxtable putting her daughter's wedding on TV.
So much of television is caught up now in showing us the very worst of life. Kids who mouth off, pregnant teens, housewives with more money than brains, rich executives squandering millions on a teen's birthday party, bridezillas who care more about their wedding than their marriage. A show like "The Waltons" probably couldn't make it on television today. Set off among all the unreal reality shows and "Gossip Girl" wannabes, it would stand out like a thrift-store dress on a fashion runway. But still sometimes I like to think of what Olivia Walton would handle Kim Kardashian, or what Clair Huxtable would say to those "Toddlers and Tiaras" moms.
Are you a fan of old-fashioned family shows? Tell us in the comments.