In the Burbank set of the new Waltons reunion movie, John-Boy (Richard Thomas), his lovely bride, and about 50 guests straight out of Kennedy’s Camelot gather for a wedding in the Waltons’ hometown chapel. There’s only one hitch to this hitching: A baby gets born mid-ceremony. (Don’t worry, it’s not John-Boy’s child.) ”Let’s get out of here before someone else starts breeding!” Thomas quips as he and the new TV missus dash out the door.
Tired of gritty reality dramas? Got a hankering for kinder, gentler TV, chock-full of old-fashioned family values? You could try C-SPAN. Or, on Feb. 12, you could turn to CBS for A Walton Wedding, just in time for Valentine’s Day (and sweeps month). You remember the Waltons, that perky Depression-to-World War II-era Virginia clan who, from 1972 to 1981 on CBS, bested poverty and disease to become one of America’s best-loved Fully Functional Families.
The first reunion of the wholesome tensome was 1993’s A Walton Thanksgiving. The season’s third-highest-rated TV movie, it revolved around the assassination of JFK. The new film is centered around another monumental event: John-Boy — or is that John-Man? — finally ties the knot. ”He’s a writer, so he spent a lot of time alone,” says Kami Cotler (sister Elizabeth). John-Boy’s unlikely intended is Janet (Kate McNeil), a glamorous fashion editor from New York City.
But John-Boy almost didn’t make it to the altar. CBS initially wanted to delay the project, believing that reunion number one had satisfied viewers’ curiosity about the Waltons’ fates. ”There was a concern that it wouldn’t do as well as the first one,” says Gregg Maday, a Warner Bros. senior vice president. ”But when the other networks expressed interest, CBS came back and said, ‘We’d love to do it.’ ”
Executive producer Rich Heller thinks CBS execs will be glad they changed their minds: ”It’s like Rhoda’s wedding, or Tiny Tim’s. We’re talking about America’s favorite boy-next-door getting married.” We’re also talking about a better script this time, according to many cast members. ”I don’t think they knew what to do with us last time.It was a bit belabored,” says Ralph Waite (patriarch John Walton). Adds Thomas: ”Last time I could only come in for four days. It was a hallucinatory experience….Now I have scenes with everybody. It has that old, ensemble feel.”
Does all this good feeling mean there’ll be more trips to the mountain? Maday bubbles, ”We’re hoping for a franchise — a new Waltons movie every year.” In that case, Thomas (who in real life married for the second time last November), has a suggestion: ”How about: John-Boy’s Divorce?”