The Waltons director and John-Boy alum isn’t entirely sure the classic show would work – at all – for a modern audience. He does, however, believe we need its messages and “storytelling” now more than ever.
In an era of streaming straight to living rooms, it’s become increasingly difficult to find entertainment the entire family can enjoy. Richard Thomas believes, however, that “there’s still room for a family show,” though it’s hard to conjure a modern dramatic equivalent.
In today’s landscape, hard-hitting Americana dramas – like Yellowstone – are solely for adults. With these hard-edged, decidedly non-family-friendly shows dominating airwaves, would a modern equivalent of The Waltons ever work? The John-Boy alum doesn’t entirely think so. At least, not in the same form as The Waltons took forty years ago.
“If you did The Waltons today or a show like that, it would probably be very, very different for many reasons,” Thomas tells Dove.org in his recent interview. “You wouldn’t just do that again. Everything works in its own time and then it’s relevant later on, but first of all it has to work in its own time and The Waltons did for many reasons,” he continues.
How Would Richard Thomas Update ‘The Waltons’ for Today’s Audiences?
As for specifics, Thomas believes that television itself has changed too drastically over the past forty years. As such, updating The Waltons for the 21st century would make it practically unrecognizable.
Despite how “relevant” the storytelling is, he says, “the series is dated in certain ways regarding trends in television filming. The zooms and all of that sort of stuff, it may look a bit old,” the actor and director states. His opinion pulls heavily from his directing tenure on The Waltons and beyond.
Thomas does reiterate, however, that “the story telling, the acting, the emotional quality of the pieces are absolutely applicable and relevant today.”
Strangely, this makes The Waltons feel even more archaic to the John-Boy actor in a sense:
“The Waltons is not only a series that is forty years old but it was about a time that was about forty years before that. So we’re getting close to the centennial mark when those people were living!” he emphasizes.
Regardless, Thomas does think a family series could work today. How would he do it? Perhaps by creating a show “more contemporary in terms of dealing with the modern family,” he says.
In order to do this, though, he believes a show would still have to “be a program that people who like family programming would feel comfortable with. That is, “in terms of putting their family in front of the TV.”
Whether such a program will ever exist again is anyone’s guess.