‘The Waltons’: Why the Show Made a Director Change for ‘The Secret’ Episode

by John Jamison

Television shows are a joint effort. So many different people have to do their jobs well for everything to come together. The same goes for movies, of course. But on television, you have to recreate that success week after week. And TV shows like “The Waltons” often have a number of different people rotating through to direct episodes.

Judy Norton, who played Mary Ellen Walton on the show, explained how this rotation worked in the case of “The Waltons.” In a video she uploaded to Youtube, Norton discussed the behind-the-scenes aspects of an episode titled “The Secret.”

“It was directed by Harvey Laidman. Harvey was an assistant director, a first assistant director for a few years on ‘The Waltons.’ And then he had an opportunity to direct an episode- I think he directed a few episodes of ‘The Waltons.’ That was not an uncommon circumstance,” Norton said. “Where a number of our assistant directors ultimately had a chance to direct. That will sometimes happen with TV shows where after a while, people who have worked for some time on the show also have a chance to direct.”

So it didn’t have anything to do with the failure of a previous director or the subject matter of the episode. Harvey getting a turn in the role was just par for the course.

Harvey Laidman’s Episode of ‘The Waltons’

So what was the product of Harvey Laidman’s directing efforts? Well, this specific episode, titled “The Secret” was from the fourth season of “The Waltons.”

It followed Jim-Bob as he wondered whether or not he was adopted. He was concerned that he didn’t bear enough of a resemblance to the rest of the family.

Throughout the episode, he was playfully teased by his siblings for his concerns. Finally, it came to light that Jim-Bob was a twin, with his counterpart dying at birth. It turned out that the loss was so devastating to his parents, they never talked about it. This resulted in the knowledge remaining a secret. Nobody wanted to face the difficulty of the conversation, so the tension increased when Jim-Bob started asking questions about his birth.

In the end, though, the Walton family came together and resolved their issues, as was typical for an episode of the show.

Fans seemed to enjoy the episode, as IMDb cites a rating of 8.8/10 stars with 85 reviews. And Harvey Laidman went on to direct a total of 11 episodes of “The Waltons.”