Richard Thomas thought The Waltons fans were tough to crack

Audiences weren't sure about The Waltons, but Thomas knew exactly what the family was capable of.

Image credit: The Everett Collection

Richard Thomas had a big role to play during his time on the 1972 series The Waltons. Not only was his character based on the creator of the series, Earl Hamner Jr., but John-Boy was also the big brother to all seven Walton kids.

John-Boy was a compassionate, introspective, and responsible family figure who quickly became one of the best big brothers in the country. 

The Waltons premiered at a time when viewers across the country were demanding to see more family shows on TV and wanted better television in general.

Thomas said he thought The Waltons had what it took to go up against The Flip Wilson Show and Mod Squad and win in the ratings. However, The Waltons fans felt differently. 

The Waltons filled the void for higher quality TV, but the series also became one of the few high-quality shows to stay inconsistent in the Nielsen ratings.

According to a 1972 interview with The Pittsburgh Press, The Waltons slipped from 46th in its premiere week to 51st overall nationally. While that may not sound too bad, according to the interview, the series had an underwhelming response from TV viewers. 

"I think people will see that they can get cops and robbers and variety show comedy any night of the week, but only on Thursday at 8 p.m. can they get our kind of show," Thomas said. 

The ratings were hard to maintain at first for The Waltons. TV viewers wanted to see more from the '70s series before they could call it a success. Thomas said The Waltons fans were tough ones to crack.  

Despite the battle for higher ratings, The Waltons became one of the most iconic family-based sitcoms of the decade. The Walton family, which was based on Earl Hamner Jr.'s life in the Appalachia mountains during the Depression, was a big reason for the show's staying power.

Many thought the series would be canceled quickly and others felt the fans were too tough, but John-Boy's big brother guidance helped change the attitude of fans all across the country. And nine seasons later, The Waltons was a success.

"I want this series to be successful, not only because it's a beautiful story, but because I want the experience of sustaining one role over a period of time," Thomas said. "I've never studied acting, and I need a chance to polish my techniques with one well-known character."

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7 Comments

Crisco 30 days ago
One of my favorite shows growing up.
johnnyboyjon 1 month ago
If it was such a great experience for him, why did HE QUIT and leave the show to fend for themselves?

jon
Andrewl16 johnnyboyjon 1 month ago
He said because he didn't want to get typecasted as John Boy and wanted to do other things but really loved the cast and show.
forthekids 1 month ago
I always enjoyed Mr.Thomas' performances as "Mr.John Boy Walton"on"The Waltons".
seltaeb 1 month ago
There may have been some humorous moments, but it wasn't a "Family based sitcom".
forthekids seltaeb 1 month ago
No.."The Waltons"was a family tv drama..not a tv comedy..Seltaeb.
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