The sentimental reason why Earl Hamner had his son write the ending of The Waltons
It was the perfect way to end a show that's a true celebration of family.
"I hope that you'll remember this house as I do," Earl Hamner narrates in the closing moments of the final episode of The Waltons. "The sound of warm voices drifting out upon the night air. A family waiting, and a light in the window."
In "The Revel," John-Boy returns home to find writing inspiration. He realizes that all the time he's spent in New York has removed him too far from the mountain, which he describes as a "touchstone to the strength each of us carries within ourselves."
The Waltons series creator Earl Hamner Jr. has, upon some reflections, named "The Revel" his favorite episode.
When you rewatch, you'll find many things about the episode familiar, right down to the plot. Just as in two prior episodes, the Baldwins throw a poorly attended party that the Waltons end up saving with the force of their own merry brood.
In this episode, we watch John-Boy get to the party. Up until that moment, the audience has understood, from seasons of watching the charmingly sincere family drama, that it was only John-Boy who was missing from this happy picture.
Perhaps what Earl Hamner appreciated so much about this episode wasn't its return to the show's basic themes, which touched the hearts of so many who were tired of contrived family sitcoms and ready to watch a family grow together with frank honesty. Maybe his favorite thing about it was that his own son wrote "The Revel," providing the ending note on his dad's masterpiece.
In the biography Earl Hamner: From Walton's Mountain to Tomorrow, Scott Hamner described the sense of honor of writing his father's series finale. What he wanted to do for the episode was exemplify "core values espoused in the show: the celebration of family and the rising above individual differences for the greater good."
"He's quite a good writer," Earl said of his son Scott in Nostalgic Magazine.
By bringing his own son to Walton's Mountain, Hamner, you could say, was blending worlds between the three families he said he wound up having.
"I've really had three families. I've had the family I was born into, my television family, and the family I made with my wife."
The traditional values that were so important in Hamner's family life became infused in the success of The Waltons, helping the show connect with such a wide TV audience and earning critical acclaim. Hamner said he wished more TV would try to be more meaningful in people's lives, as it was for him and his son working together on this special series finale.
"Only from the heart can come universal truths," Hamner said.