Some of my favorite type of television shows are those that provide historical information through a fictional drama.  Many of them are available from streaming subscriptions and for purchase on DVD too.  We all know how Downtown Abbey has become a hit show and although it is the sensational drama that brings many of us to the screen, underlying it all is the history.  I am going to attempt to highlight one of these programs each Saturday in place of my “What Happened on” post (Sometimes in addition).

Do you have any favorite programs that fit this category?  I’d love to hear your ideas and I would be glad to include the program in an up coming post.  I also would welcome a guest blogger.

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From 1971 through 1981, families in the United States let a family from the Blue Ridge Mountains into their livingroom each week.  It may have been the decade that included the final years of Vietnam, the Watergate Scandal and the dawn of disco music but for one night a week we entered the 1930s and 1940.  I think my experiences with this program were probably typical.  My mom, my sisters and myself loved this show but my brothers made jokes about it.  My brothers called it the Whatins.  After I met my husband, I found out it was similar in his home except their name for it was the Walnuts.

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In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, during the Great Depression, the Walton family makes its small income from its saw mill on Walton’s Mountain. The story is told through the eyes of John Boy, who wants to be a novelist, goes to college, and eventually fulfills his dream. I think the writers in us can related to the show’s main character.  We watched this boy live to write.  The saga follows the family through depression and war, and through growing up, school, courtship, marriage, employment, birth, aging, illness and death.

The original story is based on the Earl Hammer Jr.’s novel, Spencer’s Mountain which was also a film starting Henry Fonda.  The series had 9 seasons on CBS and after it was cancelled, NBC produced six television movie sequels in the 1980s and 1990s.  Before it became a television series, there was a Christmas Special movie, The Homecoming: A Christmas Story.  The movie had all the same child actors but most of the adults were different but included the renowned Patricia Neal.

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No one can forget the trademark end of each show.  Good night John Boy!

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9 responses

  1. I loved the Tudors. It got me interested in Tudor history pre queen Elizabeth. My father is a big fan of the Borgias because he is an Italian history buff.

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  2. Oh and if you include mini series I love Band of Brothers and the Pacific.

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  3. Janine says:

    Great idea! I’m looking forward to learning about historical fictional drama. If you do mini-series, remember “Roots” from the 70s? It was difficult to watch parts of it, but was historically accurate – so very important.

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