This episode of The Waltons was written to fight the rise of reality TV.

In The Waltons' episode "The Threshold," when John-Boy gets a job hosting a TV show, Jim-Bob works right away to build the family a TV so they can watch. 

This episode was especially important to Earl Hamner, Jr., who created The Waltons. He wrote it with his son Scott, and he thought it was the best of the ninth season. 

Hamner told The Morning News in 1981, "In it, the Walton family watches TV for the first time." "The episode talks about the potential the medium gives each of us, its ability to move and influence people, its huge potential for good, its amazing ability to communicate, and its value as a way to celebrate the best in people." 

Those who watch reality shows on TV today might not see it as the noble medium that Hamner talks about. It might surprise you to learn that Hamner wrote this episode to try to stop people from thinking that reality TV is the future of TV. 

In the 1980s, the first versions of reality TV made Hamner feel "sick." 

"Not too long ago, I was flipping through the channels and saw a man cover himself in chicken fat, set himself on fire, and run to a swimming pool in a race between burning to death and being saved," Hamner said. "Thank God, he made it there in time, and he probably only got burned on the outside." 

Hamner was so upset by the fact that this kind of show was on the same channel as The Waltons that he said he didn't want to write for TV at all. 

"The event made me feel sick, and I had to ask myself how I could stay in a place where this kind of debasement of the human spirit is possible." Hamner asked himself. "If TV is going in the direction of gladiator sports, I can't give it my talent and energy with a clear conscience." 

Hamner eventually came to a different conclusion, which was based on the same ideas of empathy that made watching The Waltons so enjoyable. This was good news for fans of The Waltons who would have been sad to see Hamner stop writing for TV. 

"The answer that came back was that we're all human, and if there's a low part of us that lets us enjoy seeing a man set himself on fire, there's also a noble part of us that strives for compassion, pity, sacrifice, love, and decency," Hamner said. 

He promised that The Waltons would always be a safe place on the TV, a place where viewers could count on him not to appeal to their worst instincts but to their better ones. 

Hamner said, "The series is still growing, changing, and living because we have honored those values in The Waltons and because I think we need to support those values for our audience in a dangerous and confusing world." "We'll never set someone on fire, but we might sometimes light a candle to help us see ourselves more clearly."


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