With its schedule heavily weighted in favor of superhero and science-fiction dramas, often with edgy and provocative elements, The CW isn't especially known as a family-friendly network. But, starting the first Sunday of Advent, a surprisingly traditional family hits the channel, along with a very adorable creature who just wants to help Santa.
On Sunday, Nov. 28, at 8 p.m. ET/PT, The CW premieres The Waltons' Homecoming, a reworking of the 1971 movie, The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, which launched the beloved family drama The Waltons.
The co-owners of The CW are ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia, parent company of Warner Bros. In the great new tradition of studios mining their legacy content for reboots, re-imagining and remakes, in bringing back The Waltons, the network has reached into the vaults of both its parents.
Lorimar Television, a subsidiary of Warner Bros., produced the show, and it aired as a weekly series from 1972-'81 on CBS.
The one-hour drama was set during the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II in the 1940s, and created by writer Earl Hamner Jr. (who also narrated). It followed the ups and downs of the large and rambunctious Walton family of rural Virginia, as it experienced personal and societal shifts during these tumultuous decades.
The Waltons is often described as "wholesome," but while the show didn't feature sex and violence, it did deal with many difficult issues, such as death, disease, war, poverty and bigotry.
The Waltons' Homecoming features an all-new cast, except for Richard Thomas. In the original show, he played the eldest son, aspiring writer John-Boy. Here, he takes the place of Hamner (whose own life inspired John-Boy) as host and narrator.
At a recent press event, Thomas said:
One of the great things about the show is that it brought people together. Young people could see a story about older people, and older people could remember their childhood. The family could experience the thing as a whole.
Set in 1933, the story finds the family waiting for father John (Ben Lawson) to come home from his faraway job for Christmas.
When John Sr. doesn't arrive on time, 17-year-old John-Boy (Logan Shroyer) makes an extraordinary Christmas Eve journey that changes the direction of his life.
It's as sweet and, yes, wholesome, as you'd expect from The Waltons. There's also a strong faith element in the movie, culminating in a Christmas Eve visit to a church and the singing of traditional carols.
Christianity is not an element seen often -- or, actually, hardly at all these days -- in most scripted broadcast fare, and The CW is no exception.
I asked executive producer Sam Haskell about this, and he said:
I will tell you that, in my initial conversations with Mark Pedowitz, the chairman of The CW, I told him there was going to be a faith element in this, and he embraced it completely.
He feels, as I do, that putting faith and family and hope and joy front and center is something that this world needs right now. And I believe that The Waltons' Homecoming is going to bring that to families.
Haskell said he's looking forward to continuing the story of the Walton family on The CW -- depending, I'm sure, on the ratings for this movie.
UPDATE: Apparently The Waltons' Homecoming hit a home run for The CW.In the latest TV ratings, The Waltons’ Homecoming — a remake of the 1971 TV-movie that wound up spawning CBS’ The Waltons series — averaged nearly 960,000 total viewers on Sunday, marking The CW’s most watched night of the fall (and since April 14). In the 18-49 demo, it scored a CW-typical 0.1.
Also, on Wednesday, Dec. 1, at 8 p.m. ET/PT, The CW does something rather odd but cute, with the one-hour animated special Beebo Saves Christmas, from Warner Bros. Animation.
Fans of The CW superhero show DC's Legends of Tomorrow know Beebo as a fluffy blue talking toy that caused a time warp of sorts and became a kind of god to the Vikings.
But, in Beebo Saves Christmas, Beebo (Ben Diskin) is just a fluffy little creature in a world of other fluffy little creatures, trying to help Santa (Ernie Hudson) reclaim the North Pole from an efficiency-obsessed elf (Chris Kattan).
It's a bit of harmless Christmas cotton candy and does promote kindness, etc. It is missing -- as almost all Christmas animation is these days -- an acknowledgement that the centerpiece of Christmas is not actually Santa (although Santa himself does hint at that reality).
At one point, the characters look into Santa's magic ball/ornament thing and hear more fluffy creatures saying what they love about Christmas -- but, unfortunately, going to church isn't on the list.
Here's to hoping that if there's another Beebo Christmas special, the reason for the season might get a mention.
Images: The CW
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Content Manager at Family Theater Productions.