The show was about a family of nine living through the Depression Era and World War II in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Forty years later, they haven't changed a bit, said host Matt Lauer.
At the show were Kami Cotler (who played Elizabeth), Jon Walmsley (Jason), David Harper (Jim Bob), Eric Scott (Ben), Michael Learned (Olivia, aka Ma), Richard Thomas (John-Boy), Judy Norton (Mary Ellen), and Mary Elizabeth McDonough (Erin).
They discussed their respect for each other and how no one from the show ever felt the need to flagrantly display their Hollywood lives.
It was a very different time to be famous, said Cotler. On the whole, when Waltons fans meet you, they feel like your family. So there isn't that kind of 'get you' or 'gotcha' intrusive thing. People just want to give you a hug.
There were no arrests, no convictions, joked Thomas.
Their story, though fictional, provides a stark contrast to the family-oriented shows on television today, like Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Gene Simmons Family Jewels.
The Kardashians are not my idea of a family TV show, writes MSNBC's Gael Fashingbauer Cooper. So much of television is caught up now in showing us the very worst of life. Kids who mouth off, pregnant teens, housewives with more money than brains, rich executives squandering millions on a teen's birthday party, bridezillas who care more about their wedding than their marriage.
She pondered how Olivia Walton would handle Kim Kardashian or the moms from Toddlers and Tiaras.
As a television show, The Waltons had great success and high ratings. Cast members agree on the reason for the success: family.
Family. Family is family. And because we really did all have a very strong bond, all of us together. And I think that came across on camera. People could relate. And it was just family stories, and family stuff, said Thomas.
The actors and actresses enjoyed working together; there was no competition of one outshining another.
It's not like there was one star, and everyone in the world was really just focused on that. We all had each other, and we really became like siblings, added McDonough.
Some criticized the show, which ran for 220 episodes, for being too saccharin-sweet.
That annoys me, said Learned. In the beginning it was not [too sweet]; toward the end it got a little ... [It] fell in love with itself. But toward the beginning we were dealing with book burning in Germany, we were dealing with the Dust Bowl cousins ... some real issues, as well as the warmth of the family.
Reruns of the show are played on three different cable channels.
The cast was happy to reunite.
We get giddy, we love each other, said Learned. We adore each other.