Mountains as high as the ratings

Nostalgia is big bucks - look at the eBay stats for old postcards and books - most of which have been bought by yours truly!

But on TV one of the benefits of extra channels are the repeats (and repeats) of classic programmes.

One channel has just begun re-runs of the Waltons. Most folk sigh at the mere mention, but if they catch the opening bars of the theme tune, they always smile.

The Waltons are on par with Little House on the Prairie. Why? Well they both tell fictionalised accounts of real-life stories. Laura Ingalls did live in a little house on a prairie - her non-fiction works confirm that. And Earl Hamner's family did live on Waltons (Spencer) Mountain.

But let's not forget these are dramas, no matter how sugar-coated.

Earl is the John Boy Walton character - someone from poor beginnings who made good as a writer.

But what of the grandparents? They're based on Earl's maternal grandparents - of Italian descent. That couldn't be further from the fictionalised characters. Yes, the grandparents in the TV show existed, of course they did. But their personalities came from the other side of the family.

There's something brave about the Waltons. Hamner's John Boy is the hero and star of the show, but he's not the easiest of lads to love. Seven siblings live in three bedrooms - but John Boy has a room to himself. His three brothers all share and so do his three sisters. Not only does he have a room to himself, but it's possibly the largest in the house.

And yet there seems no sibling jealousy. They accept that he's the eldest and will have the career as a writer. Being crammed into a small room seems a smaller price to pay when your brother is about to immortalise you.

So what came after the Waltons?

The children did little more than appear in reunion specials. The parents had relatively successful careers - Ralph Waite appeared in the Sly Stallone film, Tightrope. Even Will Geer (Grandpa) popped up in Columbo with Star Trek's Leonard Nimoy. Ellen Corby (Grandma) battled ill-health to stay with the show - her determination in keeping with her fictional persona.

Richard Thomas also battled - against being typecast as John Boy. But he did escape, mainly in made-for-TV films - he even starred as Laura Ingalls Wilder's father in one. Personally I think that was stretching it, but at least he made that leap from mountain to prairie.

The episodes were all written about the family - all of them. Those child actors certainly earned their dollars - and if they have retired into acting obscurity now, so what? They were and are part of TV history.

Whatever they moved on to, they will always have a place on my TV. These are welcome repeats - classic shows never date.