The Waltons: Season 3, Episode 2

The First Day (19 Sep. 1974)

TV Episode  -   -  Drama | Family | Romance
7.6
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Everything seems to go wrong on John-Boy's first day at Boatwright University -- though he makes some new friends, he also leaves an important document at home, and becomes the butt of a ... See full summary »

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Title: The First Day (19 Sep 1974)

The First Day (19 Sep 1974) on IMDb 7.6/10

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Olivia Walton (as Miss Michael Learned)
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Erin Walton (as Mary Elizabeth McDonough)
Eric Scott ...
David W. Harper ...
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Earl Hamner Jr. ...
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Everything seems to go wrong on John-Boy's first day at Boatwright University -- though he makes some new friends, he also leaves an important document at home, and becomes the butt of a cruel practical joke. He also learns about the difficulties of fitting into college life as a freshman beset by upperclassmen determined to make his life miserable. In the meantime, back at the Waltons' Mountain School, Jason hesitantly tries to fill John-Boy's shoes as the eldest of the remaining six Walton children. Written by aldanoli

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Drama | Family | Romance

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19 September 1974 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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There is a painting of FDR called the Unfinished Portrait that was being painted as he was stricken with the stroke that took his life in April of 1945 yet this episode was set in the September of 1934. See more »

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Narrator: [narration as John 'John Boy' Walton, Jr. reading from his journal] When you're growing up, Septembers have a special feeling; another carefree summer is all too quickly ended and a new school year is about to begin. There was an extra excitement for me in the September of 1934. My years at Miss Hunter's school on Waltons Mountain were over, and I was ready to take those first faltering steps into the strange world outside. How vividly I recall the edgy excitement, the awful exilaration of ...
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Fine Early Third Season Episode that Opened Up the Series' Story Opportunities
21 October 2007 | by (Ukiah, California) – See all my reviews

John-Boy's first day at Boatwright University begins with mixed emotions -- trepidation over new responsibilities and experiences, yet hopefulness about new opportunities -- but turns into something of a comedy of errors. Along the way he gives a ride to a very aggressive fellow student named Polly Thompson, and at the university itself is befriended by another student, Mike West, who tries to teach him how not to be so obviously an underclassman. But those are two of the only positive moments for John-Boy on a day when everything else seems to go wrong, from being the butt of a cruel practical joke to leaving an important document at home.

This episode marked a turning point in the continuity of the series, with many new story possibilities being created by John-Boy's departure for college (even as a commuter). The series thereafter in essence had two distinct tracks -- one involving John-Boy at the university and the other about the remaining characters left behind. This episode, for example, had a subplot dealing with Jason's faltering attempts to fill John-Boy's shoes during the first day back at the Walton's Mountain School for the rest of the children.

While there had been other shows dealing with John-Boy's preparation for college, given that this episode marked such a departure for the series, it's regrettable that it wasn't selected as the season opener -- that episode was a two-hour stand-alone story about the federal government wanting to acquire land from some Walton relatives for a park project. During the first season, the show's story lines almost stereotypically involved the "outsider of the week" -- a deaf girl, a carnival troupe, a traveling writer, a gypsy family, an actress, etc. etc. -- and this continued to some degree in the second season; but the best episodes were often those that dealt with the relationships among the Walton family members themselves.

The college setting offered the chance to combine the best of those two plot lines -- John-Boy could make acquaintances among the people at the school while still maintaining ties to his family, as in episodes like "The System" in which he is accused of violating the school's honor code, or "The Job," in which he is hired to read to a blind woman who is bitter about her condition. Unfortunately, the possibility that some of the characters from this episode would become part of a new circle of semi-regulars at the college didn't happen -- the Mike West character reappeared only once, in "The Ring" a few shows later, and neither Polly Thompson nor Prof. Ghote, who played large parts in this episode, were ever seen again.

The pace of the series quickened after this, too -- while this episode is set in September, 1934 (only one calendar year after the first season, which was set in 1933), by the end of the series World War Two came and went in just six remaining television seasons. Of course, there was no reason to try to coordinate television years with real-life years per se, but it's interesting to note that, whereas the creators had actually tried to slow things down up to this point, they would instead speed things up from here on. When Richard Thomas left the series at the end of the fifth season less than three years after this episode, he had apparently finished his four years of school despite the passage of fewer years of "real" time.


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