About Christmas TV History

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Waltons' Mary McDonough book review

Though I watch a great deal of television, I also read quite a bit.  I'm mostly interested in pop culture non-fiction and I like to share some of the books I read with my readers here on the blog.  You may remember my reviews of the Hollywood biographies of Raymond Burr, James Garner, Garry Marshall, Alison Arngrim and Melissa Gilbert. Click on each of those names for the link to see those reviews again.  I've also reviewed two works of fiction with a Christmas movie connection: Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith and The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern.  Click on those titles for the link to see the reviews again.

Mary McDonough played middle child Erin on the 1970s family drama The Waltons.

Another book I've recently finished is actress Mary McDonough's autobiography Lessons from the Mountain: What I Learned from Erin Walton published last year.  I was fortunate to have an opportunity to get my own personal copy of the book signed by the author last December.  If you'll remember, I attended the 40th anniversary screening of the Christmas TV movie The Homecoming last year (click HERE for the link to The Homecoming) and I served as the moderator at that event for The Waltons cast reunion (click HERE for the link I wrote about that event).

Aaahhh...The Waltons.  Mary McDonough as Erin is in the bottom right corner, wearing the yellow dress.
Waltons fans will be delighted to discover that McDonough's book is chock full of details about her experiences during the ten year run of the hit TV series.  Approximately 150 of the 250 pages in the book are devoted to her experiences on the The Waltons.  Mary, of course, played the character of the middle sister Erin which was based on Earl Hamner's real-life sister Audrey.  I was especially interested in the details she reveals about the joy, boredom and hijinks of shooting those iconic scenes of the family gathered around the dinner table--scenes found in nearly every episode of The Waltons.  I was also intrigued about what other television shows were being shot on the studio backlot near The Waltons set, such as the Shaolin Temple set from Kung Fu as well as the set for Eight is Enough.  I can't help it--I'm a TV junkie!  I was also touched by a story she retells explaining that it was actor John Ritter (who played the Reverend Fordwick for a couple seasons on The Waltons) who first suggested to Mary that she keep a journal to express herself--an act of encouragement and insight that she credits helped change her life for the better.

More recently, McDonough can be seen on TV playing one of the meany moms on the sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine with Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

McDonough does discuss her work after The Waltons including the horror movies Midnight Offerings and Mortuary.  She also shares about her work she's found very challenging but most rewarding: speaking out against the manufacturers and big business industry of dangerous silicone breast implants.  Drawing from her own difficult experiences, she's working to change laws and help educate women about getting the accurate information they need to make decisions about their bodies and their health.

McDonough on the set of Will & Grace.

If you're looking to see Mary in a holiday program after The Waltons, you can find her in the 2002 episode of Will & Grace entitled "All About Christmas Eve"(Mary can be seen in the lobby at the performance of The Nutcracker that Will, Grace and Leo attend).  Mary is also in the 2007 TV special Christmas At Cadillac Jack's, the third installment in a continuing story of two characters Rose and Joe, played by veteran actors Ruta Lee and Joseph Campanella.  Christmas at Cadillac Jack's as well as the first two Christmas TV specials, 2005’s All is Bright! and 2006’s Love’s Pure Light, are re-broadcast every year on TBN.

Waltons 40th Reunion in Los Angeles next week.

In case you didn't already know, on Saturday, September 29th there is another Waltons reunion being held in Los Angeles in honor of the 40th anniversary of the TV series.  It is being held as a fundraiser for Environmental Charter Middle School, the school where Kami Cotler now works as Principal (Cotler played the youngest sister Elizabeth on The Waltons). Click HERE for the link to the Facebook event.  There is an extremely long list of honored guests and special guests attending the event--click here for the link to the website.  It looks to be the Hollywood reunion of the year.


  1. Thanks for this great post.Really appreciate the update on all the actors of this great show.Wish I could attend that great event.

    1. I wish I was attending the reunion in Los Angeles too!

      Stick close to the blog, I'll be sharing about a couple of Waltons Christmas episodes in the next few days.

      Thanks for your comment.

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