kami cotler

TV Catchphrase of the Day (6/22/11)

Good night, John-Boy. – Elizabeth Walton (Kami Cotler) on The Waltons (1972–81).

This line, heard today at sleepovers, pajama parties, and campsites, became a staple of the show and was usually heard during each episode’s final moments. The Walton house would be seen from afar, at night, as each family member called out his or her good nights. Because John-Boy (Richard Thomas) was the show’s central character, his name was usually said last.

The catchphrase came from creator and narrator Earl Hamner Jr.’s real life growing up in a small Schuyler, Virginia, house with lots of siblings. During a Waltons reunion in 1992, Hamner revealed the origins to Entertainment Tonight. On the porch of the house in which he grew up, the house that was the inspiration for the show, Hamner told former Waltons star Mary McDonough of the “good nights”: “It was just something we always did. And we would keep it up all night long if my father hadn’t stopped it. You know, we’d start calling ‘good night’ to each other and then somebody else would think of a little message to send to another brother or sister. Finally my father would have to say ‘Okay, time to go to sleep.’ And we did.”

But now we must get specific. Yes, the closing “good nights” were first heard at the end of the first episode, “The Foundling” (first aired September 14, 1972), but the exact phrase listed here wasn’t heard until the next week, on the show’s second episode, “The Carnival” (written by Nigel McKeand, first aired September 21, 1972) as John-Boy and sister Elizabeth recounted their day at the circus. Elizabeth: “I wish I could see that lady walk along the rope again.” John-Boy: “One day, maybe.” Elizabeth: “Hope so; good night, John-Boy.”   Sleep on that.