I watched the Project Runway season premier last night. I realize that this may sound odd coming from a man who professes to despise the fashion industry, but I find the creative demands of the show to be fascinating. In last night’s episode, one of the designers, a twenty-something female designer, was preparing to go to sleep. As the lights were turned out, she called out, “Goodnight, John Boy.”
This is a reference to The Waltons, a television show about a family growing up in a rural Virginia community during the Great Depression and World War II. In the signature scene that closed every episode, the family house was enveloped in darkness, save for a light in an upstairs window. Through voice-overs, two or more characters would have a brief conversation, often humorous and related to the episode, and then bid each other good-night.
"Good night, Mary Ellen."
"Good night, John Boy."
But you already knew that. Right?
Even though the show aired from 1972 to 1981.
I can vaguely remember watching the show from time to time as a child, but it was off the air before I had even reached middle school. All I really remember is the song that opened the show and the signature closing described above.
So here’s my question:
How does a reference to The Waltons, a marginally-popular television show that went off the air more than twenty-five years, continue to survive so ubiquitously today?
How does someone who was born well after the show was cancelled refer to it so accurately on last night’s episode of Project Runway?
And how does everyone watching the show, and probably everyone reading this post, immediately understand this quarter-of-a-century old reference from a television show that most of you can probably never even remember watching?