Before the extended families that came to dominate prime time, from Full House
, ABC launched Eight Is Enough
, an adaptation of Crossfire
host Thomas W. Braden's memoir. The pilot sets the tone: parenting is serious stuff, but a little humor never hurts (consequently, a redundant laugh track occasionally comes into play). Tom Bradford (Dick Van Patten, who sports TV's cutest comb-over), a Sacramento columnist, and his wife, Joan (Diana Hyland), are imperfect, but involved parents. As the series begins, oldest son David (Mark Hamill, Star Wars
), a construction worker, leaves the nest, but there would be a few cast changes by the second episode. Notably, Grant Goodeve would replace Hamill, while Willie Aames took over as Tommy. With women's lib in full effect, the Bradford women spend much of these nine episodes trying to find their way in a changing world: Joan takes up photography, Susan (Susan Richardson) goes on a ski trip with a male coed, and Mary (Lani O'Grady) opposes her father during a newspaper strike. Other episodes revolve around Tommy's crush on an indecisive classmate (Charlene Tilton) and David's affair with an older woman (Adrienne Barbeau). That leaves Joanie (Laurie Walters), the drama student, Nancy (Dianne Kay), the cheerleader, Elizabeth (Connie Newton), the typical teenager, and Nicholas (Adam Rich), the elfin pipsqueak. Once you get past the flared jeans and wide lapels, Eight Is Enough
holds up surprisingly well, since the primary concerns are timeless. If the acting can be uneven, the chemistry between cast members papers over the cracks. Sadly, Hyland only filmed four episodes due to illness (she passed away in 1977). In the second season, Betty Buckley stepped in as the newest member of the Bradford clan. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
For fans of 70's dramas such as Family and The Waltons, here is the first season of the top-rated dramedy Eight is Enough on a 2-disc DVD! Based on the book by Thomas Braden, the series chronicled the lives of a columnist Tom Bradford, his wife and their eight children, and their sometimes-comic, sometimes-dramatic exploits.