is the hit dramatic series that explores the lives, loves, and hardships of a contemporary 1970s American family, told with heart and humor. Originally given a six-episode run, the show became a surprise hit in the fall of 1976, and won two Emmy® Awards for the second season. This groundbreaking series is a Mike Nichols production (Academy Award® winner 1967, Best Director, The Graduate
), created by Jay Presson Allen (Cabaret
) and executive produced by the powerhouse producing team of Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg (TV’s Charlie’s Angels
and Starsky & Hutch
follows the saga of the Lawrence family of Pasadena, California - parents Kate (Sada Thompson) and Doug (James Broderick), and their three children: young divorced mother Nancy (played by Elayne Heilveil in the first season, and by Meredith Baxter Birney in the second season), high school dropout Willie (Gary Frank), and young teenage daughter Buddy (Kristy McNichol). Notable guest stars include Willie Aames, Helen Hunt, James Woods, and Tommy Lee Jones.
In the mid-'70s, Family
was sort of the anti-All in the Family
--dealing with the issues of the day, but far more sincerely and earnestly than Archie Bunker & tribe. In fact, the landmark series, which debuted in 1976 on ABC, quickly gained a following for its willingness to integrate controversy with a fairly typical upper-middle-class family. The Lawrences--headed by Sada Thompson as Kate and James Broderick (father of Matthew Broderick) as Doug--were close-knit but willing to face issues like infidelity, gay friends, alcoholism, divorce, and more--making it ground-breaking for primetime TV. The kids (divorcee Nancy, played in season 1 by Elayne Heilveil and replaced in season 2 by Meredith Baxter Birney; Willie, played by Gary Frank; and the heartbreakingly adorable Buddy, played by Kristy McNichol) knew they had mom and dad's support, even when the going got tough, and were there for each other when crises arose. And happily, the show's producers, which included Mike Nichols and Aaron Spelling, realized all this earnestness needed leavening with some humor. When Buddy is needling Willie for dance lessons so she can go to the Junior Jump with the babelicious Carl ("Hey, the Strawberry Shakes are playing!"), Willie balks. Then Buddy looks him square in the eye and says, "I need a personal triumph, Willie." She shoots, she scores. The show, which won Emmys for both Thompson and McNichol, boasts stellar writing and believable situations, and is still compulsive watchable years later. The boxed set includes all 28 episodes of the first two seasons. --A.T. Hurley