Eight Is Enough: The Complete First Season
Running on ABC from 1977 to 1981, this family comedy classic revolves around Sacramento journalist Tom Bradford (Dick Van Patten) and his eight very independent and individual children (David, Mary, Joanie, Susan, Nancy, Elizabeth, Tommy and Nicholas) forced to deal with life's ups and downs, while living under one roof. Winner of a People's Choice Award for Favorite New Program as well as two Emmy® nominations, this often comical, but always touching family drama was the heir apparent to the television mantle of The Brady Bunch. Anchored by Dick Van Patten's Everman's father and husband, the serialized show made stars out of many of its underage actors and guest stars – including The Karate Kid's Ralph Macchio, Star Wars' Mark Hamill and more. There's more than enough laughs and life-lessons in the first season of this television classic.
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