May 7, 2007 5:58 PM
It’s been years since I’ve thought about “Family,” the 1976-80 ABC drama, but come to think of it, it was a damn good show—certainly one worth revisiting.
Executive produced by Aaron Spelling, Leonard Goldberg and Mike Nichols, “Family” was an intelligently scripted, beautifully performed show about the lives of an upper-middle-class family who lived in one of those big, stately homes in Pasadena. The late James Broderick (father of Matthew) was the patriarch Doug, a lawyer, and Sada Thompson played his reserved spouse Kate, a serious housewife who sought to expand her horizons through continuing education. The series examined intra-familiar relationships and addressed many real-life issues (some for the first time on TV) including alcoholism, adoption, marital infidelity, homosexuality, breast cancer and first menstruation.
There were three kids: eldest daughter Nancy, a single mom (played mainly by Meredith Baxter; role-originator Elayne Heilveil left after the first four episodes); sensitive middle child Willie (Gary Frank) and tomboy Buddy (a star-making role for Kristy McNichol).
The show garnered multiple Emmy nominations during its run, with Thompson, Frank and McNichol (twice) taking home the statuette.
Many say “Family” jumped the shark when Quinn Cummings joined the cast mid-run as 11-year-old adopted daughter Annie, in kind of the same lame way Ernie joined “My Three Sons” and Cousin Oliver joined “The Brady Bunch.” Lesson learned: No matter how badly a ratings boost is needed, it’s never a good idea to tack on a faux sibling.