Family
Family title card
Created byJay Presson Allen
Starring
Opening themeJohn Rubinstein
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes86 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producers
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time50 minutes
Production companies
Original release
NetworkABC
ReleaseMarch 9, 1976 (1976-03-09) –
June 25, 1980 (1980-06-25)

Family is an American television drama series that aired on ABC from March 9, 1976 to June 25, 1980. It was conceived as a six-episode limited series,[1] but initial high ratings led to the production of 86 weekly episodes. Creative control of the show was split among executive producers Leonard Goldberg, Aaron Spelling and Mike Nichols.

Overview

Family depicted what was, for its time, a contemporary traditional family with realistic, believable characters.[2] The show starred Sada Thompson and James Broderick as Kate and Doug Lawrence, an upper-middle-class couple living at 1230 Holland Street in Pasadena, California, with their three children: Nancy (portrayed by Elayne Heilveil in the original miniseries, then by Meredith Baxter Birney), Willie (Gary Frank), and Letitia, nicknamed "Buddy" (Kristy McNichol). Their fourth child, Timmy, died five years before the first season, at age 10, in a boating accident.

Family raised the profiles of all its main actors. In particular, it catapulted Kristy McNichol and Meredith Baxter Birney to stardom.

Storylines were often topical. In the first episode, Nancy walks in on her husband Jeff having sex with one of her friends. Other storylines include Kate's possible breast cancer and Buddy's dilemmas about whether to have sex; she always chooses to wait. In 1976's "Rites of Friendship", Willie's childhood friend is arrested in a gay bar, while 1977's "We Love You, Miss Jessup" deals with Buddy's friendship with a lesbian teacher. Family also contends with alcoholism (Doug's sister; Buddy's friend) and dementia: a 1979 episode directed by Joanne Woodward guest-stars Henry Fonda as Doug's father, James Lawrence, who is beginning to experience cognitive decline. Two years later, Fonda won an Academy Award for playing a similar character in On Golden Pond.

Episodes and production details

Main article: List of Family episodes

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
16March 9, 1976 (1976-03-09)April 13, 1976 (1976-04-13)
222October 6, 1976 (1976-10-06)May 3, 1977 (1977-05-03)
323September 13, 1977 (1977-09-13)May 16, 1978 (1978-05-16)
422September 21, 1978 (1978-09-21)May 17, 1979 (1979-05-17)
513December 11, 1979 (1979-12-11)June 25, 1980 (1980-06-25)

The initial showrunners of Family were Nigel McKeand and Carol Evan McKeand, who previously had been writers for The Waltons. After the fourth season, the McKeands departed[3] and were replaced by Edward Zwick, who went on to produce the acclaimed series thirtysomething, My So-Called Life and Once and Again.

Exterior shots of the Lawrence family home were filmed at 1230 Milan Avenue in South Pasadena, California.[4]

Critical reception

Family attracted widespread critical acclaim during its original run. TV critics called the show a rare quality offering in ABC's schedule, which included Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and other Spelling-Goldberg productions such as Charlie's Angels and Fantasy Island.[5][6]

Despite its occasional adult themes, the National Parent-Teacher Association consistently praised the series. In February 1979, the PTA said Family contained "good parenting lessons" and "slightly controversial" but "excellent" content,[7] recommending it for viewing by teens and older.

In the fourth season, some critics took issue with the show's direction. In February 1979, Noel Holston of the Orlando Sentinel called Family "ABC's most prestigious program" but claimed "the producers' crisis-of-the-week approach is starting to strain the series' credibility."[8] Some critics complained that Family, like many TV shows of the period, had become too reliant on sex-related plots.[9] In spring 1979, ABC shifted the show to Friday nights at 8 p.m. Eastern, and its previously solid ratings dropped to the bottom of the chart.[10]

Although Family earned solid ratings and a loyal following, ABC was criticized for failing to promote the show; the network never aired summer reruns, which could have expanded its audience.[11] In an interview before Family's final season, star Sada Thompson called the network "capricious" and the lack of repeats "most unusual".[12] In December 1979, former showrunners Nigel McKeand and Carol Evan McKeand said, "We worked on that show for 4 1/2 years and there wasn't a day during that time that we felt the network (ABC) gave a damn."[13]

Seven years after the series ended, it was widely reported that a Family Reunion TV movie was planned for the 1987–88 season.[14] At least one report indicated that if the movie's ratings were strong enough, the series would be revived for the current ABC schedule.[15] The plot was to involve the Lawrence children gathering for Kate's remarriage. (James Broderick had died of cancer in 1982.) But the 1988 writers' strike halted production, and the project was abandoned.

Broadcast history and Nielsen ratings

Season Time slot (ET) Rank Rating
1975–76 Tuesdays 10 p.m.    34 [16] N/A
1976–77 Tuesdays 10 p.m.    39 [17] N/A
1977–78 Tuesdays 10 p.m.    31 [18] 19.8
1978–79 Thursdays 10 p.m. (Sep 1978-Mar 1979)
Fridays 8 p.m. (Apr-May 1979)
   52 [19] N/A
1979–80 Mondays 10 p.m. (Jan-Feb 1980)
Mondays 9 p.m. (Mar 1980)
Wednesdays 8 p.m. (June 1980)
   61 [20] N/A

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Work Result Ref.
1976 Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series Glenn Jordan (for "Rites of Friendship") Won [21]
1977 E. W. Swackhamer (for "Acts of Love: Parts 1 and 2") Nominated [22]
1976 Golden Globe Awards Best Television Series – Drama Nominated [23]
Best Actress in a Television Series – Drama Sada Thompson Nominated
1977 Best Television Series – Drama Nominated
1978 Nominated
Best Actress in a Television Series – Drama Kristy McNichol Nominated
Sada Thompson Nominated
1979 Nominated
1976 Humanitas Prize 60 Minute Network or Syndicated Television Jay Presson Allen (for "Pilot") Nominated [24]
Nigel Evan McKeand and Carol Evan McKeand
(for "A Right and Proper Goodbye")
Nominated
1978 David Jacobs and Carol Evan McKeand (for "Annie Laurie") Won
Carol Evan McKeand (for "The Princess in the Tower") Nominated
1980 Sally Robinson (for "Thanksgiving") Won
1977 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Drama Series Leonard Goldberg, Nigel McKeand, Mike Nichols, and
Aaron Spelling
Nominated [25]
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Sada Thompson Nominated
Outstanding Continuing Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Gary Frank (for "Lovers and Strangers") Won
Outstanding Continuing Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Meredith Baxter Birney Nominated
Kristy McNichol Won
1978 Outstanding Drama Series Leonard Goldberg, Nigel McKeand, and Aaron Spelling Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series James Broderick Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Sada Thompson Won
Outstanding Continuing Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Meredith Baxter Birney Nominated
Kristy McNichol Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actor for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series John Rubinstein (for "And Baby Makes Three") Nominated
Outstanding Film Editing for a Drama Series Jim Faris (for "Acts of Love: Part 1") Nominated
1979 Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Sada Thompson Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Kristy McNichol Won
1980 Outstanding Drama Series Leonard Goldberg, Aaron Spelling, and Edward Zwick Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Kristy McNichol Nominated
Sada Thompson Nominated
1979 Young Artist Awards Best Juvenile Actress in a TV Series or Special Quinn Cummings Nominated [26]
Kristy McNichol Nominated
1980 Best Young Actress in a Television Series Quinn Cummings Won [27]

See also

References

  1. ^ O'Connor, John J. (13 April 1976). "TV: 'Family'". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Barber, Rowland (21 January 1978). "Three Strikes and They're On". TV Guide. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
  3. ^ Margulies, Lee (25 June 1979). "Inside TV". Los Angeles Times.
  4. ^ "1230 Milan Ave, South Pasadena, CA 91030".
  5. ^ Witbeck, Charles (24 Dec 1979). "A fine taste of 'Family' is ABC gift to viewers". The Miami News.
  6. ^ Boyer, Peter J. (2 May 1980). "It's all over for 'Family'". Associated Press.
  7. ^ Weingarten, Paul (14 February 1979). "PTA TV ratings, from Alice to Wonder Woman". Chicago Tribune.
  8. ^ Holston, Noel (21 February 1979). "Is this the last season for these series?". Orlando Sentinel.
  9. ^ Rosenberg, Howard (28 December 1978). "Has It Come to This?". Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ "Prime-time program ratings". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. 11 April 1979. p. 8.
  11. ^ Smith, Cecil (20 November 1979). "'Family' as poor relation". The Los Angeles Times. p. 59.
  12. ^ "'Family' end near despite popularity". The Orlando Sentinel. January 1, 1980. p. 10-B.
  13. ^ Smith, Cecil (11 December 1979). "Cousteau for president?". The Los Angeles Times. p. 95.
  14. ^ Stewart, Susan (2 June 1987). "Reunion Fever". Detroit Free Press.
  15. ^ "Ch. 8 noon news score: One born, another on way?". Akron Beacon Journal. 8 June 1987.
  16. ^ "The final Nielsen". Chicago Tribune TV Week. 27 June 1976.
  17. ^ "Look Who's No. 1". Chicago Tribune TV Week. 3 July 1977.
  18. ^ "A season's worth of program standings" (PDF). Broadcasting. 1 May 1978.
  19. ^ "Rounding up the ratings for 'the season'" (PDF). Broadcasting. 18 June 1979.
  20. ^ "1979-80 Regular Series Ratings". Daily Variety. 4 June 1980.
  21. ^ "29th DGA Awards". Directors Guild of America Awards. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  22. ^ "30th DGA Awards". Directors Guild of America Awards. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  23. ^ "Family – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  24. ^ "Past Winners & Nominees". Humanitas Prize. Retrieved June 11, 2022.
  25. ^ "Family". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved July 13, 2021.
  26. ^ "1st Annual Youth In Film Awards". YoungArtistAwards.org. Archived from the original on 2015-07-16. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  27. ^ "2nd Youth In Film Awards". YoungArtistAwards.org. Archived from the original on 2015-09-10. Retrieved 2011-03-31.