1 9 7 6 – 1 9 8 0 (USA)
This weekly prime-time drama about a suburban LA family ran from 1976 to 1980 on ABC.
The show’s pilot initially became the first episode of a six-part miniseries that aired in March 1976. The success of the miniseries led ABC to pick up Family as a series for their 1976 – 1977 season.
Some initial criticisms of the series said that the family were too well-educated, too well-dressed and basically just “too good” for television, branding it “a sort of urban, updated Waltons“.
Aaron Spelling and partner Leonard Goldberg put the show together, partly as a reaction to the public implosion of the Loud family of PBS’s An American Family. The series followed the saga of the white middle-class Lawrence family from Pasadena, California.
The clan comprised parents Kate and Doug, and their three offspring: Nancy (divorcee lawyer and mother of infant Timmy), Willie, a high school drop-out who was nevertheless a talented and idealistic aspiring writer, and free-spirited teenager Letitia, better known as “Buddy” (played by Kristy McNichol).
During its 1978 – 79 season, a new regular character joined the series: Annie Cooper, an 11-year-old runaway orphan girl who was adopted by the Lawrences.
Throughout its five seasons, the series covered a range of contemporary social issues. For example, the miniseries began with a pregnant Nancy discovering her husband Jeff in bed with one of her girlfriends. This situation led to a divorce.
Subsequently, the series explored issues related to the social position of a divorced, professional woman who was also a mother.
The show also dealt with homosexuality. In one episode, Willie’s best friend came out of the closet forcing Willie to reconsider his positions about both friendship and homosexuality.
In another episode, Buddy had to face bigotry when the school attempted to fire a teacher she admired who turned out to be a lesbian.
The Lawrence matriarch also found herself in difficult social, moral, and ethical positions resulting from her situation as a middle-aged woman. Once Kate faced the dilemma of possibly having to have an abortion when she discovered she was expecting a child at an age when risks and complications related to pregnancy are higher (she was over 40).
At one point in the series, Kate also had to deal with the fact that she had breast cancer.
Family prepared the ground for the explosion of prime-time soap operas such as Dallas, Dynasty, Knots Landing and Falcon Crest that appeared during the late 1970s and 1980s.
Nancy Lawrence Maitland
Elayne Heilveil (1)
Meredith Baxter-Birney (2)
Letitia “Buddy” Lawrence
Mary Grace Canfield
Michael David Schackelford