Eight is Enough ran from 1977 to 1981 on the ABC Network. It was one of the most popular family shows of the ‘70s, and for good reason. The show may have been a little corny at times, but that was a big part of its popularity. Eight is Enough: The Complete Second Season has just been released on DVD, and I was surprised at just how well the series holds up all these years later.
The big change from the first season to the second season was the loss of Diana Hyland as mother Joan Braden. She only appeared in the first four episodes of the series, then left after being diagnosed with breast cancer. She died just 12 days after the airing of the first episode. Obviously nobody could see this coming, and it must have been difficult for the series to find its feet without her. Hyland was written out of the remaining nine episodes of the first season, and as the second season opens, father Tom Braden (Dick Van Patten) is presented as a widower.
The title Eight is Enough refers to the Braden family’s eight children. They are, in order of age, David (Grant Goodeve), Mary (Lani O’Grady), Joanie (Laurie Walters), Susan (Susan Richardson), Nancy (Dianne Kay), Elizabeth (Connie Needham), Tommy (Willie Ames), and Nicholas (Adam Rich). The series was modeled on the book Eight is Enough, written by the syndicated newspaper columnist Tom Braden. In the program, Tom Braden writes for the fictitious Sacramento Register, and the family lives in Sacramento, CA.
As the second season opens, Tommy breaks his leg playing football, and is tutored by Abby Abbot (Betty Buckley). Tom and Abby begin dating, and quickly fall in love. During the two-part “Children of the Groom” episodes, they get married, but face a number of obstacles on their way to the altar. The marriage comes about midway into the season, and from there on out, Abby is officially part of the family.
As the season progresses, there are plenty of family situations that Tom and Abby are faced with. Each program generally has a number of plots and subplots going on, typically involving the children, and their trials and tribulations in growing up. One of the reasons that I think Eight is Enough had such a broad appeal was in the fact that the various events involved realistic situations with a large family. With the children ranging in age from eight (Nicholas), to 22 (David), there are a wide variety of problems for Tom and Abby to try and solve.
Shortly after “Children of the Groom” came the two-part Christmas episode “Yes Nicholas, there is a Santa Claus.” Although the loss of Joan was addressed somewhat in the marriage episodes, the family really faces up to it during these Christmas programs. This is one of those rare instances where art really did imitate life, as I imagine the cast were all heartbroken over the real-life loss of Diana Hyland.
Warner Archive have just released Eight is Enough: The Complete Second Season as a two-volume DVD set. Volume one contains four DVDs, and volume two is a three-DVD set. The seven DVDs hold all 26 episodes of the season, which originally aired from September 1977 to June 1978. There are no extra features on the set, just the programs, which have been remastered and look surprisingly good considering their age.
Along with Family, Eight is Enough was one of the definitive late ‘70s family series, and it holds up very well. I had not seen these shows in decades, and the concerns that are brought up are still surprisingly relevant in many ways. This is a nice look back at one of the better programs of that era.