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Family is an American television drama series that aired on the ABC television network from 1976 to 1980. Creative control of the show was split among executive producers Leonard Goldberg, Aaron Spelling, and Mike Nichols. A total of 86 episodes were produced. It is seen occasionally on the Decades digital TV network.

Family Title Card
Created byJay Presson Allen
StarringSada Thompson
James Broderick
Gary Frank
Kristy McNichol
Meredith Baxter Birney
Quinn Cummings
Opening themeJohn Rubinstein
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes86 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)Leonard Goldberg
Mike Nichols
Aaron Spelling
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time50 minutes
Production company(s)Icarus Productions
Spelling-Goldberg Productions
DistributorLexington Broadcast Services Company
Original networkABC
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseMarch 9, 1976 (1976-03-09) –
June 25, 1980 (1980-06-25)

It is not related to the ABC sitcom A New Kind of Family that aired concurrently with Family during its final season.


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 show features Sada Thompson and James Broderick as Kate and Doug Lawrence, a happily married middle-class couple living at 1230 Holland Street in Pasadena, California with their three children: Nancy (portrayed by Elayne Heilveil in the original miniseries and later by Meredith Baxter Birney), Willie (Gary Frank), and Letitia, nicknamed "Buddy" (Kristy McNichol). (An early episode establishes that the couple had another son, Timothy, who had died five years prior.) The show raised the profile of all of its featured actors and, in particular, catapulted McNichol to stardom.

Family is an attempt to depict a contemporary traditional family with realistic, believable characters.[1] Kate is the practical, rational voice of the show. She always stands by her opinion and is motivated to do what is right, even if it makes her unpopular ("Jury Duty"). An accomplished full-time homemaker, she resents people telling her that, because she had high aspirations in school and had achieved a great deal academically ("Home Movie"), she could have attained much more in life. However, at one point she expresses frustration with the monotony of her life, feeling that all she does is run errands and make phone calls, usually on behalf of other people ("An Eye to the Future"). She eventually returns to college as a music major. Doug is an independent lawyer who aspires to be a judge, but never uses his intellect to make others feel inferior. He is a family man who listens to what Kate tells him and always makes time for Buddy.

Scene from 1976 Episode 5 Season 1 "Thursday's Child

Younger daughter Buddy is somewhat tomboyish, although she at times considers adopting a more feminine appearance ("Coming of Age"). She is a loyal friend, compassionate toward others, and well-liked by her classmates. She has a habit of walking into a room where adults are discussing something confidential and demanding (in a friendly way) to know what is transpiring. She usually seeks her mother's help when faced with a dilemma. She is self-conscious about her height and considers herself short; she believes her body is not developing as quickly as it should.

Son Willie has a close relationship with Buddy, whom he affectionately calls "Peaches". An aspiring writer, he secures his parents' permission to take a year off high school to write a screenplay, but later drops out of school completely, to his father's chagrin. Although he is making passing grades and his father believes he has a high IQ, some of his fellow students speculate that he is failing. Ironically, the school's yearbook names him most likely to succeed. He later pursues work, assisting in a photography studio, but eventually quits, dubbing the work ("debs and dogs") uninspiring. He says he aspires to leave Pasadena.

Willie with Doug and Kate.

Eldest daughter Nancy Lawrence Maitland moves back home with her young son, Timmy, during the first episode of the series—after catching her husband of several years, Jeff Maitland (John Rubinstein), in bed with another woman. Rubinstein composed Family's theme song. Later in the series they divorce and Nancy enrolls in law school, where she excels.

Story lines are very topical, and the show is one of the first to feature what have recently been termed "very special episodes". In the first episode, Nancy walks in on her husband having sex with one of her friends. During the second season she and Jeff divorce, but he appears regularly as an active father to Timmy and becomes involved in more of the Lawrence family's affairs. Other topical story lines include Kate's possible breast cancer and Buddy's dilemmas about whether to have sex; she always chooses to wait, most notably in an episode with guest star Leif Garrett, a popular teen idol at the time. Another topical episode deals with Buddy's friendship with a teacher who is revealed to be a lesbian. Family also contends with alcoholism (Doug's sister; Buddy's old friend) as well as adoption (the family adopts a girl named Annie Cooper (Quinn Cummings) after her parents die). A 1979 episode (directed by actress Joanne Woodward) guest-stars Henry Fonda as a visiting elderly relative who is beginning to experience senility and memory loss. Two years later, Fonda would win an Academy Award for playing a similar character in On Golden Pond.

In 1988, plans for a reunion movie were in the works, but the writers' strike that year halted production and it was never picked up again.

Theme musicEdit

In the original spring 1976 miniseries run of Family, the theme music is a dramatic-sounding, yet low-key piano solo with minor orchestral contingents, composed by cast member John Rubinstein (son of classical musician Arthur Rubinstein). When Family was picked up as a regular series for the fall 1976 schedule, the theme music was changed to a more cheery, upbeat instrumental dominated by trumpets and horns, also written by Rubinstein. This version lasted the rest of the run.

Legal disputeEdit

Family became the subject of a 24-year legal dispute[2] due to a lawsuit filed by writer Jeri Emmet in 1977. The claim was against Spelling Television and alleged that Spelling had stolen the idea for the show from a script that Emmet had submitted, entitled "The Best Years". Spelling responded to the lawsuit with a statement explaining that he had conceived the idea in his kitchen with Leonard Goldberg, his professional partner. Next they pitched the idea to scriptwriter Jay Presson Allen to create the pilot. She had just completed writing the screenplay for the film Funny Lady, starring Barbra Streisand and directed by Herbert Ross.

In October 1981, the suit was dismissed for lack for prosecution. Jeri Emmet filed an appeal the same month. Approximately a year later, she withdrew her appeal as part of a settlement with Spelling and Goldberg for $1,000. Emmet later filed a legal malpractice action against her own lawyers in which it was argued that she would have won her original lawsuit but for the malpractice. The case went to trial and a jury awarded her $1.7 million in damages. The verdict was then successfully appealed based on the resumption of the suit having occurred beyond a one-year limitation period allowed in the law: the trial result and judgment were overturned.[3]

Emmet sued Spelling a second time, in 1996, after Spelling published his memoirs. She claimed that Spelling had defamed her in his book, as she had not been credited with conceiving the original idea for Family. She lost on appeal in 2001, with the court saying she had not met the standard for showing damages due to the alleged defamation and that she had not explained how the defamation legally constituted a second theft of the same intellectual property. The litigation finally concluded with Allen retaining her "Created by" credit for the series.[2]


Family was nominated three times for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series, in 1977, 1978, and 1980. Three of its stars won acting Emmy Awards: Sada Thompson, Gary Frank, and Kristy McNichol. James Broderick and Meredith Baxter Birney were nominated.

DVD releaseEdit

On September 5, 2006, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released the first two seasons of Family on DVD in Region 1. It is unknown if the remaining three seasons will ever be released. On January, 2016, two box sets containing a total of 28 episodes were released in Germany by ALIVE VERTRIEBS- UND MARKETING. These box sets contain select episodes from seasons 1-3.[4]

International BroadcastsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Rowland Barber (21 January 1978). "Three Strikes and They're On". TV Guide. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
  2. ^ a b Kenneth Ofgang (19 November 2001). "C.A. Rules for Aaron Spelling in Long-Running 'Family' Litigation". Metropolitan News. Metropolitan News Company. Retrieved 27 June 2012.
  3. ^ Cal Sup Ct (7 May 1992). "Laird v. Blacker (1992) 2 C4th 606". Unknown. Retrieved 27 June 2012.
  4. ^

External linksEdit