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Family (1976-1980)


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I had put this in the Ryan's Hope thread in September -  Ilene Kristen (Delia #1, Ryan's Hope/ Georgina, One Life to Live/ Norma, Loving/Madeline, Another World/Roxie, One Life to Live) makes a guest appearance as a rock star client of Jeff's. Aired March 17, 1980.

 

Ilene can be seen at approx.12:08, 20:14, and 37:52

 



 

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I painstakingly downloaded every fragmented episode on youtube that I could grab, spliced and combined together, until I had every episode, seasons 1-5 finished in order in mp4 format. The only two episodes I couldn't get were S3E14 "Echoes of Love" and S4E22 "From Russia With Love".  They are all, as you know VHS rips, and are fair to rough quality, but all watchable. If anyone is extremely desperate to see them, I can drop them to DVDs to send to you. Not looking to make a profit, just the price of the blanks and shipping, that sort of thing. Hopefully, they will release the other seasons properly and these copies can be tossed, but I'm not holding my breath.

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A few comments:

 

There was no “miniseries.” It was a weekly series from the get-go. The first season was short - 6 episodes. That happened sometimes with midseason replacements at the time; the first season of “Three’s Company” was six episodes, too. “Eight is Enough” also had a short first season.

 

Nigel and Carol McKeand were the showrunners for the first four seasons. Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz were the showrunners for the final season.

 

Playwright Jay Presson Allen, who wrote the pilot (and therefore got a Created By credit) had nothing to do the with series after the  pilot.

 

Elaine Heilveil, the original Nancy, was let go after the first season. Presumably the producers and/or network were looking for something different. You’ll notice that Heilveil was used very little towards the end of season one. Her initial replacement, Jane Actman, was also fired, after filming a few episodes for season 2. Meredith Baxter Birney had to refilm all of Actman’s scenes when she was hired.

 

The show is not a soap, IMHO. Each episode is self contained, for the most part (though there’s a lot of soapiness within each self-contained episode).

 

The producers wanted to do a two-hour reunion movie in 1987, when TV movie reunions were in vogue. The storyline would have centered around the kids coming home for Kate’s remarriage. It was delayed due to a writers’ strike. After that, Meredith Baxter Birney declined to sign on because she didn’t like the script. They did a rewrite to accommodate her and she still didn’t like it. So it never happened.

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I think classifying it as a soap really depends on if one places more importance on content or format. There's really no right or wrong answer, it's just a matter of what you think is the bigger factor in making a show a soap.

I'm still confused as to why Decades doesn't air all of the episodes. For most of their weekend binges, they start at the beginning of a season and just roll through as many consecutive episodes as they can. With "Family," they air episodes from all five seasons, and when it was on regularly each night, they skipped many episodes.

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2 hours ago, Chris 2 said:

A few comments:

 

There was no “miniseries.” It was a weekly series from the get-go. The first season was short - 6 episodes. That happened sometimes with midseason replacements at the time; the first season of “Three’s Company” was six episodes, too. “Eight is Enough” also had a short first season.

 

Nigel and Carol McKeand were the showrunners for the first four seasons. Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz were the showrunners for the final season.

 

Playwright Jay Presson Allen, who wrote the pilot (and therefore got a Created By credit) had nothing to do the with series after the  pilot.

 

Elaine Heilveil, the original Nancy, was let go after the first season. Presumably the producers and/or network were looking for something different. You’ll notice that Heilveil was used very little towards the end of season one. Her initial replacement, Jane Actman, was also fired, after filming a few episodes for season 2. Meredith Baxter Birney had to refilm all of Actman’s scenes when she was hired.

 

The show is not a soap, IMHO. Each episode is self contained, for the most part (though there’s a lot of soapiness within each self-contained episode).

 

The producers wanted to do a two-hour reunion movie in 1987, when TV movie reunions were in vogue. The storyline would have centered around the kids coming home for Kate’s remarriage. It was delayed due to a writers’ strike. After that, Meredith Baxter Birney declined to sign on because she didn’t like the script. They did a rewrite to accommodate her and she still didn’t like it. So it never happened.

Elaine Heilveil looked like she could be the sister to Brianne Leary of CHIPS. Yes a lot of mid season replacement series started out with 5 or 6 shows their first season. Dallas started as 5 episodes in April 1978 before getting picked up for season 2 in the fall. A lot of series back then sometimes would start off as a TV movie like Charlie's Angel, Hart To Hart, Cagney & Lacey etc..before getting picked up. David Jacobs who created Dallas was a writer for Family.

 

I had read that they wanted to do a reunion and that Baxter Birney was the one that killed it. Gary Frank never really got the popularity he had received on Family in his later career. Kristy left acting after leaving Empty Nest in 1992. Most Millennials have no idea who she is. 

 

Aaron Spelling considered Cheryl Ladd for Nancy but Baxter Birney won the role. The following year she replaced Farrah Fawcett on Charlie's Angels.

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Forgive me for being pedantic, but there’s a bit of a difference between what is now called Dallas’ first (short) season and Family’s first season. The set of Dallas episodes from spring 1978 was essentially a five-part pilot. There was no initial pilot that CBS considered before ordering the rest of the season, which is unusual. That’s why the fans refer that five-part pilot as a miniseries. And that’s why CBS and Lorimar at the time didn’t consider those episodes as the first season. Warner Bros, which now owns Dallas, relabeled the miniseries as season one when they sold it on DVD.

 

Family, OTOH, had a traditional, single-episode pilot that was filmed in 1975. You can easily identify it because both Kate and Nancy have longer hair than they did in the rest of the first season. ABC then ordered five more episodes that were filmed months later, and that made up the first season in the spring of 1976. That’s why I pushed back on calling the first season a miniseries. Tomato, tomahto, I guess.

 

I agree about Brianne Leary. She was a very appealing performer IMO - I wonder why she didn’t have a more prominent acting career.

 

I would have done the reunion without Meredith Baxter. Nancy was never as prominent as the other children, and only appeared in about 2/3 of the episodes. They could have had Nancy show up from out of town in the last scene for the wedding, played by Elayne Heilveil

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I too am baffled as to why Gary Frank fell into obscurity after the show (and an Emmy win). He did guest spots and a few TV movies in the '80s and into the '90s before falling off the radar entirely. GF had talent, looks and intensity. He would have fit right in on a show like thirtysomething or Sisters.

 

His wife, Carroll Newman, was one of Family's producers. I'm not sure if she continued in TV work or not.

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I noticed most of the Family episodes are being uploaded by several people on youtube. All you have to do is search and type in Family Kristy McNichol. 

 

This show was pretty ground breaking in the 70's by doing taboo subjects as homosexuality, abortion, child abuse etc...

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Do you think Family might have benefited from being more serialized?

Rather than an issue being done and dusted in one episode, things could have continued for longer and become more interrelated.

As I recall, characters seldom referenced anything that came before.

Mind you Executive Suite had recently flopped, so networks were probably reluctant to go the serialized route.

Dallas and Knots both started with self contained episodes.

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