"Family" was the best show on television during its run, better than "MASH", better than "Mary Tyler Moore", better even than "The Waltons". Why? Because it was about intelligent, serious-minded people who weren't trying to entertain an audience or each other. They were, as Zhivago remarks once, "just living", and in so doing, exploring the issues that late-1970s Californians faced daily and that the rest of America would soon deal with. "Family"'s characters were attractive, articulate, privileged, and just independent-minded enough to make their reflections interesting. Sada Thompson's Kate was terribly complex--nurturing, witty, stubbornly and often irritatingly self-possessed--and seemed to embody perfectly every internal contradiction ever experienced by women cognitively and emotionally capable of being their family's main breadwinner but lacking an avenue to do so. James Broderick's Doug, as thoughtful a TV dad as one is likely to meet in a lifetime, knew as much about women as men--probably more--and had an endearing habit of self-disparagement that gave his wife and daughters (but not his only son) room to grow in a world that had only recently acknowledged their gender's need to. Gary Frank's Willy, my favorite at the time, had taken his father's lack of ego so to heart that he wasn't sure he'd ever join the grown-up world, or even want to. And Kristy McNichol's Buddy articulated tween angst with an openness never before seen on TV. I watched the entire series a year or so ago and was struck by how well the characters had aged more than a generation later. I was only troubled by the show's almost militant defensiveness toward gender and hostility toward sexuality; the exaggerated toughness at times of Kate and Nancy seems strident now, but it was probably analogous to, for example, the defensiveness of civil rights activists during the previous decade. We are all more perceptive, as well as more appreciative, of gender differences and what might be called "everyday sexuality" than we were during that benighted pre-dawn of global telecommunication and cultural cross-pollination; viewers of "Family" may even find repeat viewings of the show mildly painful, as I did. But for depth and breadth of character analysis, antithetical to Disney-type, on-screen clowning, "Family" has no equal that I'm aware of.
While the characters might look ordinary upper-classers, the truth is what made them special was the fact that they were actually pretty freaky. High-eyebrowed Sada Thompson's constant expression of awe, the oldie father, the generation gap between their children, and last but not least, Buddy's mind-blogging look bordering lesbianism where mesmerizing for a kid like me.
The pace of the show was slow, and one thanked it. The protected community they lived in was a relieving bubble within the dark downward trend of the late 70´s, when darker meant better.
I remember the first time in my life I learnt of Virginia Woolf, was through "Family": It was a book of Woolf's correspondance that Kate was reading in bed in one of the episodes. I guess I was 11 back then, and imprints of such an early age for some reason have a longlasting effect.
Long live our childhood memories!
Doug and Kate Lawrence (James Broderick and Sada Thompson) and their three children, Nancy, (Meredith Baxter)Willie (Gary Frank) and Buddy -real name Leticia -(Kristy McNichol) were a family with which most people could easily identify. The Lawrences were normal people, leading normal lives and dealing with realistic and important issues. The show was never over the top or melodramatic and that was one of the reasons it was so watchable and so popular with audiences during its 4-year run from 1976 - 1980.
There were moments of light-hearted comedy of course, but mostly, the show was a drama which never strayed into the unbelievable and ridiculous. The things the Lawrences went through on a regular basis were always things that could (and do) happen to anyone. Marriage, divorce, teen crushes, menopause and many other events, written with sensitivity and realism by the writers made "Family" one of the best shows of the era and one that could be watched over and over without one ever getting sick of it.
I began watching this show when I was in high school. At that time, it was a real eye-opener for me, showing me more of the issues "out in the world" that I may or may not face in the future. The characters were real and multi-dimensional. They had flaws and strengths. They had the ability to bring joy and to irritate! But the actors all worked together to bring us a moving story each week. My favorite was Sada Thompson, who had so many layers, that each week could bring surprises from her. Very endearing was her ability to bring subtle humor to many situations. A truly talented actress that the American public at large was fortunate to see, after her successes on the Broadway stage.
This show was very popular in its day, though today it has been nearly forgotten. It stirred up real emotions in dealing with real life issues that few programs of its day dealt with. Problems of teenage alcoholism, child abuse and other similar themes. Those issues were taboo for television at one time. This program opened the floodgates for other programs to explore the drama behind people's personal struggles and growth issues. Kristy McNichol won two Emmy's for her tomboy role and was a key to the success of the program.
I occasionally go through my parents' DVD collection, and from time to time I come across some really interesting shows. Such as "Family." This is a drama from the seventies. It took me a while to get past the clothes, the cars and the slang, but once I did, I found myself getting wrapped up in the characters. The show centers on the Lawrences, an upper middle class family living in a California suburb. I identified most with the teenaged son, Willie. In many of the first-season episodes (the only season my folks own), he catches hell from his father Doug, mostly for wanting to make his own decisions about his life. There's the wife, Kate, an openminded, sympathetic woman who doesn't shy away from confrontations with her husband over their kids. The marriage of the older daughter, Nancy, is slowly unraveling, and the younger daughter, Buddy, is just coming into adolescence. They face death, divorce, blindness, homosexuality, burglary and alcoholism, but none of it ever felt like soap opera to me. My mom says she is ashamed to admit that she loved "Family" as a kid. I don't know why. This is a good drama, with some very good acting.
Family was one of those shows which you could not admit to watching while I was growing up as it was uncool for a guy to watch a show such as this.
Family was always a personal favorite for me and a show I deeply miss.
The show featured some of the biggest names in Television (at the time). James Broderick and Sada Thompson led this all-star cast in story ry lines were well written and could leave you begging for more or ripping your pillow apart concerned about what is to happen next.
Family is one fo the few shows out there which needs to come to DVD or be picked up one of those Women channels such as a new generation of viewers can appreciate this quality show
I wouldnt call it the desperate Housewives of the 70's however it was risque for its time...Favorite line of all times was from guest star Leif Garret(portraying the boyfriend of Buddy) When trying to convince Buddy to go all the way he tells her "But a man has needs".For General Hospital Fans it is interesting to note that Genie Francis had a recurring role as a schoolmate of Buddy's before she took over the role of Laura.
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