Not even the Brady family could rival the enormity of the Bradford brood. Eight is Enough chronicled all of the trials and tribulations of a father trying his best to raise his eight children. Sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking – the show quickly charmed the hearts of viewers across the country, especially those who had grown up in large families of their own.
The series, which debuted in 1977, was based upon a book of the same name, written by newspaper journalist Tom Braden two years earlier. In the show, Dick Van Patten played the role of family patriarch Tom Bradford. His original wife Joan only appeared in the first four episodes (the actress that played her, Diana Hyland, had taken ill and eventually passed away). In the second season, the widowed father exchanged vows with a schoolteacher named Abby.
Together, the two did their best to provide guidance to a houseful of offspring that included: Nicolas (8), Tommy (14), Elizabeth (15), Nancy (18), Susan (19), Joanie (20) and David (23). In later years, Abby’s troubled teen nephew Jeremy (The Karate Kid’s Ralph Macchio) joined the clan as well. School problems, sibling rivalry, relationship issues – if there was a common family problem, one or more members of the Bradford family probably tackled it at some point. They also tackled each other quite often – as family football games seemed the preferred group-therapy choice.
After five seasons and 112 episodes, Eight is Enough was unceremoniously cancelled in 1981. That wasn’t the last television viewers would see of the clan though. The would reunite for An Eight is Enough Reunion in 1987 to celebrate Tom Bradford’s 50th birthday and An Eight is Enough Wedding in 1989. Each special featured a different actress playing Abby.
Eight is Enough was critically acclaimed, garnering two People’s Choice Awards and two Emmy nominations. It also helped launch the careers of Willie Aames (Tommy Bradford) and Ralph Macchio. The role of oldest son David was originally intended for Mark Hamill, but he was a little busy working on a relatively unknown film called Star Wars. Instead, the part went to Grant Goodeve who sang the melodramatic theme song of the series.
Never too sappy, never too serious, Eight is Enough was the kind of show that had at least one character that just about anyone could relate to. Problems were faced and conquered as a unit, and they didn’t even need a potato sack race or a house of cards to learn plenty of valuable lessons along the way.
Did you grow up following the trials and tribulations of the Bradford family on Eight is Enough? We’d love to hear your memories in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this memorable 70s household.