Country of origin
Dick Van PattenDiana HylandBetty BuckleyGrant GoodeveLani O'GradyLaurie WaltersSusan RichardsonDianne KayConnie NewtonWillie AamesAdam Rich
Theme music composer
Fred Werner (Season 1 & 2 opening theme)Song: from Season 3 onwards – "Eight Is Enough" Music by Lee HoldridgeLyrics by Molly-Ann Leikin
John BealAlexander CourageEarle HagenMiles Goodman
Eight Is Enough is an American television comedy-drama series that ran on ABC from March 15, 1977, until August 29, 1981. The show was modeled on the life of syndicated newspaper columnist Thomas Braden, a real-life parent with eight children, who wrote a book by the same title.
The show centers on a Sacramento, California, family with eight children (from oldest to youngest: David, Mary, Joanie, Susan, Nancy, Elizabeth, Tommy, and Nicholas). The father, Tom Bradford, was a newspaper columnist for the fictional Sacramento Register. His wife Joan (Diana Hyland) took care of the children. Hyland was only in four episodes before falling ill; she was written out for the remainder of the first season and died five days after the second episode aired.
The second season began in the fall of 1977 with the revelation that Tom had become a widower. Tom fell in love with Sandra Sue "Abby" Abbott, (Betty Buckley) a schoolteacher who came to the house to tutor Tommy who had broken his leg in a football game. They were married in one of the series' TV movie broadcasts on November 9, 1977. The role went to Buckley after being approved by network chief Brandon Tartikoff, who felt the character of the sympathetic teacher she had played in the 1976 film Carrie would also be great for the series. In another TV movie event in September 1979, David and Susan were both married in a double wedding. As the series progressed, Abby got her Ph.D. in education and started a job counseling students at the local high school, oldest sister Mary became a doctor, while second-youngest son Tommy became a singer in a rock-and-roll band.
The actors' ages varied greatly from their characters. Hyland was 41 when the show began, Buckley was 29, Goodeve was 24, O'Grady was 22, Walters was older than Buckley at 30, Richardson was 25, Kay was 22, Needham was 17, Aames was 16, and Rich actually was eight.
In the pilot, the role of David was played by Mark Hamill, Nancy was played by Kimberly Beck, and Tommy played by Chris English. When ABC screened the pilot they were unhappy with a couple of performances. Beck and English were let go and replaced by Dianne Kay and Willie Aames. Hamill sought to get out of his contract on Eight Is Enough to take the opportunity to star in George Lucas' Star Wars. His request was rejected by Lorimar Productions as he had signed a five-year-contract with them. However, in December 1976 Hamill had been involved in a car crash that resulted in his needing reconstructive facial surgery. By the time ABC had greenlit the series, Hamill was still hospitalized and unavailable. They let him out of his contract and the role was re-cast with Grant Goodeve now playing David for the series.
The show was developed by writer William Blinn and was a Lorimar Production. It was originally distributed by Worldvision Enterprises. For the first three years the show filmed interior scenes at The Burbank Studios now known as the Warner Bros. Ranch. From the fourth season the show filmed interiors at MGM Studios in Culver City.
The home featured in the exterior shots was on Chiquita St, near Lankershim Boulevard in Los Angeles. The house has since been demolished and replaced. The interiors were filmed on two separate sound stages at the studio: one for the main floor and one for the upstairs.
As a production of the Lorimar stable, who were concurrently producing CBS's The Waltons, writers were often contracted by the producers and were shared between both programs. (Waltons costar Will Geer also made an Eight is Enough guest appearance during season 2.) Regular writers included Peter Lefcourt, the writing teams of Gwen Bagni and Paul Dubov, Rod Peterson and Claire Whittaker, Bill Nuss and Dusty Kay, Nick Thiel and David Braff, J. Miyoko Hensley and Steven Hensley, Bruce Shelly, Sandra Kay Siegel, Gil Grant, Karen I. Hall, and Hindi Brooks, who soon became the show's long-time story editor. In-house directors included Philip Leacock, Harry Harris, and Irving J. Moore. As an in-joke, the character name of one of Nicholas Bradford's best friends was Irving Julius Moore, a nod to the director of the same name whose middle name was in fact Joseph.
For the show's first two seasons, an upbeat instrumental piece written by Fred Werner was used as the show's opening theme. Beginning with the show's third season, this was replaced by a slowed-down vocal theme titled "Eight Is Enough," which was sung by series co-star Grant Goodeve. The song had music by Lee Holdridge and lyrics by Molly-Ann Leikin, and was first heard in a longer arrangement on the last episode of the second season titled "Who's on First?", which was also performed by Goodeve.
Early episodes had instrumental music by Fred Werner and the prolific Alexander Courage, but the show's real musical stamp came from veteran composer Earle Hagen, who had a knack of composing memorable cues as he had previously been the in-house composer on The Andy Griffith Show. He composed a beautiful love theme for Tom and Abby, a theme that permeated the show in various incarnations throughout the remainder of the series. Some later episodes were scored by John Beal and Miles Goodman.
In 1980 there was a writer's strike in Hollywood, and one of the offshoots of this industry problem was making cost cutting measures in the music department on the show. Some of the later episodes were tracked with a combination of uncredited library music and with some original music by those of the aforementioned Messrs. Hagen, Beal, and Goodman.
Reception and cancellation
The series jump-started acting careers for several of its young stars. It cemented teen idol status for Grant Goodeve (David), Willie Aames (Tommy), and Ralph Macchio, who played Abby's orphaned nephew Jeremy later in the show's last season. Aames would go on to star with Scott Baio in Charles in Charge. Goodeve started a minor singing career, following his rendition of the show's theme song (see "Theme music") and initially hosted HGTV's If Walls Could Talk. Macchio would gain the most fame in feature films such as The Karate Kid and its sequels, as well as My Cousin Vinny.
After the end of the show's fifth season (112 hour episodes), production costs and declining ratings caused the show to be canceled, along with seven other shows that season (including The Waltons). Variety's headline on the cancellation stated, "Eight Shows In, Eight Shows Out". In a 2000 episode of E! True Hollywood Story, Dick Van Patten stated that no one contacted him to inform him of the cancellation. Instead, he read about it in a newspaper.
The series had two reunion movies on NBC. In An Eight Is Enough Reunion on October 18, 1987, Mary Frann replaced Betty Buckley as Abby; Buckley had been filming Frantic during its production. This was followed by An Eight Is Enough Wedding on October 22, 1989, this time with Sandy Faison as Abby. By coincidence, both movies aired opposite game two of the World Series on ABC.
All airdates have been compiled from either TV listings in the Los Angeles Times or publicity photos. Unless otherwise specified, all episodes, including the pilot, were standard hour-long ones.
Reruns of all 112 episodes of Eight is Enough have aired sporadically since the show's syndication debut in September 1982. The show aired on FX in 1994, on PAX in 1998, and as part of a 50th-anniversary Warner Bros. marathon on TV Land in 2005. Eight Is Enough also aired on the Chicago-based MeTV and MeToo, a sister station of MeTV, from 2008 to 2010 before MeTV spread to other markets around the U.S.
During its network run, the show was distributed by Worldvision Enterprises (also internationally in rebroadcasts), and later by Lorimar-Telepictures. All syndication rights are now held by (Lorimar successor) Warner Bros. Television.
In Italy, RAI public networks aired the first season of Eight Is Enough under the title Otto Bastano in 1978, the literal Italian translation of the original title. The remaining seasons were aired in the 1980s on Retequattro, a commercial network from Fininvest (now Mediaset), under the title La Famiglia Bradford. The Italian version excludes the laugh track.
The French version, Huit, ça suffit! was a big success in the 1980s both in France and Quebec, Canada, and among all Francophone (French-speaking) Canadians.
In Spain, Eight Is Enough was aired also in the 1980s. RTVE (public network) aired all the seasons under the title Con Ocho Basta (the Spanish translation) in Friday's evening time.
In the Philippines, Eight Is Enough aired on GMA 7 from 1978 to 1981.
On April 17, 2012, Warner Home Video released the complete first season of Eight Is Enough on DVD in Region 1 for the very first time. The release includes the pilot episode (featuring Mark Hamill in the role of eldest son David) and a cast reunion special. Several of the episodes have the wrong end credits, and the Lorimar Productions logo has also been edited out of the end credits.
On November 13, 2012, Warner Bros. released Season 2, Parts one and two on DVD-R via their Warner Archive Collection. These are Manufacture-on-Demand (MOD) releases and are available through Warner's online store and Amazon.com. Season 3, Parts One and Two were released on April 30, 2013.
Season 4, Parts one and two were released on August 13, 2013. The fifth and final season was released on March 11, 2014.