Starting in 1951, Faye Price is a famous Hollywood actress who, while entertaining the troops during the Korean War, falls in love with Ward Thayer, a rich heir. Seven years later, they are married, with four children. Ward loses his job and considers suicide, but Faye offers to start acting again. Originally, this upsets Ward, because he was not fond of moving to Fairfax, California. On the set of her new movie, the director and producer fight each other and the director eventually leaves the set. Faye offers to direct the scene herself. At first, nobody thinks she will be able to, but she turns out to direct the scene with a lot of success. She is soon offered directing jobs at television series, including Zane Grey Theater. Meanwhile, her home life is less fortunate. Ward has been depressed since going bankrupt and he has started an affair. When Faye finds out, she immediately kicks him out of the house. However, she soon agrees to give him another chance and they decide to work together on films as director and producer. Their film debut becomes a blockbuster success with positive reviews and she is contracted by Universal.
Years later, their children have grown up. Lionel is a student, hoping to be a photographer one day, Greg is still in school and wants to become a football player, Valerie is an actress waiting for her big break and Anne is the quiet youngest sister. Greg admits his grades aren't good enough and that he dropped out of school to join the army. Lionel shocks his parents by admitting he is gay. Faye is surprised, but accepts the news. Ward, however, is outraged and cuts him out of his life, with forbidding his other children to ever contact him again. Anne is furious and decides to run away. Faye is devastated, but can't afford to quit her job and look for her. Soon, Greg announces he will serve for the army in Vietnam. The entire family comes together to say goodbye, but Ward refuses to speak to Lionel. Later, Faye receives a phone call from the police, informing her that Anne has been arrested for drug possession. Faye picks her up and is shocked to find out she is pregnant. Ward convinces her to try to make her give up her child. Anne is in tears after giving birth, but reluctantly agrees to give up the baby for adoption.
Tragedy reaches the Thayer family when it is announces that Greg died in Da Nang, only a few days before peace was declared. At the funeral, Ward finally acknowledges his now only son Lionel, but still has trouble accepting that he is gay. Meanwhile, Faye is nominated for am Oscar. Valerie is jealous of her mother's success and they get into a fight when she announces she dropped out of UCLA for the lead role in a cheap horror film, for which she is required to go nude. The Oscar nomination takes all of Faye's time. This makes Anne feel very neglected and she starts to hang out at her friend's place a lot. During this time, she bonds with the father of this family, Bill O'Hara. Faye finally decides to forgive Ward and they reunite. Soon, the Thayer family deal with a second tragedy, when Lionel and his boyfriend John get into a car accident. Lionel survives, but John dies. He has trouble dealing with his loss and spends all his time working as a photographer.
Later, Anne upsets her parents by admitting she is dating the much older Bill. Ward is furious and confronts Bill with the fact he is seeing a 17-year-old girl. However, Anne and Bill are still determined to marry and it doesn't take long before she gets pregnant again. Meanwhile, Valerie finally gets her big break, when she is given the second lead role in her mother's newest film project. The lead player, George Waterson, at first treats her badly, because he thinks she is a horrible actress. However, she eventually wins his heart and they start a secret relationship. Lionel finds love as well, with Paul Steel, a drug addicted actor who was recently fired. In the end, the movie directed by Faye and starring Valerie becomes a great success and Val enjoys her overnight stardom. Later, Anne gives birth to a son. The labor and baby reminds her of her first pregnancy and she blames her mother for having given up her first baby. Ten years later, Val makes Anne realize that Faye was actually a great mother, but didn't have a lot of time. Anne tries to apologize, but she is too afraid. Suddenly, Faye dies. Anne feels guilty for not having apologized, but Ward assures her that Faye knew how much she loved her.In the novel, Valerie is one of a set of twins. In the film, she is a singleton.
In the novel, Lionel's sweetheart John dies in a Christmas tree fire. In the film, he dies in a car crash.
In the novel, Paul is Lionel's much-older first beau, with whom he ends up parting. Then, he falls in love with John. Then, sometime after John's death, he starts a relationship with a nice gentleman whose name is not given. In the film, John is Lionel's first sweetheart, then he meets and falls for Paul.
In the novel, Bill's last name is Stein. In the film, it is O'Hara.
Jaclyn Smith as Faye Price Thayer
Michael Ontkean as Ward Thayer
Joe Flanigan as Lionel Thayer
Kristin Minter as Valerie 'Val' Thayer
Leslie Horan as Anne Thayer (later O'Hara)
Brian Krause as Greg Thayer
Tom Mason as Bill O'Hara
Joel Gretsch as John
Paul Satterfield as Paul Steel
John Waters as Vincent
Family Album was adapted by Karol Ann Hoeffner from the 1985 novel of the same name by Danielle Steel. Produced by Douglas S. Cramer and directed by Jack Bender, the four-hour miniseries was broadcast on NBC in two parts on October 23 and 24, 1994.
David Hiltbrand of People wrote, "This hackneyed attempt to blend Hollywood glamor with family values is cosmetically appealing, but underneath that veneer crawl the worms of artifice, predictability and bad acting."
Michael Watkins was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie in 1995 for Family Album.