Family: From The Cast To Behind The Scenes

Back in the 1970s, television was changing. Sitcoms were moving away from portraying caricatures towards a more accurate depiction of reality, and one of the series that truly came forward was “Family”. Running between 1976 and 1980 with a total of 86 episodes, this sitcom had an incredible cast. But, what happened to them since then? And what happened behind the scenes? Let’s have a look!

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television  | Gary Frank (Willie), Quinn Cummings (Annie), Sada Thompson (Kate), James Broderick (Doug), Kristy McNichol (Buddy), Michael David Schackelford (Timmy), Meredith Baxter-Birney (Nancy)).

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | Gary Frank (Willie), Quinn Cummings (Annie), Sada Thompson (Kate), James Broderick (Doug), Kristy McNichol (Buddy), Michael David Schackelford (Timmy), Meredith Baxter-Birney (Nancy)).


WHAT WAS THE “FAMILY” ABOUT?

In case you have never seen this show, the plot is quite straight-forward. The sitcom follows the lives of a middle-class couple, Kate and Doug, who live with their children in California. Throughout the episodes, the audience is invited to see how the family members solve their dramas that usually hit quite close to home for most viewers.

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | Sada Lawrence as Kate, and James Broderick as Doug, in the sitcom "Family".

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | Sada Lawrence as Kate, and James Broderick as Doug, in the sitcom "Family".


WHAT DID THE CRITICS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT IT?

TV Guide once made a publication that explained what the show was about quite accurately. In 1978, the platform wrote that “Those of us who regard Family as one of the most consistently fine hours on television are loath to peer into the program’s clockworks to see what makes it go. We might find the illusion shattered.”

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | A still from the sitcom "Family".

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | A still from the sitcom "Family".

“What if the Lawrences of Pasadena [...] turned out to be [...] just another troupe of bored and cynical actors, cleverly putting us on at showtime? Blessedly, this is not so … What comes through [...] is an affirmation of Leonard Goldberg’s original hunch — that the death knell of the traditional American family is not yet ready to be rung.”

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | (L-R) Gary Frank, Kristy McNichol, James Broderick, Sada Thompson, John Rubinstein, and Elayne Heilveil.

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | (L-R) Gary Frank, Kristy McNichol, James Broderick, Sada Thompson, John Rubinstein, and Elayne Heilveil.


THE HIGH QUALITY OF THE CAST FROM “FAMILY”

One of the most impressive assets that this sitcom had was its cast. Bringing together veteran actors and up-and-coming stars, “Family” was able to give the audience a balance between charm and high-quality acting, with the ideal dose of comedic innuendos. With actors like James Broderick, Sada Thompson, Meredith Baxter, and Gary Frank, the show became a success!

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | Michael David Shackelford, James Kristy McNichol, Meredith Baxter, Gary Frank, Sada Thompson, James Broderick.

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | Michael David Shackelford, James Kristy McNichol, Meredith Baxter, Gary Frank, Sada Thompson, James Broderick.


MEREDITH BAXTER / NANCY LAURENCE MAITLAND

Born on June 21st, 1947, Meredith Baxter became a well-known actress and producer, often recognized due to her roles in “Family” and “Family Ties”. She took a role in the thriller “All the President’s Men”, which won four Oscars, and Baxter herself has also been nominated for five Emmy Awards throughout her career.

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | Meredith Baxter as Nancy Lawrence in "Family".

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | Meredith Baxter as Nancy Lawrence in "Family".

But Baxter has not only been acting, as she also co-hosted the NBC morning news and talk show “Today” for a period of time. She survived breast cancer and has since launched a skin-care line which she named Meredith Baxter Simple Works. This organization raises funds for her breast cancer research foundation.

Image Credits: Getty Images / Jeffrey Mayer / WireImage | Meredith Baxter during Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation 2005 "A Time For Heroes" Celebrity Carnival - Arrivals in Los Angeles, California, United States.

Image Credits: Getty Images / Jeffrey Mayer / WireImage | Meredith Baxter during Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation 2005 "A Time For Heroes" Celebrity Carnival - Arrivals in Los Angeles, California, United States.


JAMES BRODERICK / DOUG LAWRENCE

On March 7th, 1927, the world welcomed James Broderick, who would end up playing Doug in the sitcom “Family”. During his career, Broderick was also cast in “Alice’s Restaurant” and “Dog Day Afternoon”, however, it was his role in “Family” that led him to be nominated for an Emmy Award in the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series category.

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | James Broderick as Doug Lawrence in "Family".

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | James Broderick as Doug Lawrence in "Family".

A fun fact you may not know about James Broderick is that he was actually studying pre-med when he first auditioned for a role in “Arms and the Man”. While he was only acting until the early 80s, his acting skills have been passed on to his son, Matthew Broderick, who you may know from “Ferris Bueller's Day Off”.

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | James Broderick.

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | James Broderick.


QUINN CUMMINGS / ANNIE COOPER

Former child actress Quinn Cummings was born on August 13th, 1967, and gained recognition in the industry due to her roles in “The Goodbye Girl” and “Family”. While she could have pursued her career in acting, Cummings opted to retire from it, even though she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards.

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | Quinn Cummings as Annie Cooper in "Family".

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | Quinn Cummings as Annie Cooper in "Family".

Cummings decided to focus on writing, starting with the blog The QC Report, which eventually led her to become a published author, with the books “Notes from the Underwire, Adventures from my Awkward and Lovely Life,” and “The Year of Learning Dangerously.” She was also responsible for the patent of a baby-carrying-wear, a company she sold in 2006. 

Image Credits: Getty Images / Amy Graves / WireImage | Quinn Cummings during "Lullabies and Luxuries" Luncheon Benefiting Caring for Children and Families with AIDS at Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, United States.

Image Credits: Getty Images / Amy Graves / WireImage | Quinn Cummings during "Lullabies and Luxuries" Luncheon Benefiting Caring for Children and Families with AIDS at Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, United States.


GARY FRANK / WILLIE LAWRENCE

Born on October 9th, 1950, Gary Frank led a very prolific career in the cinematographic industry, having won an Emmy Award for his role in “Family”. He counts with over 60 movie and television credits under his belt, having played in the television series “Sons and Daughters” and the movie “Deadly Weapon”.

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | Gary Frank as Willie Lawrence in "Family".

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | Gary Frank as Willie Lawrence in "Family".

Some of his other remarkable works include his appearances in “Remington Steele”, “T.J. Hooker”, “Charlie’s Angels”, “Fantasy Island”, “Murder She Wrote”, “L.A. Law”, “Friday the 13th: The Series”, as well as “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”. Frank’s latest roles were in short films and voice acting for series, with his latest credit being dated to 2012.

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | Actor Gary Frank.

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | Actor Gary Frank.


SADA THOMPSON / KATE LAWRENCE

Sada Thompson became one of the stars of her time, playing matriarch roles both on the screen and on the stage, she was awarded a Tony Award for her role in “Twigs” and an Emmy Award for her portrayal of Kate Lawrence in “Family”. Sadly, Thompson passed away from lung cancer at the age of 81.

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | Sada Thompson as Kate Lawrence in "Family".

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | Sada Thompson as Kate Lawrence in "Family".

"When you start off acting, it does seem very romantic, and the make-believe part of it all seems very exciting," she said in 1991. "It's only later that you begin to realize how fascinating the work is — that it's a bottomless pit, and you never get to the end of it. Human character is just endlessly fascinating."

Image Credits: Getty Images / NBCU Photo Bank / NBCUniversal | Sada Thompson as Elaine Nicodos.

Image Credits: Getty Images / NBCU Photo Bank / NBCUniversal | Sada Thompson as Elaine Nicodos.


KRISTY MCNICHOL / LETITIA “BUDDY” LAWRENCE

Just like her co-stars, Kristy McNichol began her career young, and she was a top teen star back in the 1970s, with her role in “Family” launching her to stardom. Once the show ended, McNichol’s career continued soaring with two box office hits, “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” and “Only When I Laugh”.

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | Kristy McNichol as Letitia Lawrence in "Family".

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | Kristy McNichol as Letitia Lawrence in "Family".

While she continued to be quite successful throughout the 80s and 90s, even having several award nominations and some wins, her career eventually started to slow down during the late 90s and early 2000s. Her latest credit dates back to 2012 when she was cast in the short “Call to Action to Mayor Bloomberg: Sodas & Soap Operas”.

Image Credits: Getty Images / Gustavo Caballero | Kristy McNichol attends Love Boat Cast Christening Of Regal Princess Cruise Ship at Port Everglades on November 5, 2014 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Image Credits: Getty Images / Gustavo Caballero | Kristy McNichol attends Love Boat Cast Christening Of Regal Princess Cruise Ship at Port Everglades on November 5, 2014 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.


JOHN RUBINSTEIN / JEFF MAITLAND

John Rubinstein’s career is probably the most successful of all the actors in the series, having worked as an actor, director, composer, singer, and teacher. Born in 1946 to the famous pianist Artur Rubinstein, his acting career has never slowed down, and he is currently working on multiple projects. 

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | John Rubinstein as Jeff Maitland in "Family".

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | John Rubinstein as Jeff Maitland in "Family".

With 218 credits under his name, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series for his role in “Family”, however, he never won any significant award. In case you are from a younger generation, you might recognize him from the series “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”.

Image Credits: Getty Images / David X. Prutting / Patrick McMullan | John Rubinstein attends 2005 - 2006 Theatre World Awards at Studio 54 on June 6, 2006 in New York City.

Image Credits: Getty Images / David X. Prutting / Patrick McMullan | John Rubinstein attends 2005 - 2006 Theatre World Awards at Studio 54 on June 6, 2006 in New York City.


AWARDS AND NOMINATIONS 

This sitcom quickly became one of the favorites of the public, but also the critics. It won three nominations for Outstanding Drama Series, and the cast members also accounted for four wins, for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. 

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | "Family".

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | "Family".


THE CAST WAS MUSICALLY TALENTED

While you may not know this, John Rubinstein was responsible for composing two of the show’s instrumentals. In fact, the original theme of “Family” which was used in 1976, was quite heavy in tone, thus being later replaced for the theme we all know so well!

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | "Family".

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | "Family".


THE FAMILY REUNION

There was an initial plan to make a TV special with a “Family” reunion back in 1988, however, the Writers Guild of American went into a strike around that same time, which led the episode to never happen. We are certain that the fans would have truly enjoyed it, though!

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | Buddy (Kristy McNichol) was upset that Willie's (Gary Frank) romance interfered with helping her overcome the fear of diving. James Broderick (Doug) and Sada Thompson (Kate) also starred.

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | Buddy (Kristy McNichol) was upset that Willie's (Gary Frank) romance interfered with helping her overcome the fear of diving. James Broderick (Doug) and Sada Thompson (Kate) also starred.


THE FUSS BETWEEN WHO CREATED “FAMILY”

The whole story is quite difficult to explain, but it all started when Aaron Spelling claimed that he was the original creator of the idea behind the show, which according to him came up while he was in his kitchen.

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | "Family".

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | "Family".

In 1977, the writer Jeri Emmett Laird challenged that and claimed ownership of the idea. It went to trial, and the process lasted until 2001, due to the long process of appeals. Eventually, the court ruled in favor of Spelling, but the "created by" credit remained to Jay Presson Allen, whom Spelling paid to write the pilot.

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | "Family".

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | "Family".


KRISTY MCNICHOL & THE BRIEFCASE

Starting her career as a child actress, Kristy has since admitted something you may not know about her days when she was working on “Family”. She admitted in 1989 that “I was like a miniature adult. I’d go off to work every day with a little briefcase. I really think I grew up backward." How cute but also odd is that?

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | Kristy McNichol in "Family".

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | Kristy McNichol in "Family".


CHERYL LADD ALMOST PLAYED NANCY

While the role was eventually given to Meredith Baxter, Nancy’s character was very close to being played by actress Cheryl Ladd. Even though she didn’t make it to the cast this time, her audition put her under Aaron Spelling’s radar, and she was chosen for a role in “Charlie’s Angels”.

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | The cast members of "Family".

Image Credits: Getty Images / Walt Disney Television | The cast members of "Family".

It has been forty years since the last episode of “Family” was aired and while the sitcom received critical acclaim and several nominations for Awards, some people still consider it to be a very underrated show. What do you think about this? Let us know in the comments. What were your favorite moments in “Family”? Also, be sure to share this story with your friends! 

ⓘ The information in this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, and images contained on, or available through this ENG.AMOMAMA.COM is for general information purposes only. ENG.AMOMAMA.COM does not take responsibility for any action taken as a result of reading this article. Before undertaking any course of treatment please consult with your healthcare provider.

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