Warner Bros. // 1977 // 440 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge P.S. Colbert // May 1st, 2012
"What I'm trying to tell you nicely is that about four of you were accidents...That doesn't mean you're not loved, it just means that you weren't planned." -- Joan Bradford, mother of eight.
"Let's see now...one daughter being charged with felony drug offense. One small son just out of surgery. One large son leaving home for good. Half a thousand further in debt. So far, so good." -- Tom Bradford, father of eight.
Welcome to Casa de Bradford. Comfortably nestled in sunny suburban Sacramento, this house is crowded with laughter, tears, and brotherly/sisterly love. Come meet the family: newspaper columnist and dear-old-dad Tom (Dick Van Patten, Westworld), his wife Joan (Diana Hyland), and their offspring octet -- several of whom changed dramatically when the show went from pilot to series.
* "Never Try Eating Nectarines Since Juice May Dispense"
The pilot's strange title is actually an anagram made up of the kid's names:
-- (N)icholas (Adam Rich) is the Bradford baby; precocious, photogenic, and extremely good at big eye-rolls.
-- (T)ommy (Chris English, replaced in episode 2 by Willie Aames) is just entering high school, suffering through puberty, and resembles a teenage Ryan O'Neal.
-- (E)lizabeth (Connie Newton) is trouble at fifteen; going bra-less, breaking curfew, and much too hot for her own good.
-- (N)any (Kimberly Beck, replace in episode 2 by Dianne Kay) is pure California blonde beauty; interests include modeling, cheerleading, and heartbreaking.
-- (S)usan (Susan Richardson) is the cute, zany redhead; a jogging fanatic, hopelessly addicted to yogurt.
-- (J)oanie (Laurie Walters) wears her heart on her sleeve as the family thespian.
-- (M)ary (Lani O'Grady) is bookish, bespectacled, baritone, and maternal.
-- (D)avid (Mark Hamill, replaced in episode 2 by Grant Goodeve) is the eldest Bradford; impossibly handsome and fiercely independent. Friction between David and his father causes him to move out during this first episode, interacting with the family via satellite for the remainder of the series.
Mary's always bringing home strays. This time, it's her young, unmarried friend Matilda (Lane Binkley). Meanwhile, Susan accepts a date to go away for a ski weekend with classmate Rick (Jeffrey Byron), without asking her father's permission.
* "Pieces Of Eight"
Freelance photographer Joan shoots portfolio photos for Nancy to submit to a modeling agency. The pictures are such a hit the agency offers Joan a job, but passes on Nancy. Whoops!
* "Women, Ducks, and The Domino Theory"
Tommy learns about love the hard way from the high school hottie (Charlene Tilton, Dallas).
Some guys have all the luck! David becomes involved with an "older woman" played by Adrienne Barbeau (Maude).
Casa de Bradford is put on lockdown, when Mary's boyfriend is hospitalized suffering from a suspected "African virus."
* "V Is For Vivian" Tom's jet-setting, bon vivant sister (Janis Paige, Silk Stockings) breezes in for a visit, and encourages the kids to follow their dreams. Susan dreams of sky-diving.
* "Hit And Run"
Tommy accidentally slingshots a rock through the church window and splits the scene. Trouble is, there was a witness. Classic TV cameo: Frank Cady, who played storekeeper Sam Drucker simultaneously on Petticoat Junction and Green Acres appears as the friendly neighborhood ice cream man.
* "The Gipper Caper"
The annual Bradford vs. Maxwell family football game becomes a grudge match when Tom views it as a chance to settle a 25 year old score. Daytime soap fans will recognize a young Kin Shriner (Scotty Baldwin on General Hospital) and Clint Eastwood fans will recognize Gregory Walcott (famous for being on the wrong side of Clint's mighty fists in four movies and several Rawhide episodes).
Nominally based on Washington columnist Thomas Braden's family memoir, Eight Is Enough was a ratings smash right out of the box during its initial Spring 1977 run. Nevertheless, it struggled quite a bit behind the scenes; numerous casting changes made to strike the perfect balance between cutting edge, topical drama, and situation comedy (complete with laugh track).
The biggest obstacle the fledgling series faced was the loss of actress Diana Hyland, who became too ill with cancer to continue filming after four episodes. She tragically succumbed to the disease at age forty-one on March 27, 1977, two days before the third episode aired. Hyland was a beautiful and skilled actress, earning a posthumous Emmy award for her performance in The Boy In The Plastic Bubble. Her loss is still deeply felt in the remainder of the first season's episodes.
According to several adamant bloggers, additional phone conversations with Hyland were filmed to establish that Joan was temporarily "away," but these segments were removed after their first run, and were missing from reruns. I saw the show during its original broadcast run, and though I don't specifically recall these scenes, I was struck once again by the strangeness of the Bradford children's mother being absent without any mention.
Presented in standard definition 1.33:1 full frame with Dolby 2.0 Mono (the norm for 20th century television series), these episodes look and sound fantastic. Yes, there are the occasional hiccups in these 34-year-old masters, but that's not unexpected. There is one DVD production glitch, though. Someone at Warner Home Video stuck the closing credits for episode four onto episodes six, eight, and nine. Smooth move. But, there are English subtitles for the hearing impaired and additional subtitles in French and Spanish, so all is forgiven.
There's only one bonus feature, a March 2010 "reunion" appearance on NBC's Today Show. Not all of the cast is present (Lani O'Grady sadly passed away in 2001, while Adam Rich and Susan Richardson are AWOL) but the interview is lively and informative; a definite plus.
To be honest, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed revisiting these shows. Each and every episode is guaranteed to bring happy memories flooding back to fans that've been waiting so long to see this old favorite again. I look forward to seeing the remaining four seasons released soon. I hope!
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Scales of Justice
* Top 20 Review Debuts: #1
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 440 Minutes
Release Year: 1977
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Cast Reunion