One of the most atypical weekly series to emerge from the Aaron Spelling TV factory, 7th Heaven, created by Spelling and Brenda Hampton, has eschewed the sex-and-sin shenanigans of such series as Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place in favor of honest, three-dimensional family values, with generous doses of warmth, heart, humor, and pathos. There can be no doubt that this fundamentally wholesome program has struck a universal chord. The series has not only been lavishly praised by critics, honored by such organizations as the Parents Television Council, the Academy of Religious Broadcasting, and the Anti-Defamation League, and given innumerable industry awards, but it is also one of the most successful offerings of the WB network; indeed, it was the first WB series to run more than seven seasons, and during four of those seasons, it was the network's highest-rated show. Set in the suburban L.A. community of Glen Oak, the series revolves around the Camden family, headed by Eric Camden (Stephen Collins), pastor of the town's Community Church, and Eric's homemaker wife, Annie (Catherine Hicks). In the tradition of The Waltons, loyal 7th Heaven viewers have enjoyed the rare privilege of watching the Camden children grow up before their very eyes. When the series debuted on August 26, 1996, handsome and personable Matt Camden (Barry Watson) was 17 years old; basketball-playing Mary Camden (Jessica Biel) was 13 going on 14; intellectual, inquisitive Lucy Camden (Beverley Mitchell) was 12; happy-go-lucky Simon Camden (David Gallagher) was ten; and precocious Ruthie Camden (Mackenzie Rosman) was five. By the time the series entered its eighth season, the three oldest Camden kids were married and pursuing careers, while the two youngest were seasoned veterans of the school dating scene. (Two more Camden youngsters, twin boys Sam and David, were born halfway through the 1998-1999 season). All of the Camdens, parents included, have had more than their share of setbacks and tragedies (some of them absolutely devastating) as the series has rolled forward, but somehow all of the members of the clan, from patriarch Eric on down, have been able to recover, rally, and persevere with the help and support of their family and friends -- not to mention their inner faith. And unlike so many other TV series which traffic in personal interrelationships, the characters in 7th Heaven are very much a part of the "real" world. During its lengthy WB run, the series has exposed its principals to a wide variety of contemporary issues: teen suicide, racial prejudice, substance abuse, drunken driving, homelessness, negative peer pressure, teen pregnancy, Alzheimer's disease, the Holocaust, the war in Iraq, and the crisis in the Sudan. Eminently suitable for viewers of all ages, but never a mere sop to the "kiddie" trade nor a placebo for the clean-up-TV brigades, 7th Heaven has been and will likely always remain the jewel in the WB crown.
family, family-dynamics, minister, church, homemaker, faith, moral-conflict