Based on the autobiography of Washington columnist Tom Braden, the weekly, hour-long ABC series Eight is Enough starred Dick Van Patten as Sacramento newspaper journalist Tom Bradford, the father of eight children, who at the outset of the series ranged in age from 8 to 23. Early in the series, Diana Hyland was seen as Tom's wife Joan, but Hyland died after filming only four episodes, whereupon Tom Bradford became a widower. At the outset of the series' second season, Tom was remarried to widow Sandra Sue "Abby" Abbott, played by Betty Buckley. In descending age order, the Bradford children were David (Grant Goodeve), Mary (Lani O'Grady), Joannie (Laurie Walters), Susan (Susan Richardson), Nancy (Dianne Kay), Elizabeth (Connie Needham, later billed under her married name Connie Newton), Tommy (Willie Aames), and Nicholas (Adam Rich). At the beginning of Season Four, David married attorney Janet (Joan Prather) and Susan wed professional baseball player Merle "The Pearl" Stockwell (Brian Patrick Clarke) in a double ceremony; in later episodes, Susan gave birth to a daughter, Sandra Sue (named for her stepmom), and Joannie became engaged to Jeffrey Trout (Nicholas Pryor), with whom she worked at a local TV station. During the fifth and final season, Ralph Macchio was added to the Bradford household, playing Abby's nephew Jeremy Andretti. Others in the regular and recurring cast included Michael Thoma as Tom's best friend Dr. Greg "Doc" Maxwell; Virginia Vincent as Doc's wife Daisy; James Karen as Tom's editor Eliot Randall; Jennifer Darling as Tom's secretary Donna; and Michal Goodrow and John Louie as family friends Ernie and Melvin. Introduced on March 15, 1977 as a 90-minute TV movie with a slightly different cast, Eight is Enough went on to successfully blend comedy and drama for the next five years--no surprise here, since the program was assembled by the same people responsible for another popular "big family" series of the era, The Waltons. After its cancellation on August 29, 1981, Eight is Enough was briefly revived with a brace of TV-movie specials, 1987's Eight is Enough: A Family Reunion and 1989's An Eight is Enough Wedding.
by Hal Erickson synopsis