23 February 2001 | albertomallofres-pantoja
I´ve never had enough of this
I remember very fondly the Friday evenings of the late 70s and early 80s, when I sat down in front of the TV set and watched "Eight Is Enough". (It was a glorious season: on Saturday evenings they used to broadcast "Charlie´s Angels" and, posteriorly, "The Love Boat"!). The Bradford family won my heart in so little time: they were sympathetic and cheerful and they loved one another -and, of course, they weren´t flawless, which gave them an additional appeal. All five girls in the show had something attractive to me: Mary (Lani O´Grady) was sort of an "ugly duckling" among her sisters and a tempestuous and bespectacled rebel, but pretty soon you could find that she had a tender heart; her temper appeased increasingly after a while and you could discover that she was really a very attractive woman; Joannie (Laurie Walters) was a funny "screwball" lady with a head full of crazy ideas and a special sensitivity; Susan (Susan Richardson) was a chubby red-head (too bad that she dyed her hair later!) whom love turned into a mature person very quickly; Nancy (Dianne Kay) was an ingenue-with-a-doll-face that could sometimes be a little tricky, and Elizabeth (Connie Needham) was a long-haired and petite but very well-built beauty who danced as if she were made of rubber. The boys too were nice: David (Grant Goodeve, who took over from Mark "Luke Skywalker" Hamill) was a somewhat insecure and independent character (the male reply to Mary) but he loved his family and was always ready to help; Tommy (Willie Aames) was a typical product of his age: the long-haired curly boy with the ambition of becoming a rock star and a special ability to make money in any kind of "business", but with all the heartaches and doubts that come from the fact of becoming an adult, and Nicholas (Adam Rich) was the kid who said the darndest things (what a source for his father´s articles!) and showed naïvety when he had to be naïve and was smart when he had to be smart. As for the adults, I must begin by saying that Diana Hyland´s death (and subsequently Joan´s) affected me when I learned of it; I have nothing against Abby or Betty Buckley, but I wonder: since only four or five episodes of the series had been made when Hyland died, couldn´t they have replaced her by another actress in the same character (as it has been done in many other TV series) instead of "killing" the mother so mysteriously? (We never get to know when, where or how she died.) Maybe the producers and writers of the show were tempted by the idea of how a young stepmother would fit into this big family and how she was initially rejected by some. Anyway, Hyland was a very attractive woman and she seemed a loving mother. And we get to Abby: she was charming, clever and understanding, and Buckley (don´t you find that she has a certain resemblance to Julie Andrews?) grabbed the character to perfection. (I was only annoyed by the fact that the "first name" she was known as was actually a diminutive of her late first husband´s surname; it´s a habit I loathe.) Dick Van Patten was simply a delight as Tom, the lovable, caring, generous and somewhat old-fashioned father of the brood. He really has the face of a good person and his phrases were usually gems. The recurring characters (Dr. Maxwell and his wife Daisy, Susan´s husband Merle [why did he sometimes call his father-in-law "Mr.B.", for God´s sake?], David´s wife Janet, Tom´s boss Eliot Randolph, Donna the secretary, Tommy´s friend Ernie, aunt Vivian, officer Bernstein, etc.) were also a treat to watch. Fortunately, a different TV channel made once a re-run of many of the episodes of the series (though, alas, not all of them) and I could record them on video. (I´m seeing them again at this time.) One of the few things I regret about the show is that Ralph Macchio didn´t have more time to develop his character of Abby´s orphaned, neglected and tormented nephew, Jeremy, and the family didn´t get to be so understanding to him as they were to one another. (Ironically, Macchio became a star a little bit later and the other boys and girls didn´t!). The series should have been lenghtier. Anyway, it´s a pity that programmes like this are no longer made on TV and are even subjected to quips from some young and not-so-young viewers and some new TV series. This makes me feel terribly nostalgic. Thank God it ever was Friday!