By Chaz Lipp

Long before shows such as 7th Heaven or Full Houseprovided their respective generations with a TV family to rally around each week, Eight is Enough warmed hearts and tickled funny bones for five seasons. The first of those aired in 1977 and consisted of just nine episodes. Initially the series centered on the parents of the Bradford family, Tom (Dick Van Patten) and Joan (Diana Hyland), as they raised their eight children. In a tragic turn of events, Hyland passed away following a battle with breast cancer after shooting only four episodes. Obviously the dynamic of the series would never be the same, but the comedy-drama continued.

The second season was also the first full season, running for a total of 26 episodes in 1977-78. All are contained on two volumes recently issued by Warner Archive. Part one is a four-disc set containing the first 14 episodes, while part two is a three-disc set containing the remaining 12 episodes. It’s kind of an odd strategy. Who wants one part without the other? Even stranger is the retail pricing of the sets on the Warner Archive website. They offer each part separately or both together as “The Complete Pack.” You might expect a price break for buying the two parts together at the same time. As of this writing, it’s cheaper to buy parts one and two individually (at $22.46 each) than “The Complete Pack” (at $49.95).

All of that aside, the second season of Eight is Enough finds the newly widowed Bradford family patriarch in search of a new bride. He finds his new spouse-to-be fairly quickly after his son Tommy (Willie Aames) breaks his ankle after being tackled by a family friend in what was supposed to be casual game of touch football. That’s kind of a roundabout set-up, but Tommy’s tutor during five weeks away from school turns out to “the one” for Tom Sr. The tutor, Sandra Sue Abbott (Betty Buckley) – better known as Abby – becomes the new Mrs. Bradford in a very special two-part episode less than a third into the season.
The ensemble cast is the show’s greatest strength. With eight kids of various ages, there are plenty of plot lines to go around. Grant Goodeve, as David, is suitably earnest as the big brother who lives outside of the parents’ home. On the other end of the age spectrum, regular scene stealer Adam Rich played the youngest of the Bradford kids, Nicolas. I mentioned Full House earlier for good reason. Rich actually looks remarkably like a young Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (he acts a little like they did at his age, too).

The little tyke gets himself into a bit of hot water during another special two-parter, “Yes Nicoloas, There is a Santa Claus.” That episode also gives the kids a chance to express how much they miss their mother, as it’s their first Christmas without her. It’s all tastefully done family drama, with a somewhat annoying laugh track to boot (kind of odd for a show that is more drama than comedy). Another season highlight is the final episode, in which the Bradfords stage a benefit for a local orphanage. David, initially resistant to participate, closes the show with a rendition of what became the show’s own theme song beginning with the third season.

Warner Archive’s presentation of the 26 episodes is very consistent. The show, framed at its original broadcast ratio of 1.37:1, looks very clean and sharp throughout the season. There are no special features. Even if you weren’t there the first time around, it’s hard not to develop a soft spot for Eight is Enough. It’s certainly not edgy or controversial, but the writing and acting is strong enough to keep it entertaining.
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