Eight is Enough

Eight is Enough

Synopsis of TV Show

Eight is Enough was originally an autobiography by columnist Tom Braden about his large family (of eight kids, but you probably guessed that). The book inspired the television show of the same name, and the real-life Bradens inspired the creation of the fictional Bradfords.

Dick Van Patten played Tom Bradford, a columnist for the Sacramento Register who had fathered eight kids with his wife Joan. Even Tom and Joan had trouble keeping track of them all and had to come up with the phrase “Never Try Eating Nectarines Since Juice May Dispense” to remember the names of Nicholas (8), Tommy (14), Elizabeth (15), Nancy (18), Susan (19), Joanie (20), Mary (21) and David (23).

Although so many characters were featured on the show, somehow the kids were able to distinguish themselves. David (played by Star Wars' Mark Hamill in the pilot) was a construction worker who acted as a second parent to his younger siblings. Mary, the oldest daughter, was a pre-med student and the realist of the family. Joanie was an aspiring actress who eventually worked for Channel 8. Susan was an athlete who eventually started her own family with minor league baseball player Merle “The Pearl” Stockwell. Obviously, such a large family doesn’t stay bored long, and in the pilot episode alone, David moved out, young Nicholas got his tonsils removed and Elizabeth was arrested for possession of narcotics.

Sadly, things quickly changed when actress who played Joan, Diana Hyland, suddenly died after only five episodes had been filmed. The show's producers wrote Joan out of the series during the first season. In the second season, it was explained that Joan had died a year ago and Tom was now a widower. Later that year, Sandra Sue “Abby” Abbott (Broadway's Betty Buckley) arrived at the house as a tutor. Soon enough, she and Tom fell in love and got married.

The Bradford children were always up to something in every episode, and usually their escapades resulted in chaos. When the kids tried to plan Tom and Abby's wedding, their plans were so over the top that the ceremony was nearly canceled. Yet Tom and Abby always seemed to manage their tight-knit clan with kindness, humor and love.

More changes followed when David married attorney Janet McArthur, and Susan and Merle had a baby of their own. Later in the series, a young Ralph Macchio (The Karate Kid) joined the cast as Jeremy, Abby's troubled nephew.

The gang regrouped for Tom’s 50th birthday in 1987’s Eight is Enough: A Family Reunion, with Mary Frann (Newhart) as Abby. Two years later, the family came home again in An Eight is Enough Wedding, in which David married a second time. This time the honors of playing Abby went to Sandy Faison, and Merle was played by Dick’s real-life son, James Van Patten.

Given the extraordinarily large cast of regulars (most shows feature an average of seven, by the way), it wasn’t hard to find someone in the Bradford family with whom you could relate. And while the show was never saccharine, the family always loved each other, and as evidenced by their famous family-bonding football games, they worked as one.

Release History of Prime Time Show

3/15/77 - 8/29/81 ABC

TV Sub Categories


Television Network


Television Studio

Lorimar Productions

TV Cast

Tom Bradford Dick Van Patten
Sandra Sue 'Abby' Abbott Betty Buckley
Merle "The Pearl" Stockwell (1979-81) Brian Patrick Clarke
David Bradford Grant Goodeve
Big Bud Henderson Forsythe
Mary Bradford Lani O'Grady
Joannie Bradford Laurie Walters
Nancy Bradford Dianne Kay
Joan Bradford (1977) Diana Hyland
Eliot Randolph James Karen
Susan Bradford Susan Richardson
Elizabeth Bradford Connie Needham
Jeremy Andretti (1980-81) Ralph Macchio
Tommy Bradford Willie Aames
Nicholas Bradford Adam Rich

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