Catching Up With the Cast of 1970's "Family" - ReelRundown - Entertainment
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Catching Up With the Cast of 1970's "Family"

Rachelle is a digital content creator who enjoys playing video games in their spare time.

The Cast of Family (TV Series)

The Cast of Family (TV Series)

An early brainchild of Aaron Spelling, Family began in 1976 and ran until 1980. The show was a dramatic television series that chronicled the trials and tribulations of the Lawrence family.

Family was an emotionally charged dramatic television series, and it set a standard that most TV shows have yet to measure up to. It's been some time since Family went off the air, and now is as good a time as any to play catch-up with the beloved cast members of the iconic 70s TV show.

James Broderick

The veteran actor James Broderick played the role of Doug Lawrence, who was the fiercely dedicated patriarch of the Lawrence family,

Before Family, James Broderick was a character actor who appeared in more than fifty television projects.

He is also the father of popular ‘80s actor, and Sarah Jessica Parker’s husband, Matthew Broderick. James Broderick appeared in five other television projects since the show ended, but he succumbed to cancer in 1982.

James Broderick

James Broderick

Sada Thompson

Sada Thompson was a highly respected actress who has appeared before television cameras since the mid-1950s.

She graced the set of Family, playing the character Kate Lawrence, the ever-wise matriarch of the Lawrence family.

Since its final episode, in 1980, Sada Thompson kept herself busy with guest-starring roles in series like The Love Boat (‘90s revival version), and Law and Order.

Sada Thompson recently passed away from lung cancer on May 4, 2011.

Sada Thompson with James Broderick

Sada Thompson with James Broderick

Gary Frank

Gary Frank was the handsome young blonde actor who played Willie Lawrence, the only son in the Lawrence household (another son was deceased at the start of the show).

After the show ended, Gary Frank has continued to be a familiar face to television audiences. Gary has appeared in a multitude of television guest spots over the years.

Today, he has mostly faded into obscurity.

Gary Frank, Sada Thompson, and James Broderick on the set of Family.

Gary Frank, Sada Thompson, and James Broderick on the set of Family.

Quinn Cummings

Quinn Cummings was added to the cast in later seasons. Her role as the adopted waif, Annie Cooper, was intended to replace some of the luster lost by the fact that Buddy Lawrence (Kristy McNichol) was growing up.

When Quinn Cummings was hired on to the cast of Family, she was fresh from an Academy Award nominated performance, alongside Marsha Mason and Richard Dreyfuss, in Neil Simon’s film, The Goodbye Girl (1977).

She was looked upon as a gifted child actor and expectations for her future success were high.

However, Quinn Cummings drifted away from the Hollywood scene. Later in life, she decided to go into business as the inventor of a line of baby slings. She is also the owner of a highly enjoyable blog called The QC Report.

Quinn Cummings

Quinn Cummings

Meredith Baxter (Birney)

Meredith Baxter Birney was the spoiled older sister of the Lawrence clan, although she was married and lived outside of the house for most of the show, her presence was always felt.

Today, Meredith Baxter (sans Birney) is easily the most well-known member of the cast of Family.

She went on to another successful television role as Alex P. Keaton’s (Michael J. Fox) mom in the blockbuster ‘80s TV show, Family Ties

Baxter has managed to stay relevant over the years through her reign as one of Lifetime TV's most recurring movie stars.

Today, Meredith Baxter is in her mid-sixties and she recently caused a bit of a media stir when she announced that she is a lesbian, who has been dating women for the past seven years (Well, you go girl!).

Meredith Baxter (Birney)

Meredith Baxter (Birney)

Kristy McNichol

Leticia “Buddy” Lawrence was the undisputed focal point of this show. Although the other Lawrence family characters faced trials and tribulations that were breakthrough issues on television, Buddy’s issues were by far the most engrossing.

Kristy McNichol was surrounded by veteran actors and budding young stars, which was great for her career. However, having already had TV appearances on other programs, she was the breakaway star before the show even started.

After her four-year stint on Family ended in 1980, she went on to star in feature films like Little Darlings (1980) opposite Tatum O’Neal, and Only When I Laugh (1981) with Marsha Mason.

Kristy McNichol also went on to become a teen heartthrob and a late 1970’s, early 1980s, pop culture icon.

She had a second dose of TV fame on the Golden Girl’s spinoff series, Empty Nest, where she starred alongside Dinah Manoff and Richard Mulligan.

Sadly, for many adoring fans, Kristy McNichol retired from television after Empty Nest ended in 1995, citing a diagnosis of bipolar disorder as the reason for her departure from Hollywood.

However, she trumps Meredith Baxter in the lesbian media stir department, most people in the know have known for years that McNichol is gay.

Kristy McNichol today

Kristy McNichol today

Comments

Jim M. on May 30, 2020:

I think it is possible to have a "Family" reunion, of sorts, honestly acknowledging (as was the modus operandi of the series) the passings of "Doug Lawrence (James Broderick)" and "Kate Lawrence" (Sada Thompson) in combination with showing clips of those characters' best past moments with each other and their offspring.

Beyond that, the reunion could update things to the present day by revealing what has happened to the remaining family members since we last saw them in 1980, any children and grandchildren born and raised, eventual partners and spouses, etc. It would also be nice if at least one "Lawrence" family member could still be living in that charming large house that dedicated fans of the series will remember, part of a small Pasadena compound that included a smaller guest house, where first eldest daughter/sister "Nancy Lawrence Maitland " lived with her young son, "Timmy," and then "Willie" lived more reclusively to work on his photography and writing.

Of course there were especially great moments between "Kate" and "Buddy," who "Kate" often called "Miss Tizzie Lish" (a reference to an obscure female radio character portrayed by actor Bill Comstock on the radio show "Al Pearce and His Gang," the character usually all in a dither about one thing or another and would proceed to dictate very bad recipes, insisting listeners find a pen and paper to write them down). That show originated on KFRC, San Francisco in 1929, moved to NBC in 1933, and continued until 1947. And in "Family" mother "Kate" adored her youngest daughter and had heart-to-heart talks with "Buddy-Tizzie Lish" with a frankness that was refreshing for television, respecting the fact her energetically impulsive tomboyish daughter was on the verge of adulthood and perhaps a bit more insightful and sophisticated than others of her peers.

Equally sweet was the relationship between tomboy "Buddy" and her big brother "Willie" (who had his own pet name for her, of "Peaches"). And also heartwarming were the firm-but-gentle discussions between "Willie" and dad "Doug," both of who seemed to get around to food at some point in nearly every episode and shared a special fondness for Christmas-decorating. "Doug" was bothered by "Willie" having abandoned his high school education, yet tried to be supportive if "Willie" was at least trying to explore some kind of profession for himself.

As the series evolved to its fourth season, with "Buddy" growing into a young woman, the "Lawrence" household adopted the orphaned "Annie Cooper," an semi-introverted but precocious young girl who needed just the kind of warmth the "Lawrence" family provided. And it didn't take long before "Annie" was the kid sister to all, as if she'd been born into the family and with them all along, yet with occasional lingerings of pain and longings for her biological parents so tragically taken from her.

"Family" had its own troubled history off-screen, involving litigation between the series' alleged original creator, Jeri Emmet, and the credited writer Jay Presson Allen and executive producers, Aaron Spelling, Leonard Goldberg, and legendary comedian-turned-film-and-theatrical-director-producer Mike Nichols. Eventually the lawsuits ceased, Miss Presson Allen retaining her creative credit and two of the series' five seasons released on home video. But the remaining three seasons of "Family" have yet to be released on home video or a streaming service, the series only having sporadic airings on the Decades digital subchannel broadcast TV network.

Perhaps a strong, well-written script for a reunion of "Family" as a made-for-TV film could even result in a rebooting of the "Lawrence" family as a regular TV series for a new generation and a rebirth for the acting careers of Quinn Cummings, Gary Frank, Meredith Baxter, and Kristy McNichol, along with recurring player John Rubinstein and whoever else from the series' original production would be willing to help with a relaunched series.

From all I have read about "Family" online over the years, its many fans still miss this groundbreaking TV series and the actors who worked in it. Hey, if the equally legendary TV series' "Leave It to Beaver" and "Roseanne" could make their respective successful returns to TV, each after two decades (as they did with "Still the Beaver"/"The New Leave It to Beaver" on Disney Channel/TBS and "The Conners" on ABC), then why not a return of the "Lawrence" clan from another much-adored TV "Family?"

Jim M. on May 30, 2020:

I think it is possible to have a "Family" reunion, of sorts, honestly acknowledging (as was the modus operandi of the series) the passings of "Doug Lawrence (James Broderick) " and "Kate Lawrence" (Sad Thompson) in combination with showing clips of those characters' best past moments with each other and their offspring. Beyond that, the reunion could update things to the present day by revealing what has happened to the remaining family members since we last saw them, any children and grandchildren born and raised, eventual partners and spouses, etc. It would also be nice if at least one "Lawrence" family member could still be living in that charming large house that dedicated fans of the series will remember, part of a small Pasadena compound that included a smaller guest house where first eldest daughter/sister "Nancy Lawrence Maitland " lived with her son "Timmy,"and then "Willie" lived more reclusively to work on his photography and writing.

Of course there were especially great moments between "Kate" and "Buddy," who "Kate" often called "Miss Tizzie Lish" (a reference to an obscure female radio character portrayed by actor Bill Comstock on the radio show "Al Pearce and His Gang," the character usually all in a dither about one thing or another and would proceed to dictate very bad recipes, insisting listeners find a pen and paper to write them down). The show originated on KFRC, San Francisco in 1929, moved to NBC in 1933, and continued until 1947. And in "Family" mother "Kate" adored her youngest daughter and talked with "Buddy-Tizzie Lish" with a frankness that was refreshing for television, respecting the fact her energetically impulsive tomboyish daughter was on the verge of adulthood and perhaps a bit more insightful and sophisticated than others of her peers.

Equally sweet was the relationship between tomboy "Buddy" and her big brother "Willie" (who had his own pet name for her, of "Peaches"). And also heartwarming were the firm-but-gentle discussions between "Willie" and dad "Doug," both of who seemed to get around to food at soem point in nearly every episode and shared a special fondness for Christmas-decorating. "Doug" was bothered by "Willie" having abandoned his high school education, yet tried to be supportive if "Willie was at least trying to explore some kind of profession for himself.

As the series evolved to its fourth season, with "Buddy" growing into a young woman, the "Lawrence" household adopted the orphaned "Annie Cooper," an introverted but precocious young girl who needed just the kind of warmth the "Lawrence" family provided. And it didn't take long before "Annie" was the kid sister to all, as if she'd been born into the family and with them all along, yet with occasional lingerings of pain and longings for for her biological parents so tragically taken from her.

"Family" had its own troubled history off-screen, involving litigation between the series' alleged original creator, Jeri Emmet, and the credited writer Jay Presson Allen and executive producers, Aaron Spelling, Leonard Goldberg, and legendary comedian-turned-film-and-theatrical-director-producer Mike Nichols.Eventually the lawsuits ceased, Miss Presson Allen retaining her creative credit and two of the series' five seasons released on home video. But the remaining three seasons of "Family" have yet to be released on home video or a streaming service, the series only having sporadic airings on the Decades digital subchannel broadcast TV network.

Perhaps a strong, well-written script for a reunion of "Family" as a made-for-TV film could even result in a rebooting of the "Lawrence" family for a new generation and a rebirth for the acting careers of Quinn Cummings, Gary Frank, Meredith Baxter, and Kristy McNichol, along with recurring player John Rubinstein and whoever else from the series' original production would be willing to help with a relaunched series.From all I have read about "Family" online over the years, its many fans still miss this groundbreaking TV series.and the actors who worked in it.

Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on April 14, 2020:

Hi Karen! Indeed, Summer of My German Soldier is an awesome movie, I saw it waaaay back in the day. I wish they were running Family in syndication here in the U.S. I believe they were running it here on MeTV, but I'm not sure. I hope all is well with you in Canada! Thank you so much for your response!

Karen on April 14, 2020:

I think this is available in the US. But the Canadian channel CTV.ca has all 5 seasons on its throwback section. Currently binge watching, as addicted now as I was in the 70's. Also for the Kristy fans try to find Summer of My German Soldier, an amazing TV movie

Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on March 30, 2020:

I didn't know about the legal issues...

Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on March 30, 2020:

Me too!

Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on March 19, 2020:

Thanks for your support and input, Lynn.

Lynn on March 18, 2020:

I enjoyed this program years ago and I enjoy it even more now. I wish the whole show was on DVD. There were some legal issues with the person who originally came up with the idea for it,, I read.. so maybe that's why..,. It was very well done and relatable.... It holds up after all these years..It's a comforting show to watch...Thanks for posting Rachelle..

Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on March 10, 2020:

Do you mean Kristy McNichol? Yeah, me too. Thanks for stopping by, Kelly.

Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on March 10, 2020:

You're welcome John, I loved the show as well. Even though I had nothing in common with a middle class, white family in the 80's, I connected with the characters. I guess that is what good writing can do.

Kelly Ann Christensen from Overland Park, Johnson County, Kansas on March 10, 2020:

I would love to see her return to the screen!

Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on January 20, 2020:

Ummmm.... Okay, Yeah!

Lorraine Butler Derry New Hampshire on January 19, 2020:

Willie old friend Seth Oliver show up at the Lawerence's house for a Visit but Willie hold what he was up too

Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on December 31, 2019:

Indeed, it would be GREAT if Kristy was still acting..perhaps she'll return to the screen some day...

Kelly Ann Christensen from Overland Park, Johnson County, Kansas on December 31, 2019:

I was a kid when this show aired, but I remember it fondly. I just loved it. Thanks for the update on the actors. I'm sorry to hear that Sara Thompson died, and I really wish Kristy McNichol was still acting.

Art on June 28, 2019:

My favorite TV show2 EVER!

Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on January 31, 2019:

Indeed.

carey pettway from n/a on December 31, 2018:

I noticed kristy waited until sada thompson and james broderick to pass before she finally came out..her acting always seem so quirky and offbeat to me which endeared me to her..i downloaded the movie.."Just the Way you Are"..from youtube

..if you have a keen eye..you can notice the before and after breakdown scenes....also ironic..the actor michael ontkean says in the movie..those "eyes"are hiding something..and she reacts..he was also in a movie called "Making Love"about homosexuality in 82 before making this movie.i love her even more after watching her in this

carey pettway from n/a on December 30, 2018:

why did willie call buddy ''peaches''when she already had a nickname...and how did he keep his pants up with no belt?...i fell in love with kristy also..i went thru a unrequited love with a girl from jaipur,india who was the same height(5'3)..big brown eyes and brown hair

patty r on March 07, 2018:

loved your piece! i loved family, watched it all the time as i grew up in the 70s! Thank You for bringing a little piece of it back!

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on November 22, 2017:

Hi Rachelle...welcome to HubPages...I was truly addicted to that show. I could not miss it. Thanks for bringing us some up to date info about the real life characters. Angels are on the way to you this evening ps

Andrea M Smith on November 12, 2017:

Yes! This show needs to release ALL episodes. Like Knots Landing, it got better with every season!

Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on October 25, 2017:

No, I haven't, I wonder if there are any episodes on YouTube...I'll check..

Mike on October 23, 2017:

Hi, Rachelle,

Have you heard anything at all about the possible release of seasons 3 through5. Granted, it's still enjoyable watching seasons 1 and 2 over and over, but it would be wonderful to have the rest of the seasons available. Is there anyone to whom we can write?

Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on October 03, 2017:

John Reubenstein has been a supporting cast member on popular TV shows since the late 1960s, and he's still going strong today. You can see him currently as President Fletcher on the show, "Dear White People." You'll be glad to know that he's had a successful career :)

Susan on September 27, 2017:

And what happened to John Reubenstein ? He was the boyfriend and then husband of the Meredith B.B. character?

Mark B. on August 12, 2017:

My all favorite TV show.

Allyoop on April 07, 2017:

I'm pretty sure before and after "Family" Sada did a lot of theater. And Gary Frank's obscurity is really odd, hard to believe he isn't doing anything in entertainment and really hasn't for many, many years. Even an Emmy for himself for "Family"! Makes me think an Emmy doesn't really mean all that much.

Anas on February 19, 2015:

Hey, Grayson! You sure have great tastes when it comes to ckiooes! The Aggie cookie must have tasted really good!We are thinking about you and look forward to you getting well, heading to Texas A&M to study biology and going on to the A&M medical school to become a doctor so you can take care of sick little boys!We love you, little buddy!

Daikon on February 17, 2015:

Hi, I see that this entry is from 2010, but I am wondering if #2 disegn is currently available for purchase I absolutely love it and I have seen nothing like it anywhere else!Please let me know thank you!

Waylon J. on February 03, 2014:

I hope that the dvds for "Family" will be made available to Asian countries, because presently, it is not possible to import this TV series dvd from USA. This dvd should be made available for many Asian homes, because the presence of actress Sada Thompson makes a great impact on families and so this dvd is worth buying and keeping it as a family legacy.

michaelbell2013 on January 04, 2014:

One of my favorite TV dramas from the '70s. I used to watch the reruns that aired at noon weekdays when I was a student at Kansas University in the early '80s. Great writing and tackled weighty issues. There was a lot of talking, but I thought that was the strength of the show. Great ensemble cast when most shows focused on 1 or 2 characters.

Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on June 24, 2013:

to Jeff Maitland: First of all, I didn't mention you because you are clearly a nobody with a failed acting career. Second, the title of this hub is called "Catching up with the Cast of Family," ... most people would realize that one would mean the "principal cast" in such an instance, but even if a person were not swift enough to catch that, my hub isn't titled "Catching up with the Cast and Guest Stars of Family," so I don't know how you got confused on that one. Third, my hub was compelling enough for you to read it all the way through, and that is all it needed to be.

Charolette Stevenson on December 26, 2011:

Family was such a great show. The shows today just don't measure up. I purchased seasons one and two. Can't wait for the last two seasons to come out on DVD.

Kristin Trapp from Illinois on September 26, 2011:

Oh my gosh - I completely forgot about this television show. It's always interesting to see what's happened to the actors and actresses of these sitcoms after the shows disappear.

Alfreta Sailor from Southern California on September 25, 2011:

Very interesting hub. You really went all out with your research. I never really watched the show, but I do like your critique of it. I also didn't realize that James was Matthew Brodericks' father. Very good hub, voted up, awesome.

Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on September 25, 2011:

Yep, Family was a great TV Show. I'm glad you liked the hub, and I didn't know that Kristy McNichol was doing Dancing with the Stars...so thanks for updating me :)

Alecia Murphy from Wilmington, North Carolina on September 25, 2011:

Interesting hub. I always heard about this show, but I've never seen it in reruns anywhere. The last thing I heard about Kristy McNichol was that she was trying to be on Dancing With the Stars. I also didn't know Matthew Broderick's dad was on the show either.