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Mark Hamill Starred in Eight is Enough's Pilot Episode 44 Years Ago Today

  • On March 15, 1977, the ABC family dramedy Eight is Enough premiered on ABC, starring Dick Van Patten as newspaper columnist Tom Bradford, who had eight children with his wife Joan (Diana Hyland). It was based on the autobiography of the same name by journalist Tom Braden, and it ran for five seasons on ABC and two reunion movies on NBC. 

    This clip from the pilot episode features Mark Hamill in the role of Tom's eldest son David, who's been so at odds with his father that he decides to move out of the house, which is apparently a controversial move within the family even though he's 21 years old. Hamill left the show after the pilot episode, so he could go save a galaxy far, far away as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. He was replaced in the role by Grant Goodeve (Northern Exposure), who ended up also singing the show's theme song in the later seasons.

    Other notable alumni from the show include Willie Aames (Charles in Charge) and Ralph Macchio (Cobra Kai). 

    Hyland tragically passed away from breast cancer during the first season of the show after filming only four episodes, and her character's death was written into the storyline. She would posthumously win the Emmy that year for her role in the TV-movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, in which she played the mother of John Travolta's titular bubble boy, and then curiously wound up in a real-life relationship with him until her passing, despite being 18 years his senior at the time.

    Season 2 introduced Broadway star Betty Buckley as Abby, a tutor for one of Tom's children who became his wife by the end of the series. In the first reunion movie, Buckley was replaced in the role by Mary Frann of Newhart fame. 

    The show ended on a sour note when it was was canceled in 1981 and Van Patten was never contacted. He apparently only found out when he read about it in the newspaper, which is not the way a person should find out they're out of a job.

    Andy Hunsaker has a head full of sitcom gags and nerd-genre lore, and can be followed @AndyHunsaker if you're into that sort of thing.

    TOPICS: Mark Hamill, ABC, Eight is Enough