Sons and Daughters


CBS called this drama series nighttime television’s first continuing love story. It was based on a March 1974 telefilm. The series depicted the complicated lives of two high school seniors falling in love mid-1950s as well as the lives of their friends and families. Critics felt the series showed promise but viewers didn’t tune in and it was cancelled two months into the 1974-1975 season. Only nine episodes were produced and aired.

The Pilot Telefilm

In early March 1974, Broadcasting published a list of nearly 100 pilots in contention for the upcoming 1974-1975 season. CBS had 26 pilots in play, the fewest of the networks. Among them were several 90-minute pilots to be broadcast as made-for-TV movies, including one from Universal Productions called Senior Year. Among the other pilot telefilms were Manhunter, Dr. Max and The Family Kovac [1].

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CBS broadcast Senior Year from 9-10:30PM on Friday, March 22nd, 1974. Set in the mid-1950s, it starred Gary Frank and Glynnis O’Connor as high school students Jeff Reed and Anita Cramer. The two attended Southwest Senior High School in an unnamed town in an unidentified state [2]. Jeff was relatively popular, played baseball and had dated a number of girls. He had a younger brother named Danny, played by Michael Morgan. His parents, Lucille and Paul, were played by Jay W. MacIntosh and Dana Elcar.

Jeff’s best friend was Stanley “Stash” Melnyk (played by Scott Colomby). He was a bit rougher than Jeff, something of a tough guy who often wore a leather jacket, copied homework from anyone and everyone, and had a strained relationship with his father. Another good friend was Murray “Moose” Kerner (played by Barry Livingston), who was smart but insecure and very awkward around girls. Rounding out the group was Charlie Riddel (played by Lionel Johnston), who like Jeff was fairly straight-laced.

Anita had moved to town a month earlier with her parents Ruth and Walter, played by Jan Shutan and John S. Ragin. She soon began making friends and met Jeff. At the start of Senior Year, Jeff and Anita were about to go out on their first date. It involved a pep rally, a stop at the diner where everyone from school hangs out, and then a trip to Inspiration Point went to make out.

Jeff and Anita’s budding romance was interrupted by Anita’s discovery that her mother had been having an affair. The family had moved in an attempt to put some distance between Ruth and the other man she had fallen in love with. But it didn’t work. With the affair out in the open, the next day Ruth walked out. Shortly thereafter, Jeff’s father died suddenly of a heart attack, throwing his family into turmoil as well.

With his father gone, Jeff took on more responsibility at home, balancing the checkbook and trying to help handle Danny, who wasn’t dealing well with the loss of his father. At one point things got heated and Jeff slapped Danny during an argument. Meanwhile, Anita tried to come to terms with her parents separating as well as the anger she felt towards her mother. The two bonded over their grief.

Jeff apologized to Danny and the brothers, united by brief and determined to support their mother, took the first steps towards accepting their father’s passing. Likewise, Anita and her mother talked and Anita was able to begin moving past her anger. Ruth announced she was moving to Omaha with her lover.

Subplots included Moose starting to date Evie Martinson (played by Debralee Scott), a girl with a bad reputation, and an underclassman named Cody (played by Christopher Stafford Nelson) who continually tried to show up the senior class.

Reviewing Senior Year for The Boston Globe, Percy Shain compared the telefilm to American Graffiti, noting it “started off as a typical teenage lark, but quickly turned serious.” Although Frank and O’Connor were said to have “set up nice vibrations,” Shain felt “the relationships in general were unnatural and forced, the soap opera overtones seemed out of place, and the story never lifted into reality” [3].

Benjamin Stein of The Wall Street Journal compared the telefilm to recently introduced Happy Days, suggesting CBS was attempting to copy the tone and feel of ABC’s new hit sitcom [4].

Senior Year was produced by David Levinson, written by M. Charles Cohen and directed by Richard Donner. Original music was composed by James Di Pasquale. CBS rebroadcast Thursday, August 22nd, 1974.

Added To The CBS Schedule & Retitled

CBS announced its 1974-1975 schedule on April 19th, 1974, the same day NBC announced its new fall schedule [5]. A weekly series based on Senior Year was thought to have potential and was given the Wednesday 8-9PM time slot. The series, also to be called Senior Year, would replace The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.

All three networks were making an effort to move away from violent programming in favor of shows that focused more on family. Cancellations were said to be based both on poor ratings and on the desire to find the next hit family friendly series like The Waltons or Happy Days [6]. In late April, The New York Times gave Senior Year, The New Land and Little House on the Prairie as examples of shows the networks felt represented the “traditional wholesome values of America” [7].

Glynnis O'Connor and Gary Frank as Anita Cramer and Jeff Reed
Glynnis O’Connor and Gary Frank as Anita Cramer and Jeff Reed – September 7th, 1974
Copyright © TV Guide, 1974 [1]

Broadcasting, on the other hand, after reviewing the schedules of all three networks, determined that “the expected rash of Waltons-type family dramas failed to materialize,” with three on NBC and one each on ABC and CBS [8]. CBS, of course, already had The Waltons and thus didn’t need to replicate it so badly.

Senior Year actually pre-dated The Waltons (which premiered in September 1972). David Levinson had approached NBC with the concept in 1971, offering it as an eight-part miniseries, but the network passed. He then went to Fred Silverman at CBS who felt a two-hour telefilm was more appropriate [9]. According to Gary Frank, NBC turned it down because “it didn’t have the audience ‘insurance’ of action, like train wrecks and chases, to carry it through” [10].

In early July, Percy Shain reported that the title of the series had been changed to Sons and Daughters [11]. Glynnis O’Connor explained that “we didn’t want to be seniors for the rest of the series, if it catches on, so the name was changed” [12]. Said Levinson, “I don’t want to end up like ‘Room 222′ with a bunch of 30-year-old sophomores”. Three years from now, our kids will be different. Not like ‘Marcus Welby’ where they’re still operating on patients the same as seven years ago [13].

A New Kind Of Television Series?

Sons and Daughters, CBS declared, was a “new-type series” and “nighttime television’s first continuing love story” [14]. Levinson admitted that the series sounded like a soap opera but felt “the only way to protect against prime-time soap opera is very good writing. The only difference between soap and drama is in the writing” [15].

Levinson preferred to think of the series as featuring progressive storytelling, explaining that “events move ahead from week to week, as in a soap opera but the difference is in the quality of the writing” [16]. Episodes would be “very emotional, in the context of the relationships we have set up, a death in his family, a divorce in hers” [17].

Gary Frank as Jeff Reed
Gary Frank as Jeff Reed

In addition to calling it a prime time or nighttime soap opera, critics referred to Sons and Daughters as a continuing melodrama or simply semi-serialized. It was also mockingly called a teenage version of Peyton Place. Jerry Buck of the Associated Press wrote “like a soap opera, the story carries over from one episode to another. What is only an incident in one show may be blown up into a full episode a few weeks later” [18].

Prior to Sons and Daughters, Levinson had produced The Virginian, The Bold Ones: The Senator (which he won an Emmy for in 1971), Sarge and The Bold Ones: The New Doctors. He had also executive produced the critically acclaimed made-for-TV movie A Case of Rape. He bristled at the suggestion that he was following those with “a teen-age ‘Peyton Place’,” telling Jerry Buck of the Associated Press:

This is the point where I may get up and walk away. I’m amazed — no, not amazed, offended — at the number of knocks this show has gotten before it even went on the air.

Where is it written you have to keep on doing the same thing? I did “The Senator.” I did “The Bold Ones.”

What I’m trying to do, what interested me, was the chance to do a drama that wasn’t life and death. We’re trying to do simple emotional drama.

People keep asking me what I’m doing on a show like this. I may fall on my butt. But I’d sure as hell rather be doing this than another cop show. [19]

He argued that Sons and Daughters was the most challenging show he had worked on because “you haven’t got a lot of normal things to fall back on that you have in other series. I don’t have any life and death situations. You can’t have someone go into a coma or have someone stalking around trying to kill one of the teen-agers” [20].

(Ultimately, an episode of Sons and Daughters did end up featuring a character in a coma.)

The 1950s Weren’t All Happy Days

Sons and Daughters was, according to Levison, “the flip side of ‘Happy Days.’ That show says it was fun being a teenager in the 1950s. I was 16 years old then and it wasn’t fun. We’re trying to reflect that” [20]. He insisted that if the series was “derivative of anything, it would be ‘Red Sky at Morning,’ not ‘American Graffiti,’ and certainly not ‘Happy Days,’ which is a piece of fluff” [21].

Gary Frank felt “the atmosphere of the ’50s is not as important as the problems of the people. Quite basically, the show deals with growth — maturity — versus sophistication. It isn’t to be a Time-Life parade of the 1950s. Twenty years ago the scope of a teenager’s horizon wasn’t as broad as today, so we’ll concentrate on their growth as persons” [22]. Levison agreed, insisting that the series wasn’t just about nostalgia. “It’s there, in the background, but if anybody wants to hear the songs of the ’50s, he can go to a record store” [23].

Glynnis O'Connor as Anita Cramer
Glynnis O’Connor as Anita Cramer

Episodes would deal with sex as openly as possible. “I recall the ’50s as a period with a great deal of talk about sex and little practice,” said Levinson. “Of course, the CBS censors believe kids really were brought by the stork. It was a horrible period for kids. If a girl wanted to hold onto a guy, she was afraid to hold out. But if she said, ‘Go ahead,’ he was scared and didn’t know what to do. We’ll get into sex, but we won’t go to war weekly with the CBS censors” [24].

In addition to the expected vintage clothing and cars, both the pilot telefilm and weekly series featured a variety of references to 1950s pop culture that helped place them in the proper historical context. Music heard in Senior Year included “Shake, Rattle and Roll” by Bill Halley, “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly, “Chantilly Lace” by the Big Bopper. One of the characters mentioned The $64,000 Question and another was shown watching See It Now. A movie theater marquee shown in the background of some scenes displayed The Seven Year Itch, which was released in 1955.

Episodes of Sons and Daughters included references to Sid Ceaser, the recently ended Korean War and the 1954 movie Sabrina, plus a “just the facts” joke from Dragnet.

Critics See Potential

In its May 27th issue, Broadcasting published an article discussing advertising agency predictions for the 1974-1975 season. Ad buyers were said to be “high on” Sons and Daughters (at that point still titled Senior Year), with one noting it “blends a mixture of family drama and comedy that came off quite well in the pilot. Besides, it’s steeped in the currently popular vein of nostalgia for the fifties” [25].

Frank S. Swertlow, reviewing the series premiere for United Press International, called it “a well written and acted television show.” At its best, he said, it was American Graffiti without the music, while at its worst “it dips into schlock nostalgia.” He felt Sons and Daughters differed from Happy Days because like American Graffiti it “focuses on the human element, rather than on the props of the 1950s.” He did criticize moments of “schlock theater” and the “all-wise parent of ‘Father Knows Best’” but ultimately felt the premiere was “so good at points that [it] escapes the ’50s and could have taken place in any era” [26].

The Toledo Blade‘s Norman Dresser called the premiere “a rather soggy saga” and “somewhat disappointing” that featured a plot stretched to fill an hour [27]. Nevertheless, he felt the series had promise:

This is because, despite some very soap-operish interludes, the series boasts of two attractive and appealing young leads, Gary Frank and Glynnis O’Connor, and a competent supporting cast. Although the story gets pretty soppy and soapy at times, there are a few genuinely touching moments.

[...]

The script alternated between being preposterous and perceptive, but the tortures of teen-age love were occasionally dealt with realistically. An added plus was the honest depiction of the tensions created between the girl and her divorced parents, who still feel strong bonds between them. Chalk up “Sons and Daughter” as not quite a winner, but capable of a run in the stretch. [28]

Percy Shain of The Boston Globe compared the series to Peyton Place but called the premiere “gentle, heart-tugging soap opera, not the hard kind featured in the daylight hours.” He also praised Frank and O’Connor, calling them “well suited in the key roles,” and despite featuring an “idealized kind of existence” the episode was “rather winning in its innocence and naivete” [29].

Debralee Scott as Evie Martinson
Debralee Scott as Evie Martinson

Also making a Peyton Place comparison, as well as one to American Graffiti, was John J. O’Connor of The New York Times. The plot, he wrote, “thickens, or depending on your mood, curdles” but scenes of ice cream cones and playgrounds betrayed “an undercurrent of ominous reality.” The result was “sticky” according to O’Connor, and the premiere’s necessary introduction of characters and situations “downright glutinous.” Nevertheless, he felt “the cast and production are generally attractive, and the series should give younger viewers a reasonable alternative to those interminable car chases on teh action-adventure series” [30].

Likewise, The Chicago Tribune‘s Gary Deeb, despite writing that the premiere was “badly blemished by heavy overtones of soap opera, and the story line is woefully thin, slow-moving and a bit-far fetched in spots,” concluded that Sons and Daughters “holds great promise as a quaisi-novelistic venture and has the definite potential to grow into another phenomenon like The Waltons.” And Morton Moss of the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner called the premiere “dignified, sound and sincerely felt narrative” [31].

But there were a few negative reviews. “Don’t watch this one after eating anything not likely to stay down,” warned Terrence O’Flaherty of the San Francisco Chronicle. And the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Harry Harris called the premiere “callow” and “TV to squirm by,” arguing “everything ends happily–for everyone but discriminating viewers” [32].

A Very Quick Cancellation

CBS rebroadcast Senior Year on Thursday, August 22nd, 1974. Sons and Daughters premiered three weeks later. In its 8-9PM time slot the series competed with two other new shows, NBC’s Little House on the Prairie and ABC’s That’s My Mama (plus the first half of the ABC Wednesday Movie of the Week). All three shows premiered on Wednesday, September 11th, setting the stage for a three-way battle for viewers eager to sample new programs.

The series would be followed by Cannon from 9-10PM and another new show, The Manhunter, from 10-11PM. Fred Silverman, CBS-TV vice president for programming, suggested both had “good survival chances” because they would be facing new shows on ABC and NBC. Why he felt that automatically meant his network’s new shows would perform well was never explained [33].

As the 1974-1975 season got underway, Broadcasting predicted that Cannon would “prove a strong enough anchor for CBS on Wednesday for the two shows that will be adjacent to it.” NBC, which was premiering three new shows on Wednesday evening, was hoping Little House on the Prairie would prove a strong lead-in for the rest of its line-up. If it failed, Broadcasting suggested, NBC’s entire night would collapse [34].

As for ABC, it hoped to improve its Wednesday ratings with a strong lead-in as well and premiered That’s My Mama a week prior to the official start of the season in order to draw viewers. But Broadcasting felt the series was doomed due to poor reviews [35].

Scott Colomby as Stanley 'Stash' Melnyk
Scott Colomby as Stanley “Stash” Melnyk

When national Nielsen ratings for the first week of the 1974-1975 were released, NBC was proven correct. Little House on the Prairie was a hit, ranking 9th for the week out of 59 shows. That’s My Mama ranked 39th and Sons and Daughters 47th [36, 37]. The following week, Little House on the Prairie fell somewhat, ranking 18th out of 61 shows, while Sons and Daughters slipped slightly to 52nd; bucking the trend, That’s My Mama moved up to 35th [38].

The premiere episode drew a 16.2/26 Nielsen rating while the second episode sank to a 14.3/25. The show’s two-week average 25.5 share of the audience was far behind the 38.0 share for Little House on the Prairie as well as the 31.5 share for That’s My Mama (the ABC Wednesday Movie of the Week averaged a 32.5 share from 8:30-10PM in its first two weeks of the season) [39].

By the end of September, CBS was already talking about replacing Sons and Daughters, which was one of two weak spots on its schedule (the other was the under-performing Planet of the Apes on Fridays). Its likely replacement was Tony Orlando and Dawn, a variety series that had debuted over the summer [40].

On October 7th, Broadcasting reported that Sons and Daughters was one of three CBS shows all but certain to be cancelled, along with Planet of the Apes and Apple’s Way [41]. Percy Shain reported on October 9th that CBS had halted production on the series after its ninth episode was completed [42]. And on October 12th, The New York Times reported that Tony Orland and Dawn would debut on December 4th [43].

On October 16th, CBS officially cancelled Sons and Daughters. All nine episodes produced would air, with the last set to air on November 6th. The network would fill the next three weeks with a pair of specials featuring Sandy Duncan and the Osmond Brothers, plus a repeat of The Thanksgiving Treasure, and then premiere Tony Orland and Dawn as planned on December 4th [44].

Commenting on the cancellation in late October, Jan Shutan revealed that the cast tried to stay optimistic about the show’s chances by noting that it took Bonanza a while to draw an audience. But the atmosphere was nevertheless pretty negative as production wound down. “CBS wanted a kids show and from what I hear the network still likes the format,” she explained. Reportedly, the network had hoped to draw both younger and older viewers but wasn’t getting the older ones, who were watching Little House on the Prairie instead [45].

The Episodes

The entire cast of Senior Year returned for Sons and Daughters and Laura Siegel was added to it, playing Anita’s best friend Mary Anne Coburn. That made for a total of ten regular characters. Despite having announced she was moving to Omaha at the end of the pilot, Anita’s mother Ruth remained in town and got a job at a bookstore. Christopher Stafford Nelson guest starred in a handful of episodes as underclassman Cody, the role he had also played in Senior Year.

As David Levinson had explained, Sons and Daughters featured continuing story lines involving all of its characters. Chief among them of course was the relationship between Jeff and Anita. Others included Anita’s strained relationship with her mother and the Reed family learning to live without their father. The characters regularly hung out at a drive-in called Hogies and a diner called Kelso’s.

The series picked up a month after Senior Year and the two were celebrating their one-month anniversary. In the premiere (“The Locket,” aired September 11th) Jeff decided to purchase an expensive necklace to mark the occasion. Imagine his shock when Anita refused to take it.

Gynnis O'Connor and Gary Frank as Anita Cramer and Jeff Reed
Gynnis O’Connor and Gary Frank as Anita Cramer and Jeff Reed

Still distraught over the breakup of her parents’ marriage, Anita was worried that taking the necklace meant she was too important to Jeff, that it obligated her to stay with him, that their relationship would fall apart just like her parents’ had. After a talk with her father, who advised her to take a chance on happiness even if she might potentially get hurt, she changed her mind and gladly accepted the gift. In a a nice touch of continuity, Anita was seen wearing it throughout the remainder of the series.

There were two subplots in the premiere. Danny offered to go to the store to buy the necklace for his brother, only to lose the money Jeff had begged and borrowed from all his friends, forcing him to steal it. Meanwhile, after learning that Anita had refused to take the necklace, Stash, Moose and Charlie decided to throw a stag party to cheer up Jeff, which meant Moose had to rent a dirty movie.

In the second episode (“Anita’s Reputation,” aired September 18th), Anita was delighted to learn she would be receiving the Ellen Skylar Award, given to the outstanding female student at Southwest High, despite objections about her family situation. However, after Mary Anne’s mother spotted Jeff and Anita outside a motel (Jeff’s car had broken down and they were calling a tow truck), the award was rescinded due to the implication that the two had spent the night together. Mary Anne was also forbidden to see Anita.

Jeff’s attempt to talk to Mary Anne’s mother didn’t help, and he later got into a fight with someone from school who made a comment about motels. He then tried to convince Anita to play the piano at the school open house as planned, arguing it would show everyone that she wasn’t the girl they thought she was. Although her father thought it was a bad idea, Anita eventually agreed, and despite the awkwardness both her parents went to support her.

The plan worked. Despite initial indifference from the audience and hitting a wrong note, Anita’s performance and the fact that she was brave enough to show her face in public rehabilitated her image. Mary Anne’s mother admitted she was ashamed that she had judged Anita. A subplot in the episode involved Cody placing red lights on his car to impersonate a police car and scaring all the seniors off Inspiration Point. Later, Stash, Moose and Charlie got their revenge.

The death of Jeff’s father in Senior Year was revisited in the third episode (“The Runner,” aired September 25th), which saw a corrupt track coach turn into something of a surrogate father for him. The coach only cared about winning and doped his runners with amphetamines without their knowledge in order to guarantee they did win. Jeff enjoyed winning and enjoyed the attention but his relationship with Anita began to suffer because he was so exhausted from running.

Moose, who served as manager for the track team, learned about the amphetamines and overheard the coach call Jeff “second rate.” Moose told this to Anita but Jeff wouldn’t believe her. Moose even quit as manager but Jeff still wouldn’t listen. He eventually confronted the coach, ran without the drugs and did not do well. A subplot involved Charlie losing money making various bets with Stash, including betting on Jeff’s games.

Anita and Jeff’s mother, Lucille, came into conflict in the fourth episode (“Lucille’s Problem,” aired October 2nd). Depressed and feeling aimless, Lucille began acting hostile to Anita’s presence in Jeff’s life. She eventually realized she felt threatened by Anita because Jeff and Danny were all she had in the world. She decided she needed her own life, which meant getting a job. Unfortunately, Lucille hadn’t worked in 18 years and didn’t have any skills.

She was able to get a job as a waitress in a diner but lied to Jeff and Danny, telling them she worked in an office. She wasn’t any good and was let go. Jeff and Danny eventually found out and, after a long talk, Lucille realized that even without a job, she was her own person and Anita wasn’t any sort of threat. A subplot involved Mary Anne and Charlie working on a President Eisenhower’s reelection campaign with Lucille.

The fifth episode (“The Accident,” aired October 9th) veered into true soap opera territory. Stash accidentally hit Lucille with his car after she stepped out into traffic without paying attention. Her injuries were severe, there was the potential for brain damage and she was in a coma. Jeff and Danny, struggled both with the prospect of losing their mother so soon after their father died and the fact that Stash was the one driving the car that hit her.

As Jeff and Danny waited for news from the hospital, things with Stash became tense. He tried to stay away from Jeff and even sneaked into Lucille’s hospital room to apologize. Although Lucille began to improve, Danny wanted to make Stash pay. He threw a rock through a window at Stash’s house and later slashed the tires on his step-father’s car. After Jeff had to lie to a police officer to protect Danny, Anita confronted Jeff about Danny’s actions and Jeff’s own feelings towards Stash.

He caught Danny outside Stash’s house again and and convinced him to stop, explaining that they couldn’t be consumed by their anger and that Stash already felt terrible. He then confronted Stash and the two came to terms with what had happened. Later, Stash apologized again to Lucille, who was fully conscious and on the mend. A subplot involved Moose trying to talk to Stash about what happened and Evie and Mary Anne deciding to cook dinner for Jeff and Danny.

Moose and Evie took center stage in the sixth episode (“The Rejection,” aired October 15th) when Moose’s father forbade him from seeing Evie, calling her cheap. Upset, Evie went out with an old boyfriend and after coming home late her father threw her out of the house, calling her a tramp. Evie moved in with Anita and her father and got a job at Hogies so she could afford to move to New York City with her sister (who was also thrown out of the house).

Moose, meanwhile, confronted first his father and then Evie’s father. He told his father he was going to see Evie no matter what and he convinced Evie’s father to forgive his daughter and let her to move back home.

In the seventh episode (“The Pregnancy,” aired October 30th), Jeff’s former girlfriend Julie, played by Linda Purl, revealed to Jeff that she was pregnant and didn’t know what to do. He confronted the father, who refused to accept responsibility, and tried his best to help her. When word got out, Anita began to worry that Jeff was getting too involved. After Julie told her parents Jeff was the father, her father insisted that Jeff do the right thing and marry Julie.

Jeff refused, even after Julie’s father promised to pay for his education and take care of his mother and brother. Her father then insisted that Julie have an abortion and Jeff decided he had no choice but to offer to marry her. Ultimately, Julie went off to a home for pregnant girls, uncertain whether she’d keep the baby or be able to repair her relationship with her parents.

Anita finally met Jerry Michaelis, the man her mother left her father for, in the eighth episode (“The Invivation,” aired October 30th). Dabney Coleman guest starred as Jerry. Ruth invited Anita and Jeff to dinner, promising that Jerry would be out of their apartment. But Jerry, tired of the tension in their relationship, showed up unexpectedly. Anita refused to have anything to do with him and bitterly rejected her mother as well.

Jan Shutan as Ruth Cramer
Jan Shutan as Ruth Cramer

Jerry went to Jeff to ask for help connecting with Anita. Jeff suggested that Jerry help out with the senior class car rally because they needed an adult to supervise. Ruth called Walter and asked him to dinner, which led Walter and Anita to think perhaps Ruth wanted to get back together with him. Instead, she wanted to talk about Anita. Afterwards, Walter got drunk and confronted Jerry at the car rally, punching him in the face.

Realizing that Anita just won’t accept him, Jerry decided to leave town temporarily. But Jeff convinced Anita that rejecting Jerry was only hurting her mother and that while Walter was mad at Jerry, Anita was mad at her mother. With that out in the open, Anita was ready to try to get to know Jerry and accept the fact that her parents were never getting back together. A subplot involved Cody sabotaging the car rally and Stash, Moose and Charlie getting their revenge.

In the ninth and final episode (“The Tryst,” aired November 6th), Jeff and Anita decided to take their relationship to the next level. Beforehand, Anita had a talk with her mother and Jeff had a chat with Stash. Anita even did some research at the library. The two were later confronted by the vice principal while kissing in a stairwell. Holding hands was permissible but not kissing. She later gave Anita a stern talking to.

Undeterred, Jeff and Anita lied about going to a movie and instead went to a motel. But they couldn’t go through with it. Not knowing exactly where that left their relationship, Anita had another talk about sex with her mother. Jeff talked with his mother as well, having discovered earlier that his parents had had pre-marital sex. They decided they could keep their feelings in check and wait until the time was right. A subplot involved Stash kissing Evie and Moose refusing to listen to Stash’s apology.

Epilogue

Had Sons and Daughters not been cancelled so quickly, the series likely would have continued to explore the various relationships between the characters. Several of the characters had yet to really be developed, particularly Danny, Mary Anne and Charlie. In an August 1974 article, Gary Frank referred to 24 story outlines, suggesting basic plots for the entire season had been developed [46].

Jeff and Anita and their friends would no doubt have graduated from Southwest High at the end of the season. If it had then been renewed for a second season, the series would have followed their lives after high school. There was talk in one episode of Jeff planning to attend college and Anita not knowing what she wanted to do after graduation. Jeff probably would have gone to college nearby so he could stay close to his family.

Following its cancellation, Universal Television edited the final four episodes of Sons and Daughters into a pair of telefilms: Love Is Not Forever featured “The Rejection” and “The Tryst” while Teenage Lovers consisted of “The Pregnancy” and “The Invitation.” Along with the pilot telefilm Senior Year, the three made-for-TV movies were syndicated to local stations and cable.

The Sons and the Daughters
The Sons and the Daughters

Exterior scenes of fictional Southwest High were filmed at John Burroughs Junior High School in Los Angeles. Other exteriors were filmed at Universal Studios. Interior sets were constructed at the General Service Studios sound stages in Hollywood [47].

A novelization of Senior Year, written by William Johnston, was published by Ballantine Books under the title Sons and Daughters.

Works Cited:

1 “Many pilots are called, but few are chosen.” Broadcasting. 4 Mar. 1974: 18.
2 Although many sources indicate Senior Year and Sons and Daughters were set in Stockton, California, no mention was made of the setting in either the pilot telefilm nor the series. In fact, the series appears to have gone out of its way to avoid identifying where it took place.
3 Shain, Percy. “Pilot season at flood tide but choices at low ebb.” Boston Globe. 25 Mar. 1974: 39.
4 Stein, Benhamin. “When Growing Up Was Not Absurd.” Wall Street Journal. 26 Mar. 1974: 17.
5 Shain, Percy. “NBC kills 14 shows, CBS cancels 7.” Boston Globe. 20 Apr. 1974: 19.
6 Brown, Les. “TV Programming for Fall Cuts Down on Violence.” New York Times. 20 Apr. 1974: 65.
7 Brown, Les. “Fall TV Schedule: Old Formulas, New Time Slots.” New York Times. 27 Apr. 1974: 63.
8 “Housecleaning in prime time as networks issue line-ups.” Broadcasting. 29 Apr. 1974: 16.
9 Shain, Percy. “Acting tyros series stars.” Boston Globe. 3 Nov. 1974: A5.
10 Benbow, Charles. “Television’s time machine at work again in two series.” St. Petersburg Times. 22 Aug. 1974: 3-D.
11 Shain, Percy. “Court ruling leaves TV schedules in shambles.” Boston Globe. 9 Jul. 1974: 43.
12 Benbow, Charles. “Television’s time machine at work again in two series.”
13 Shull, Richard. “This Nostalgia Show Will Change as It Goes Along.” Lakeland Ledger [Lakeland, FL]. Television sec. 15 Sep. 1974: 22.
14 [Press Release]. “Young Love Scorned in Nostalgic Drama of Growing Up in the ’50s on Premiere of New-Type Series, ‘Sons and Daughters,’ on Sept. 11.” CBS Television Network Press Information. 19 Aug. 1974.
15 Shull, Richard. “This Nostalgia Show Will Change as It Goes Along.”
16 Shain, Percy. “Acting tyros series stars.”
17 Ibid.
18 Buck, Jerry. “‘Sons and Daughters’ is Flip Side of ‘Happy Days’.” Lewiston Daily Sun [Lewiston, ME]. Associated Press. 21 Sep. 1974: 23.
19 Ibid.
20 Ibid.
21 Ibid.
22 Shain, Percy. “Acting tyros series stars.”
23 Benbow, Charles. “Television’s time machine at work again in two series.”
24 Buck, Jerry. “‘Sons and Daughters’ is Flip Side of ‘Happy Days’.” 25 “Agencies lay heavy odds on CBS’s fall line-up, but see tight race for second place.” Broadcasting. 27 May 1974: 18-19.
26 Swertlow, Frank S. “Two nostalgia entries — one good, one weak.” Tonawanda News [Tonawanda, NY]. United Press International. 10 Sep. 1971: 25.
27 Dersser, Norman. “Preview of 3 New Wednesday Shows.” Toledo Blade. 11 Sep. 1974: P-6.
28 Ibid.
29 Shain, Percy. “What’s new on the screen? life in the 1870s and 1950s.” Boston Globe. 11 Sep. 1974: 41.
30 O’Connor, John J. “TV: 1870, 1950 or 1974? New Shows Up on the Times.” New York Times. 11 Sep. 1974: 90.
31 “Prime-time viewing: the critics’ choices.” Broadcasting. 16 Sep. 1974: 18.
32 Ibid.
33 “No recession at networks: sold out in new season at high rates.” Broadcasting. 16 Sep. 1974: 17.
34 Ibid.
35 Ibid.
36 “Rhoda Debut Tops National Nielsens.” Los Angeles Times. 19 Sep. 1974: H22.
37 Sharbutt, Jay. “‘Rhoda tops week’s new shows.” Herald Statesman [Yonkers, NY]. Associated Press. 19 Sep. 1974: 26.
38 Shain, Percy. “Hope show a bit tired; ratings show ABC slide.” Boston Globe. 26 Sep. 1974: 67.
39 “Trouble enough to go around as networks assess results of first two rating weeks.” Broadcasting. 30 Sep. 1974: 19; 20.
40 Ibid., 18.
41 “Nine newcomers, two holdovers head for plank at networks.” Broadcasting. 7 Oct. 1974: 16.
42 “Shain, Percy. “Sandy Dunca’s performance adds luster to Crosby special.” Boston Globe. 9 Oct. 1974: 35.
43 Brown, Les. “Variety Shows to Make Winter Comeback on TV.” New York Times. 12 Oct. 1974: 64.
44 Shain, Percy. “CBS cancels Sons, Daughters.” Boston Globe. 17 Oct. 1974: 52.
45 Witbeck, Charles. “Jan Shutan Gave It Whirl But…” Leader-Herald [Gloversville-Johnstown, NY]. King Features Syndicate. 30 Oct. 1974: 9.
46 Benbow, Charles. “Television’s time machine at work again in two series.”
47 “‘Sons, Daughters’ Returns to the 1950s.” Florence Times-Tri Cities Daily. 6 Sep. 1974: 24.

Image Credits:

1 From TV Guide, September 7th, 1974, Page 45.

Originally Published October 24th, 2004
Last Updated June 28th, 2013

27 Comments

  • Don Hiland says:

    Glad to have come across this site regarding Sons & Daughters. I remember it well, having watched every episode when they originally aired. I was very sorry to see it disappear, as quickly as it did, from the television schedule. I have always thought it was a mistake… that it would have done very well if it had been given more time. It will always be one of my all-time favorite series. I’m sure there are many others like myself, who enjoyed and remember “Sons & Daughters”.

  • Penelope Foley says:

    Regarding the series “Sons and Daughters”, my husband and I both enjoyed the series and looked forward to watching it each week. We were afraid that it might be canceled, and we often commented that anyone seeing the first episode “The Locket” might have switched to another program. “The Locket” was not as dynamic as the rest of the episodes. In fact, it was kind of boring. Levinson made a mistake when he made that the first episode. He lost his audience. After watching the first show, even we questioned whether we would watch again, but we gave it a second chance. Glynnis O’Connor and Gary Frank did a great job acting in “Sons and Daughters.” We started watching “Family” because Gary Frank was in it. I would buy the series if it came out on DVD.

  • RGJ says:

    Penelope, thank you for your comments about Sons and Daughters (and to Don, who posted last year). This show is one of my personal favorites and I very much wish the few episodes that were made were available on DVD. It seems unlikely, though, but we can hope.

  • J. Swanson says:

    Thank you so very much for this webpage as a tribute for “Sons and Daughters.” I was only 9 when the show debuted (as such, I couldn’t have hoped to understand the discussions of pre-marital sex or the ramifications of repressive 1950s sexual mores, et al). Even so, I remember that I liked the show because I had a tremendous affinity for the 1950s as a child, and “Sons and Daughters” treated the 1950s seriously where “Happy Days” didn’t. I remember VERY well the episode when Jeff’s mother dropped Danny off at the barbershop and went to run some errands–and then she was struck by a car driven by one of Jeff’s schoolmates! The camera focused on Danny’s serious face–that’s all you could see as he got out of the barber’s chair, still wearing the barber’s sheet–and found his mother lying on the pavement outside with a crowd around her. I also recall another episode when “Evie” went on a date and because she wouldn’t go “all the way,” her date made her walk home. Evie’s Dad then threw her out of the house for coming home late (as I understand it now, he didn’t want his daughter to be “promiscuous”).

  • Carol Brisson says:

    I always think back to “Sons and Daughters” as being one of the best sitcoms on TV in the early 1970′s. I thought that the stories were relevant to teenage problems in the 1950′s. I loved the characters and the actors, especially Gary Frank and Glynnis O’Connor. I couldn’t wait until the show came on I loved it so much. When it suddenly ended I was “shocked” and very disappointed. It was not a silly comedy like “Happy Days”…it was real and believable. I would definitely buy the whole nine episodes if it were available on DVD.

  • Janice Pearcy says:

    I also loved this show. I was a senior in high school and couldn’t wait for Wednesday night to watch. It really covered some relevant issues for the 50′s as well at the 70′s. I would love to see them again.

  • Rob R says:

    I was 14 years old and staying up late to complete an 8th grade science project when I saw the TV movie “Senior Year.” The affiliate in Houston had delayed it to a late night time slot for some reason. It was one of the first times I was drawn to an “adult-type” show. I thought Gary Frank was cool and Glynnis O’Connor was sweet and pretty. When the series came on in September, I watched every episode and even recall making audiotapes with my casette recorder. I loved the theme music and to this very day, I can recall it and have it running in my head. P.S. I always preferred “The Waltons” to “Little House on the Prairie.”

  • Evelyn M says:

    I came across this site while doing a search to see if Senior Year was available on DVD. The movie was filmed in Stockton Ca and I was an extra and stand in for Glynnis O’Connor during filming. A friend and I heard about the casting for extras; at that time we were so fascinated with the 50′s and dressed that way all the time even attending school in the attire. So needless to say we were thrilled when we went to the audition, dressed in our poodle skirts and saddle oxfords and was chosen for the movie. This was so much fun and several other friends from the high school drama club I was in also were chosen as extras. Those of us that were 18 or older got to do the filming that took place after 10pm and continued until the next morning. We had more fun than you could imagine, got to see first hand how movies were made and hang out with the cast. I have such fond memories of this movie that became the pilot for Sons and Daughters.

  • Craig says:

    I was 13 when I saw the pilot for this wonderful show. It had a gentleness to it that most shows lack today. I also remember the theme song and occasionally hear it in my head. Glynnis O’Connor periodically pops on TV these days, most recently on episodes of “Law & Order”. Thank you for this tribute page!

  • Jim says:

    I remember Debralee Scott better as Mary Hartman’s sister, and for her frequent appearances on “Match Game.”

  • Christine says:

    I loved the show Sons and Daughters. I was in high school when the showed was aired and watched it every week. I would love to see it again. I would definitely buy it on DVD! That was not mindless television!!!

  • Jim says:

    I remember the show and was very sorry to see it taken off the air. Show cover real world issues and made you think.

  • Arthur says:

    This show is the reason I hated Happy Days…..Sons and Daughters was a drama that showed life in the 50s. Morality, very serious issues and fine acting. Happy Days was a moronic sit-com that had 70s hairstyles and was truely an embarresment. The fonz going ayyyyyyy was almost enough to make me hate my name! Really wish the series was somehow available for current viewing.

    • David says:

      That is funny what you say about the 1970s hairstyles on “Happy Days.” I liked the show during its first few seasons, as did so many other kids in school. The first season, which was not filmed in front of a live audience, actually was done with an attempt to at least look like the 1950s. As the years went on the production staff didn’t seem to care if it looked authentic at all. It really “jumped the shark” in that respect when there was a scene at Arnold’s Diner. I think the teenagers were decorating for a celebration of some kind. Then a teenage girl ran in with some news. She was wearing elephant bell jeans, and it was supposed to be taking place in 1958 or so. Even at the time, when I must have been about 13 or 14 years old, I just thought that they don’t even care anymore about making the show look like the period it took place.

  • ERIC PLEASANT says:

    I remember this show barely, I believe that I saw the pilot right after the series was taken off the air. I thought that it was very worthwhile and it was a shame that it simply became one of those potentials axed before it could get a start. Such is the ways of television.

  • Steve says:

    I also loved this program, I was in 8th grade when it was on, and it dealt with issues real to my age group. Thank you for posting such a great entry on the show.

  • Smittie says:

    I remember watching this show very well. I really liked it. Glynnis O’Connor was (and still is) cute. I identified with the Jeff character. I was 13 at this time. I liked the more realistic look at the 1950s. Thanks for remembering the show on this site.

  • BGL says:

    Remember watching it for the authentic portrayal of the ’50s. Was disappointed by it’s cancellation. Thanks for the recalling.

  • Don Shepherd says:

    Does anyone recall Glynnis O’Connor playing “Moonlight Sonata” on the piano in one episode of this series?

  • David says:

    This is a fantastic overview of “Sons and Daughters.” Thank you for the hard work you put into it. I remember this show. I was in seventh grade at the time, and watched it every week. I was extremely disappointed when it was canceled. I also bought the novelization of “Senior Year” by William Johnston. In fact, I may still have it packed away with some other books.

    I remember being at my brother’s little league practice on the evening it premiered. The practice was late afternoon, before dinnertime. I can still remember a couple of the mothers talking about the new shows that were premiering that night, and how there were three on at the same time. (Although I see from this article that “That’s My Mama” actually premiered a week earlier than the other two.) One of the women predicted that “That’s My Mama” would be canceled after 13 weeks. Well, her prediction was wrong, although “That’s My Mama” was not a big hit, and only lasted about halfway through a second season. It seemed such a shame that “Sons and Daughters” was not given more time to develop. However, I recall that during that period of time shows were canceled much faster than they are now. I think it got even worse in the late-1970s and early-1980s, when so many seemed to come-and-go in the blink of an eye.

  • This show might have lasted longer if it had been an Aaron Spelling production. Historically, other than “ROOM 222″, there have been very few high school programmes that lasted longer than a season, if even that long. Nothing but “90210″ has proven to truly have any endurance.

    I think the obvious problem with the success of “SONS & DAUGHTERS” is that it was scheduled against the monster that was “LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE.” It had a built-in audience of readers of the series of books that gave it an unbeatable edge over anything it was up against.

    It is notable that while veteran shows on CBS that year were once again very solid, they had a grand total of only TWO shows that were a hit that fall…”RHODA” & “GOOD TIMES.” So any programming decisions were suspect. If they had moved “SONS & DAUGHTERS” to Friday night, it surely would have done better than “PLANET OF THE APES.” With such a poor showing, it is no surprise that the chief programmer for CBS was gone the next season….straight to ABC!

    I am usually more respectful of critics, but in these cases, I have to say that that most of those whom you quoted were a collection of hacks who would not know good television if it fell on them! The modern-day continuing dramas would surely have driven them to a conniption followed by a stroke. They were very obvious in their prejudice against soap operas and apparently to embrace anything “soapy” would cause them to lose their street cred, as it were. One wonders how many of them threw their typewriters out the window after they watched “RICH MAN, POOR MAN”!

    I have to admit that I was a bigger fan of “THAT’S MY MAMA”. I did watch the episode that Linda Purl guest-starred in and was struck by how more realistic the approach was than “HAPPY DAYS”. I thought it was on-par with other contemporary dramas like “MEDICAL CENTER” and “MARCUS WELBY, MD”. But it was just the wrong timeslot for anything so edgy. As mild as it seems now, there was a definite difference in subject matter that parents would by apt to let their children watch between a story about a pregnant 50′s teen and a prairie girl who tried to help another little girl who was being made fun of….which is what we were back to watching the next week.

    At the time and forever-after, I have thought Glynnis O’Connor was just the cutest thing. But after revisiting the show with more mature eyes, I have to say that Jan Shutan actually gave her a run for her money! With her 50′s makeup, she looked like a cross between Carol Potter and Kate Capshaw. It is a mystery as to why this was her last regular job on TV.

  • Mark Edson says:

    I loved this show! I became a huge fan of Glynnis O’ Connor because of this show and the movie “Jeremy”. I was very fortunate to later meet Glynnis O’ Connor on location while she was filming a movie in the late 80′s. She was kind enough to have a quick chat with me and I had a picture taken with her.

  • Terri W-M says:

    I loved this show! I was 14 – 15 years old when it aired. I watched every episode and was saddened when the show was abruptly take off the air. They left me wondering what would happen to all these people…to Jeff and to Anita. The show must have made quite an impression on me as I remember always wanting to know how all of this came out – LOL. Quite a statement! It’s the only show in my mind that I remember so vividly being upset it was cancelled and the story discontinued. Too bad. I think given some time it would have really gathered an audience.

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