by Herbie J Pilato
The melodic opening theme music. The movie-stars-turned-sitcom-mom-and-dad. Dragnet meets Father Knows Best. One of TV’s first dramedies. Opie Taylor before Richie Cunningham.
The Smith Family, created by Edmund Hartman and Bob Sorrentino, had it all of that and more.
Premiering January 20, 1971, on ABC as a mid-season replacement, this unique half-hour series was part family comedy/part police show. Executive-produced by Don Federson, of My Three Sons and Family Affair lore, and directed by Herschel Daugherty, The Smith Family ran for two years until June 7, 1972.
Renowned and obscure, the series brought cinematic legend Henry Fonda to television on a weekly basis as Detective Chad Smith, who was married to the always pleasant and welcoming home engineer Betty Smith, played by former film actress Janet Blair.
Chad and Betty lived in a quaint Los Angeles suburb with their three children:
Darlene Carr was the practical-minded, college-bound Cindy Smith, Ron Howard was the relatively-rebellious but always respectful Bob Smith, and Michael-James Wixted was Brian Smith, the rambunctious youngest son.
Though Wixted never acted again, Carr would go on to play Karl Maldon’s TV daughter on The Streets of San Francisco and make several TV guest-star appearances. Howard, in his first major role since The Andy Griffith Show, would enjoy even more pop-culture status in front of the camera on Happy Days.
After the 11-year-run of that iconic series (ABC, 1973–1984), he switched creative gears and became one of the feature-film-world’s most prominent, respected, and Oscar-winning directors….
Writer/producer Herbie J Pilato is the host of the TV talk show THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, now streaming on Amazon Prime and the author of several pop-culture/media tie-in books. He has been part of TVWriter™ for over 20 years and is Contributing Editor Emeritus. Learn more about Herbie J HERE