The Hogan Family
was a Dom Com
that, known also in earlier incarnations as Valerie
and Valerie's Family (The Hogans)
, aired on NBC
from 1986-1990, and on CBS
The series originally was built as a starring vehicle for Valerie Harper, whose best known role beforehand was as the title character in the 1970s sitcom Rhoda
. Set in Oak Park, Illinois, Valerie Hogan (Harper) was a career woman (the owner of an auction house and later, a graphic designer) whose airline pilot husband, Michael (Josh Taylor, who concurrently starred on Days of Our Lives
), was frequently gone, meaning she had primary responsibility of raising the couple's three sons: 16-year-old David (Jason Bateman
), and 12-year-old twin sons Willie and Mark (Danny Ponce and Jeremy Licht). Valerie had a couple of best friends, but the one that stuck around was the busybody (but very sweet) next-door neighbor Patricia Poole (Edie McClurg).
Things went according to form during the early years, but in the spring of 1987, Harper and producer/boyfriend Tony Cacciotti became embroiled in a bitter dispute with Miller/Boyett over a decision to shift the focus of the show's stories to a comedic focus (with teen heartthrob Bateman being the major part of the plan). Eventually, Harper was fired ... and Valerie Hogan (along with her best friend, Annie) was promptly killed in a car accident sometime during the summer of 1987.
Fall 1987. Enter Sandy Duncan, the petite actress with plenty of comedic timing, to take over ... not as Valerie Hogan (remember, Val and her friend were sent to Heaven
) but as Michael's kid sister, Sandy. Sandy took a job as guidance counselor at the high school David attended; the series was re-titled Valerie's Family
with the subtitle The Hogans
used in the main titles. The focus of several episodes during the 1987-1988 season focused on Val's passing and their grief, but none made such a profound impact as the episode "Burned Out." The consummate House Fire
episode, the storyline is sparked (literally) by a poorly made lamp stored in the attic developing a short circuit and catching fire; the fire remains small enough for several hours but by the time the Hogans are getting ready for bed, Sandy smells smoke and alerts Michael, who upon investigation immediately evacuates the house; the fire eventually spreads through the rest of the house and causes major damage. Many keepsakes and mementos of the family's were destroyed in the attic and second floor, but the piece having the greatest emotional effect was a charred framed photo of Valerie, which David found in his room. Upon finding it, he broke down in tears; Sandy comes in and, comforting David, shares his grief. The Hogans stay with the Pooles (Willard Scott had a guest role as Mrs. Poole's husband, Peter) while their home is repaired. The episode — financed and sponsored by McDonalds — well-received by critics and fans alike, not only for the safety aspect but presenting a reality some families face in dealing with grief: losing a loved one, and not long thereafter a fire destroys most, if not all, of the mementos of that person.
In the summer of 1988, to distance the series from the now long-departed Harper, dropped the name Valerie completely from the title: The series was now known as The Hogan Family
. Stories shifted back to typical family situations, many with comedic bents, although some were deadly serious. Two of those stories focused on David's best buddy, Rich (Tom Hodges): One where David locked a drunken Rich in the closet during a house party to keep him from driving drunk (during the 1987-1988 season, not long after Val died), and in one of the last original episodes ... this one, where Rich does die (of AIDS). In 1990, Michael and Sandy's newly-divorced father, Lloyd (Jonathan Hillerman), moves in with the family ... at the same time the series moved to CBS. That and other changes did nothing to stop a slowly diminishing audience, and the series ended its run in the summer of 1991.
Roberta Flack provided the soulful vocals to the theme song, "Together Through the Years." In syndication, all episodes are known as The Hogan Family
This show provides examples of:
- An Aesop: While most had standard happily-ever-after morals, Valerie (and its successors) often twisted this trope. A prime example is the second-season episode "Leave it to Willie," which turned the standard "happy ending" on its head; Willie (an ardent fan of a Leave It to Beaver-type show, where everything always works out in the end) steals his dad's car to go for a joyride with a buddy, is involved in a hit-and-run and keeps silent about the ordeal ... even when Valerie confronts David about taking the car and causing the accident. David eventually finds evidence (a Cheeto) to incriminate Willie, who keeps quiet. Then, he sees another episode of his favorite show, where the main protagonist is involved in a similar scrape (Harper and Ponce playing out the "happy ever after ending" he envisions). When he sees that telling the truth will absolve him, he figures he has nothing to lose and comes clean with Valerie. Only this time, Valerie is not relieved, but very angry with Willie that he lied (by keeping quiet and not coming forward when asked earlier) and allowed David to take the blame. She ultimately grounds him from going to a party, but worse says she has lost trust in him ... and that's even before his dad — Taylor does not appear in this episode — finds out.
- Channel Hop: From NBC to CBS (for its last season).
- Christmas Episode: Which also turned out to be the very last episode of the series.
- Content Warnings: The second-season episode "Bad Timing" — one of the first American DomCom episodes to address "safe sex" — had parential guidance discretion advisories aired before the show's opening credits, as well as during commercials (either "safe sex" PSAs or birth-control products). The episode itself, where David and his girlfriend consider having sex and use the word "condom" in the discussion, was well received by fans and critics alike as an honest, if not frank, discussion many teen-age couples have about sex. (And yes, David and the girlfriend decide not to have sex.)
- The Danza: Applied to the first two seasons, when the title character was present.
- And for the rest of the series, applied to Sandy Hogan, played by Sandy Duncan.
- Directed by Cast Member: Jason Bateman directed three episodes.
- House Fire: See series description for explanation.
- McLeaned: The character of Valerie Hogan, in a car accident (after Valerie Harper was fired after a well-publicized off-screen feud with Miller/Boyett).
- Missing Mom: Starting in the fall of 1987 (upon Harper's departure).
- Thematic Theme Tune
- Very Special Episode