TV classics: Valerie’s Family: The Hogans
USA 1986-91, six seasons, 110 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, NBC and CBS, color. Cast: Valerie Harper, Jason Bateman, Jeremy Licht, Luis Danial Ponce, Josh Taylor, Edie McClurg, Sandy Duncan.
Plot summary: Valerie Hogan is a mother of three boys who know how to keep her on her toes, especially in the absence of her husband, an airplane pilot.
Review: A couple of days ago, I read (like many of you I presume) about Valerie Harper’s current struggle with brain cancer. Upon processing these sad news, I immediately remembered the shows I saw with her as I was growing up: The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda and, predominantly, Valerie. Starting in 1986, the actress starred in the now famous family show as Valerie Hogan, a mother of three boys whose idiosyncrasies seemed to increase as soon as their pilot father (Josh Taylor) had taken off to yet another international destination. Never shy of parental advice, witty comebacks and organizing skills, Valerie managed her boys with a mix of independence and charm. She was not exactly a housewife but later worked from home in order to better meet her family’s needs. David (Jason Bateman), her oldest son, always challenged her patience while Mark and Willie (Jeremy Licht and Danny Ponce) added trouble of their own to their mother’s daily tasks and duties.
Although a family program, Valerie (as the title may suggest) originally focused on the mother of the Hogan family, her life and struggles. Within the first two seasons, however, the show slowly shifted into a more adolescent direction and had a closer look at the three teenage brothers. Simultaneously, the comedy writers adopted a more realistic tone and thus paved the way for unexpected changes that occurred in season three when the female lead was axed from her own show. As a result of revenue issues, Valerie Harper’s character was killed off in a car accident and left her screen family in a state of shock. With Michael Hogan (Josh Taylor) stepping up to take care of his children, eagerly supported by his sister (Sandy Duncan) or their quirky neighbor Mrs. Poole (Edie McClurg), the show was aptly renamed Valerie’s Family: The Hogans. While the show found a successful way to cope with the sudden loss of their named star, Valerie Harper herself sued the network and production company for breach of contract. In response to the ongoing dispute behind the scenes, the actress’ name was completely dropped from the title by the end of season three and for its remaining seasons, the program was simply called The Hogan Family.
Although slowly declining in the audience’s favor after the transition from Valerie Harper to Sandy Duncan as the female head of the family, the show also broke ground by touching topics such as safe sex and AIDS. Unfortunately, however, the Hogans did not recover from switching networks from NBC to CBS in 1990 and was thus finally canceled in 1991 without a proper series finale. Today, selected episodes are available on Youtube and in occasional reruns. A DVD release has not yet been announced but fans of the show don’t give up hope for their childhood classic to finally be made available. Even though The Hogan Family took the path of many of its peers and went downhill towards the end of its run, the show still brings back good memories of a time when family entertainment was still a pivotal part of evening programming. With its iconic theme song and wonderful cast, the series has stood the test of time with old fans and new ones alike. Enjoy the pilot here and judge for yourselves. If you liked the show as a child, I’m sure you’ll fall in love with it again. Thank you, Valerie Harper, for bringing back the memories despite the sad circumstances. It’s shows like these that will keep you alive and healthy in our hearts forever.