A YEAR IN THE LIFE was such a critically acclaimed show, with so few people watching, that NBC used to run promos advertising this fact. One such promo had a woman in an office, while people all around her were talking about the show. The promo said to tune in to see what people were talking about.
Sadly, none of these promos worked and the show, one of the best dramas of the 80’s, was cancelled after one season.
A YEAR IN THE LIFE began as a three part, six hour miniseries in the Spring of 1987. It followed a family in Seattle. Richard Kiley and Eva Marie Saint were the parents. They had several grown children, and grandchildren.
The miniseries covered just what the title implied, a year in the life of the family. One of the families was going through a divorce, another was pregnant, a son was breaking up with his fiance, and the black sheep of the family was trying to get his life in order.
Critics loved the show and it ended up winning the Emmy for Best Mini-series that Fall, when the show was turned into a weekly series.
The show aired Wednesday nights at 9 P.M., before St. Elsewhere (which was created by the same team, Joshua Brand and John Folsey).
I’ll be honest, the only reason I watched the mini-series was because in the TV Guide ad for it I saw that one of the stars was Amanda Peterson, then the girl from EXPLORERS. I was already a fan then. The summer after the miniseries aired, before the series began, she made a little film called CAN’T BUY ME LOVE. On her promotion tour for that film, she talked about YEAR becoming a series and I was already setting the VCR. (NOTE: You can read much more about Amanda in my piece here).
But even if she wasn’t in the show (and she only played a small part as one of the Kiley’s grandkids), this was truly one of the great series of the decade.
A YEAR IN THE LIFE had one of the great theme songs of the decade. Well, two of them actually. The mini-series used almost the same footage but a slightly different (and I think better) piano theme.
The cast was superb. But sadly, it wasn’t much of a jumping off point for many of them.
Wendy Phillips, who played Amanda’s ex-hippie mom, has turned up on BIG LOVE recently, but that is one of the few times I have seen here. She was excellent in this.
Jayne Atkinson also has shown up in TV recently (in 24) but also spent years doing mostly stage work.
Morgan Stevens was on MELROSE PLACE but hasn’t acted since 1989. Trey Ames hasn’t acted since the early 90’s. I’ve written about what happened with Amanda. And very sadly, David Oliver passed away in 1993.
There was one star from the show, Sarah Jessica Parker. At the time, she was still “the girl from SQUARE PEGS”. Heck, she is STILL “the girl from SQUARE PEGS” to me, but she would go on to do a lot more, starring on some cable show.
And, Adam Arkin would join the creators on their next show, NORTHERN EXPOSURE.
This is one show that I would LOVE to see on DVD. A full season, with the miniseries, could be released. There may be some music rights issues (U2’s “With Or Without You” was played memorably in one scene and I remember several Steve Winwood songs), but I’d pay more. I believe it is with Universal.
A YEAR IN THE LIFE only aired for a year, but it won’t be forgotten by those who saw it.