The series began as a three-part miniseries which was first broadcast in December 1986. As suggested by the title, the miniseries followed the various members of the Gardner family of Seattle during the course of one year. The major event of that year was the sudden and unexpected death of wife and mother Ruth Gardner (Eva Marie Saint).
Following the success of the miniseries, NBC decided to launch a one-hour drama series the following fall. Richard Kiley played Joe Gardner, owner of a successful plastics business and father of four adult children. The children were twice-divorced daughter Anne (Wendy Phillips), who had returned home with her two teenaged children; daughter Lindley (Jayne Atkinson) and husband Jim (Adam Arkin), parents of a newborn baby daughter; black sheep son Jack (Morgan Stevens); and conservative youngest son Sam (David Oliver), married to free-spirited Kay (Sarah Jessica Parker). Diana Muldaur was a later addition to the cast as Dr. Alice Foley, Joe Gardner's new romantic interest. Trey Ames played Joe Gardner's grandson, David Sisk.
^(Three or more parts.) TV Guide magazine, June 27–July 3, 1987, issue #1787. All figures are based on the Nielsen ratings. The rating represents the percentage of the 87.4 million TV households tuned to a station (sets watching this show). The share represents the percentage of TV sets tuned to a television station at the time of the broadcast (sets in use).