The Baxters

The Baxters is an American-Canadian sitcom that aired as a syndicated series from September 1979 to August 1981. The original American incarnation of the series aired locally from 1977 to 1979 on the Boston station WCVB; in 1979, Norman Lear took over production, and a recast version aired nationally in the 1979-80 television season. Facing cancellation, the series was then acquired by a Canadian firm who moved the production to Toronto, Ontario and recast it again, and lasted one more season as a Canadian series before ending its run in 1981.

The Baxters
Season 1 title card
Created byHubert Jessup
Developed byNorman Lear
StarringSeason 1:
Larry Keith
Anita Gillette
Derin Altay
Chris Petersen
Terri Lynn Wood
Season 2:
Sean McCann
Terry Tweed
Marianne McIsaac
Sammy Snyders
Megan Follows
Theme music composerMarvin Laird
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes50
Executive producer(s)Season 1:
Norman Lear
Season 2:
Chet Collier
Producer(s)Season 1:
Fern Field
Richard J. Clayman
(associate producer)
Season 2:
Wendell Wilkes
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time25 minutes
Production company(s)T.A.T. Communications Company
(season 1)
Wilks and Close Productions
(season 2)
BBI Communications
DistributorT.A.T. Communications Company
(season 1)
BBI Communications
(season 2)
Original networkSyndicated
Picture format480i (SDTV)
Original releaseSeptember 1979 (1979-09) 
August 1981 (1981-08)

The series was the first "interactive" sitcom, depicting a middle-class St. Louis family. Each 30-minute episode was split into two parts; the first half was a vignette dramatizing the events in the lives of the Baxter family, and the second was a live studio audience "talk show" segment where audiences were given the opportunity to participate and voice their opinions about the issues raised in that week's episode.


The Baxters were an "average" middle-class family living in a suburb of St. Louis. Fred Baxter (Larry Keith) was an insurance salesman and Nancy (Anita Gillette) a housewife and mother. Naomi (Derin Altay), was their adopted 19-year-old daughter, Jonah (Chris Petersen) was their 14-year-old son, and their youngest, Rachel (Terri Lynn Wood) was their 10-year-old daughter. The series followed the Baxter family as they dealt with various important and, in some cases, controversial, issues of the day. In one episode they were faced with whether to commit Mother Baxter to a nursing home; in another, whether the fact that Jonah's teacher was a homosexual would harm their son; and in another, Fred faced a dilemma over whether to turn a small, money-losing apartment house he owned into condominiums, thus forcing out some of the tenants.

The second season featured an all new cast as another Baxter family; Jim Baxter (Sean McCann) became a schoolteacher and his wife Susan Baxter (Terry Tweed) returned to work. Their kids were now 19-year-old Allison (Marianne McIsaac), 14-year-old Greg (Sammy Snyders) and 10-year-old Lucy (Megan Follows). The format, however, was essentially the same.

Unlike most other sitcoms, each episode was open-ended, the first half of each episode being a vignette featuring the Baxter family and presenting a situation or dilemma they faced, and the second half, an "instant analysis" talk-show format, giving a live studio audience and guests a chance to talk about the topic being presented. Stations carrying the show could choose between producing their own discussion segments locally, or presenting a national version of the segment which, during its first season, was produced in Los Angeles, and in its second season, Toronto. The discussion moderator in the second segment was different in each city, and in some local markets, viewers were invited to call in and voice their reactions.


Season 1 (1979-1980)

Season 2 (1980-1981)



The program originally began as a local production at WCVB-TV Boston, in early 1977, where it had been created by a former divinity student named Hubert Jessup as part of his Sunday morning public-affairs show.[1][2][3] Jessup persuaded station management to try it in the early evening, where it gained a loyal following.[3] During the WCVB-produced seasons, before syndication, the initial cast was primarily composed of local Boston actors.

After two seasons as a local show in Boston, producer Norman Lear offered to produce the program in Hollywood and put it into nationwide syndication for the 1979-1980 season.[4][5] For the Lear incarnation of the series, the show was re-cast with nationally known actors including Larry Keith, Anita Gillette and popular teen actor of the time, Chris Petersen (credited by several online sources, including IMDb, as "Chris Peterson", but this is a misspelling).[4][5][6]

The show was slated to end production after its Lear-produced season due to poor ratings performance.[7] However, the show was then acquired by a Canadian firm, Wilks and Close Productions, who moved the production to Toronto and recast it with Canadian actors — including Sean McCann, Terry Tweed and child actors Sammy Snyders and Megan Follows[8] — playing a different version of the Baxter family.[7] Lear withdrew from the production at this time. In Canada, the show's broadcast and syndication was handled by CHCH-TV, an independent station in Hamilton, Ontario which was emerging as one of Canada's leading distributors of syndicated programming,[7] while American distribution rights reverted to its original creators in Boston. The retooled version, however, also lasted only a single season before ending production in 1981.


  1. "The Baxters - Fuzzy Memories TV". Retrieved 2011-03-24.
  2. "Herbert Jessup - Newton Free Library". Retrieved 2011-03-24.
  3. "The Complete Directory to Prime Time TV Shows". Ballantine Books. October 2007.
  4. "The Baxters - IMDb". Retrieved 2011-03-24.
  5. "The Baxters - TV Guide". Retrieved 2011-03-24.
  6. "The Baxters - Yahoo! TV". Retrieved 2011-03-24.
  7. "Canadian Baxters aims to do better". The Globe and Mail, August 14, 1980.
  8. "The Baxters -". Retrieved 2011-03-24.
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