by Amy K. Bredemeyer
I can't tell you how many times I've been watching 7th Heaven and someone in the rooms exclaims, "wait, who is that??" There were so many different secondary characters on that show over the years that it became near impossible to know who everyone was (and, whatever happened to them?).
The show centered around a reverend (Eric), his wife (Annie), and their children (Matt, Mary, Lucy, Simon, Ruthie, and later Sam and David). For eleven seasons and 243 episodes, they came of age in Glen Oak, CA. Matt started out a high school student, went to college, got married, had twins, and graduated from medical school. Mary played basketball for the high school team, had a variety of part-time jobs, moved to New York to try and become a firefighter, eloped, had a son and then twin girls, and became a flight attendant, later a teacher. Lucy turned thirteen in an early episode, suffered from middle-child-syndrome, dated a lot of guys, got married, had a daughter, became a minister, miscarried twins, and was pregnant with a second child at the show's end. Simon was a ten-year-old curious kid who spent high school trying to be cool, went to college a year early to escape harassment from a manslaughter he was involved in, got engaged, and was getting a degree in video production. Ruthie was a preschooler who graduated high school in the final episode, experiencing many typical problems along the way. Sam and David were born in the third season, and generally provide background humor, seeing things from the point of view of children.
With that many main characters, the supporting roles multiply quickly. Some characters stayed for years on end, while others disappeared after just a single episode (which was problematic in the early years, particularly when the children appear to have certain "best friends" but they seem to be forgotten about only a few episodes later. And while the final seasons (I pluralize because the tenth season was supposed to be the final year, but then there was a second final season) did a good job of wrapping up a lot of characters' storylines (although it got a bit extreme in the case of Christmas! in Season 11, where they brought back family members of characters that didn't make sense at times), there were quite a few people who we never heard from, even those who had large parts in early seasons (like the Hamilton family!). Robbie, Martin, and Chandler (and for the younger crowd, T-Bone) served as eye-candy for the female viewers of the show, while Roxanne certainly gathered some male viewers.
If you haven't questioned who any of those characters are, get ready for the real test...
Remember Ben Kinkirk (not Kevin)?
How about Deena?
Peter, Paris, & Vic Petrowski?
Do you know who Lou is?
George Camden? (I had to think about this one!)
My favorite episode (and my sister's for that matter) is "Simon's Home Video," which is a video essay Simon makes for his college application. He gives a good history of the Camden family, focusing on relationships and mistakes made by various characters. I actually love this episode so much that one time I moved my television so that I could see it from the shower while I got ready for whatever I was doing that night.
I can't find the entire episode, but here's the opening few minutes. To see the whole thing, it's going to be the evening episode on WGN on January 7th, 2009!