When Harry’s youngest daughter Emily returns home for an extended visit, her free-spirited antics melt her father’s heart — as well as give him heartburn!
Original Air Date:
January 2, 1993 – Season Five – Episode #107
Richard Mulligan as Dr. Harry Weston / Kristy McNichol as Barbara Weston / Dinah Manoff as Carol Weston / David Leisure as Charley Dietz / Park Overall as Nurse Laverne Todd / Paul Provenza as Patrick Arcola / Lisa Rieffel as Emily Weston
Andrew Hill Newman as George / Gian-Carlo Scandiuzzi as Gianni / Richard Tanner as Male Singer
Emily, Harry’s third daughter, bursts in the door unannounced, stunning Harry and Carol. Having left college to travel the world, Emily explains that she is home for a while to work through some boyfriend difficulties.
Carol immediately concerns herself with Emily’s “boyfriend problem” and sets up a date for Emily with the stable yet boring George. Carol’s matchmaking plans are thwarted, however, when Emily discovers a hidden artistic side to George and inspires him to quit his job as an actuary to pursue his art interest full time.
Emily apologizes to Harry for not staying in closer touch, but still refuses to reveal the details of her boyfriend trouble to her father or sister. As Carol is imagining the worst, Emily receives a visit from Gianni, a rich, educated, handsome man from Italy who wants to make Emily the queen of his villa. As Emily sends Gianni away, Carol cannot believe that this is Emily’s “problem.”
Concerned, Harry senses Emily’s confusion and suggests she stay at home for a while. Emily agrees, but realizes she first has to clear things up with Carol, who is embarassed for trying to give advice to her seemingly perfect little sister. Emily explains that her life is not as great as it looks, and admits it might be nice to have a big sister around. Once again, Harry has two grown daughters under his roof to look after.
The unexpected departure of Kristy McNichol early in the fifth season led producers to begin casting the role of Emily. Despite frequent mentions over the years, including the opening scene of the pilot episode, which featured Harry talking to Emily via phone, the character had never appeared on screen prior to this episode. In his Return to the Nest interview with this website, Associate Director Doug Smart said, “Yes, we had the character of Emily from the very beginning, but she was never seen, kind of like Norm’s wife Vera on Cheers or Carlton the doorman on Rhoda: a character that was never seen but was there. So the producers decided that, owing to Kristy’s absence, perhaps it was time to materialize this third daughter, Emily.”
Lisa Rieffel was only 17 years old at the time she was cast to play Emily, who was supposed to be 23. Rieffel was a recognizable face at the time, having appeared in such shows as The Cosby Show, The Trials of Rosie O’Neill, Ann Jillian and The Thorns.
Producers at first thought McNichol’s departure was going to be temporary. While she remained in the show’s opening credits throughout season five, McNichol and Rieffel never appeared together onscreen. Ultimately, Rieffel appeared in a total of 13 episodes throughout the second half of season five. When the show was retooled for the sixth season, Emily was said to have returned to college.
Both David Leisure and Smart spoke well of Rieffel’s stint on the show in their Return to the Nest interviews. Said David Leisure, “Lisa Rieffel was a great kid. She had the impossible job of becoming the third sister after Kristy McNichol left the show. She was very good, but it didn’t work out.” Smart added, “Lisa was a very sweet and talented young lady, and it was a difficult situation to place her in, because I think the audience really grieved Kristy’s absence. They had seen Kristy grow up on Family and she was sort of like America’s sweetheart, so when she wasn’t there the audience grieved her absence. So Lisa was put in a very tough situation, but she was a complete professional who did everything that was asked of her and more.”
Lisa Rieffel to Join Cast of “Empty Nest” – Official production company press release announcing Lisa’s casting as Emily Weston.
Emily Flies Back to the Nest on “Empty Nest” – Official production company press release about the episode, including an episode synopsis and a glimpse at Lisa Rieffel’s first day on set.
Rieffel Helps Fill the “Nest” – Lisa Rieffel shares why joining “Empty Nest” after Kristy McNichol’s departure “is weird.”
Rieffel Feathers ‘Empty Nest’ – Variety reports on the show’s changes.
Down, Not Out – In this 1992 article, People Magazine reports on Kristy’s McNichol’s departure from the show, announcing that the role of Emily is being cast.
View the episode on YouTube.