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Family Ties is a television sitcom that aired on NBC for seven seasons, from 1982 to 1989. The sitcom reflected the move in the United States from the liberal 1960s and 1970s to the neoconservatism of the 1980s.<ref name=museum/> This was particularly expressed through the relationship between Young Republican Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox) and his hippie parents, Elyse and Steven Keaton (Meredith Baxter-Birney and Michael Gross).

President Ronald Reagan once stated that it was his favorite television show.<ref name=museum>The Museum of Broadcast Communications: Family Ties</ref>


File:Family Ties.jpg
Cast of Family Ties from a later season. (From left to right) Justine Bateman, Michael J. Fox , Meredith Baxter, Michael Gross, Brian Bonsall, and Tina Yothers

The first season of the show (1982–1983) established its central premise. During the early years of the Reagan administration, Elyse and Steven Keaton (Meredith Baxter-Birney and Michael Gross) are baby boomers and liberal Democrats<ref name=museum/> raising their three children Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox), Mallory (Justine Bateman), and Jennifer ("Jen") (Tina Yothers) in suburban Columbus, Ohio.<ref>Nation's split is part of Ohio's fabric</ref> Married in 1964, Elyse, an independent architect, and Steven, a manager in a local public television station, were hippies during the 1960s. According to the first season episode "A Christmas Story", they were influenced by John F. Kennedy and thus participated in the Peace Corps when Alex was born in 1965. Mallory was born while they were students at the University of California, Berkeley in 1967, and Jennifer was born the night Richard Nixon won his second term in 1972.

<ref>What he left behind: From Tom Clancy to Alex P. Keaton, Ronald Reagan's legacy extends beyond the political and into the cultural</ref> While the youngest, Jennifer (an athletic tomboy) shares the values of her parents, Alex embraces Reaganomics and consequent conservative values. He is a Young Republican who worships President Ronald Reagan and is a fierce supporter of Richard Nixon and William F. Buckley Jr.; Mallory is a more traditional young woman, in contrast to her feminist mother.<ref name=museum/>

In the Museum of Broadcast Communications entry for Family Ties, Michael Saenz argues that,

few shows better demonstrate the resonance between collectively-held fictional imagination and what cultural critic Raymond Williams called "the structure of feeling" of a historical moment than Family Ties. Airing on NBC from 1982 to 1989, this highly successful domestic comedy explored one of the intriguing cultural inversions characterizing the Reagan era: a conservative younger generation aspiring to wealth, business success, and traditional values, serves as inheritor to the politically liberal, presumably activist, culturally experimental generation of adults who had experienced the 1960s. The result was a decade, paradoxical by America's usual post-World War II standards, in which youthful ambition and social renovation became equated with pronounced political conservatism. "When else could a boy with a briefcase become a national hero?" queried Family Ties' creator, Gary David Goldberg, during the show's final year.<ref name=museum/>

The show ended in 1989 after Alex graduates from nearby Leland College, leaves home for the first time, and moves to a career on Wall Street. Over a decade later, when Michael J. Fox left his next series Spin City, his final episodes made numerous allusions to Family Ties. Michael Gross (Alex's father Steven) is a therapist for Michael Patrick Flaherty (Michael J. Fox)<ref>Putting His Own Spin on ‘City’s’ Season Finale</ref> and there is a reference to an off-screen character named "Mallory".<ref>Shales, Tom. "Michael J. Fox, Playing 'Spin City' to a Fare-Thee-Well." Washington Post, May 24, 2000, C1.</ref> After Flaherty becomes an environmental lobbyist in Washington D.C., he meets a "conservative congressman named Alex P. Keaton."<ref>Michael J. Fox Database</ref>

In a March 3, 2008 article for The New York Times, Gary David Goldberg (the creator of Family Ties) speculated that in the year 2008 Alex P. Keaton would be an independent rather than a Republican, and would vote for Barack Obama.<ref name=do>Comedy Stop: What Would Alex Keaton Do?</ref>

Cast and characters

File:Michael J Fox Tracy Pollan2.jpeg
Michael J. Fox with Tracy Pollan at the 40th Emmy Awards in August 1988 shortly after they were married

The show had been sold to the network using the pitch "hip parents, square kids",<ref name=slate>Reagan's Favorite Sitcom: How Family Ties spawned a conservative hero</ref> and the parents were originally intended to be the main characters. However, the audience reacted so positively to Michael J. Fox's character Alex P. Keaton during the taping of the fourth episode that he became the focus on the show.<ref name=museum/><ref name=slate/> Fox had received the role after Matthew Broderick turned it down:

At the time, the show's producers felt Fox was simply too short for the gig. To make the point, NBC Entertainment Chief Brandon Tartikoff asked the show's creator Gary David Goldberg if he could imagine Fox's face on a lunchbox. Some years later, after Back to the Future, Fox's face did find its way to lunchboxes--and he was sure to send one to Tartikoff, with a note attached that reportedly read: "Dear Brandon, this is for you to put your crow on. Lots of Love, Michael J. Fox." Rumor has it Tartikoff kept the lunchbox in his office for the rest of his NBC career.<ref>Star Misses: 10 Career-Changing Roles That Weren't</ref>

Supporting cast and characters included neighbor Erwin "Skippy" Handelman (Marc Price), Mallory's boyfriend artist Nick Moore (Scott Valentine), Alex's feminist artist girlfriend Ellen Reed (Tracy Pollan who later became Michael J. Fox's real-life wife). Fourth child Andrew (Brian Bonsall) was eventually added to the cast.

Several Hollywood stars appeared on the show before they were famous; Tom Hanks appeared during the first and second seasons as Elyse's younger brother Ned,<ref name=slate/> Geena Davis portrayed an inept housekeeper, Courteney Cox was Alex's girlfriend Lauren at the end of the series, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus portrayed a lawyer on the two-part episode "Read It and Weep".



Selected awards

Emmy Awards

  • 1988: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (Michael J. Fox)
  • 1987:Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (Michael J. Fox);Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series; Outstanding Technical Direction
  • 1986: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (Michael J. Fox)

Golden Globes


In 1989, Michael Gross appeared on The Pat Sajak Show as a guest to discuss the ending of Family Ties. According to The New York Times:

Mr. Sajak asked Michael Gross of Family Ties what was going to happen to the Keatons in this, their last scheduled season. Mr. Gross: "I hope they die in a plane crash." He later explained that he would not like to see them being brought back for phony reunions.<ref name="NYT">Template:Cite web</ref>

While there has not been a "reunion show", the cast did come together for the first time in 18 years on February 7, 2008 for an interview on the Today show.<ref name="today show">Template:Cite web</ref>

DVD releases

CBS DVD has released the first four seasons of Family Ties on DVD in Region 1.

DVD Name Release Date Ep#
The Complete First Season February 202007 22
The Second Season October 92007 22
The Third Season February 122008 24
The Fourth Season August 52008 28
The Fifth Season TBA 30
The Sixth Season TBA 28
The Seventh Season TBA 26


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External links