Family Ties is an American sitcom that aired on NBC for seven seasons, premiering on September 22, 1982, and concluding on May 14, 1989. The series, created by Gary David Goldberg, reflected the move in the United States from the cultural liberalism of the 1960s and 1970s to the conservatism of the 1980s. This was particularly expressed through the relationship between young Republican Alex P. Keaton (portrayed by Michael J. Fox) and his ex-hippie parents, Steven and Elyse Keaton (portrayed by Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter).
Set in suburban Columbus, Ohio, during the Reagan administration, Steven and Elyse Keaton (Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter) are baby boomers, liberals and former hippies, raising their three children: ambitious, would-be millionaire entrepreneur Alex (Michael J. Fox); fashion-conscious, gossipy Mallory (Justine Bateman); and tomboy Jennifer (Tina Yothers). Married in 1964, Elyse is an independent architect and Steven, a native of Buffalo, New York, is the station manager of WKS, a local public television station.
Much of the humor of the series focuses on the cultural divide during the 1980s when younger generations rejected the counterculture of the 1960s and embraced the materialism and conservative politics which came to define the 1980s. Both Alex, and, to a lesser extent, Mallory, embrace Reaganomics and exhibit conservative attitudes: Alex is a "Young Republican", and Mallory, while not overtly political, is a more materialistic young woman in contrast to her feminist mother. Mallory was also presented as a vacuous airhead, who was fodder for jokes and teasing from her brother. Jennifer, an athletic tomboy and the youngest child, shares more the values of her parents and just wants to be a normal kid. Steven and Elyse had a fourth child, Andrew (or "Andy", for short), who was born in early 1985. Andy is the youngest, on whom Alex doted and quickly molded in his conservative image.
Main stars Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross are exactly the same age, sharing the same birthday on June 21, 1947. In the series, their characters were intended to be approximately five or six years older, given that their "son", played by Michael J. Fox, was in fact only fourteen years younger than Baxter and Gross in real life.
The show had been sold to the network using the pitch "hip parents, square kids." Originally, Elyse and Steven were intended to be the main characters. However, the audience reacted so positively to Alex during the taping of the fourth episode that he became the focus on the show. Fox had received the role after Matthew Broderick turned it down.
Supporting cast and characters includes neighbor Irwin "Skippy" Handelman (Marc Price); Mallory's Sylvester Stallone-esque boyfriend artist Nick Moore (Scott Valentine); and Alex's feminist artist girlfriend Ellen Reed (Tracy Pollan, whom Michael J. Fox later married in 1988). In season 3, episode 17, Elyse gave birth to her fourth child, Andrew (who was played by Brian Bonsall from season 5 onward). Garrett Merriman played baby Andrew.
A number of Hollywood stars appeared on the show during its seven-year run. Some were character actors with years of experience. Many others were just beginning their careers and would become quite famous in the years following their appearance.
The theme song,"Without Us" (credited in Season One as "Us"), was composed by Jeff Barry and Tom Scott in 1982. During the first season, it was originally performed by Dennis Tufano and Mindy Sterling. For the rest of the show's run, the song was performed by Deniece Williams and Johnny Mathis.
During its final two seasons, Family Ties was scheduled on Sunday nights often followed by Day by Day, another series from Ubu Productions. Michael Gross and Brian Bonsall brought their respective roles of Steven and Andy Keaton to the Day by Day episode "Trading Places", which reveals that Steven went to college with Brian Harper (Doug Sheehan).
|Season||Episodes||Originally aired||Nielsen ratings|
|First aired||Last aired||Rank||Rating|
|1||22||September 22, 1982||April 11, 1983||56||N/A|
|2||22||September 23, 1983||May 10, 1984||42||16.0 |
|3||24||September 20, 1984||March 28, 1985||5||22.1|
|Film||September 23, 1985||N/A||N/A|
|4||24||September 26, 1985||May 8, 1986||2||30.0|
|5||30||September 25, 1986||August 13, 1987||2||32.7|
|6||28||September 13, 1987||May 1, 1988||17||17.3|
|7||26||October 30, 1988||May 14, 1989||35||14.5 |
NBC aired reruns of Family Ties weekday mornings from December 1985 until January 1987. In the fall of 1987, the series went into syndication in the United States. Currently, it airs on UP and Antenna TV. Reruns previously aired on WFMZ, MeToo, Disney Channel, FamilyNet, WGN America, TBS, YTV, Nick at Nite, TV Land, Hallmark Channel and The Hub.
In Canada, reruns of Family Ties began airing on CTS, a Christian-based network, on September 6, 2010. On May 15, 2011 Netflix began to stream season 1-7 on its "watch instantly" streaming service.
In Australia, reruns aired on Eleven (a digital channel of Network Ten) in the afternoons and late night until June 2013. As of November 2015, two episodes are shown on weekdays between 11 am and midday. Family Ties was a perennial favourite seen on the Nine Network from 1983 to 2008. Prior to Eleven, the show screened on pay TV network TV1.
In the UK, Family Ties aired on Channel 4 from July 1985.
CBS DVD (distributed by Paramount) has released all seven seasons of Family Ties on DVD in Region 1, as of August 13, 2013. The second through fifth season releases contain special features, gag reels and episodic promos. The second season contains interviews with Michael Gross and Michael J. Fox along with other cast members. The fourth season contains the made-for-TV-movie, Family Ties Vacation. Paramount has also released the first three seasons on DVD in Region 4.
On November 5, 2013, CBS Home Entertainment released Family Ties - The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1.
On November 11, 2014, CBS Home Entertainment re-released a repackaged version of the complete series set, at a lower price, but did not include the bonus disc that was part of the original complete series set.
|DVD name||No. of
|Region 1||Region 4|
|The Complete First Season||22||February 20, 2007||April 9, 2008|
|The Second Season||22||October 9, 2007||September 4, 2008|
|The Third Season||24||February 12, 2008||April 2, 2009|
|The Fourth Season||24||August 5, 2008|
|The Fifth Season||30||March 10, 2009|
|The Sixth Season||28||April 9, 2013|
|The Seventh Season||26||August 13, 2013|
|The Complete Series||176||November 5, 2013/November 11, 2014||TBA|
Over a decade after the cancellation of Family Ties, Michael J. Fox's final episodes on Spin City featured numerous allusions to the show. In these episodes, Michael Gross played a therapist for Fox's character Michael Patrick Flaherty and the episode contained a reference to an off-screen character named "Mallory". In the episode, after Flaherty becomes an environmental lobbyist in Washington D.C., he meets a "conservative junior senator named Alex P. Keaton." Meredith Baxter also portrayed Mike Flaherty's mother, Macy Flaherty, in the episodes "Family Affair" (Parts 1 and 2).
Family Ties has also been referenced on Family Guy.
Family Ties was referenced in Ready Player One, a science fiction and dystopian novel by Ernest Cline. The main character Wade Watts (Parzival) liked to imagine that he had a family where "there was nothing so wrong in the world that we couldn’t sort it out by the end of a single half-hour episode (or maybe a two-parter, if it was something really serious)."