Family Ties

Family Ties
Family Ties
Family Ties title scene from the third season.
The Family Ties "family painting," used in the opening sequence from 1983 to 1985.
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Format Sitcom
Created by Gary David Goldberg
Starring Meredith Baxter-Birney
Michael Gross
Michael J. Fox
Justine Bateman
Tina Yothers
Brian Bonsall (1986–1989)
Theme music composer Jeff Barry
Tom Scott
Opening theme "Without Us"
Performed by Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams[1]
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 7
No. of episodes 180 (List of episodes)
Running time 22–24 minutes
Production company(s) Ubu Productions
Paramount Television
CBS Television Distribution
Original channel NBC
Original run September 22, 1982 (1982-09-22) – May 14, 1989 (1989-05-14)

Family Ties is an American sitcom that aired on NBC for seven seasons, from 1982 to 1989. The sitcom reflected the move in the United States from the cultural liberalism of the 1960s and 1970s to the conservatism of the 1980s.[2] This was particularly expressed through the relationship between young Republican Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox) and his former-hippie parents, Elyse and Steven Keaton (Meredith Baxter-Birney and Michael Gross). The show won multiple awards, including three consecutive Emmy Awards for Michael J. Fox as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.



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

Set during the early years of the Reagan administration, Elyse and Steven Keaton (Meredith Baxter-Birney and Michael Gross) are baby boomers, former-Hippies and liberals [2] raising their three children: Alex (Michael J. Fox), Mallory (Justine Bateman) and Jennifer (Tina Yothers) in suburban Columbus, Ohio. Married in 1964, Elyse, an independent architect, and Steven, a station manager in a local public television station, were hippies during the 1960s.

According to the episode, "A Christmas Story" in season one, they were influenced by John F. Kennedy and were members of the Peace Corps following their marriage in 1964. Alex was born in 1965 in Africa. Mallory was born while Elyse and Steven were students at the University of California, Berkeley in 1967, and Jennifer was born the night Richard Nixon won his second term in 1972.

Much of the humor of the series focused on the cultural divide during the 1980s when younger generations rejected the counterculture of the 1960s and embraced the conservative politics which came to define the 1980s.[3] Both Alex and Mallory embrace Reaganomics and exhibit conservative attitudes: Alex is a Young Republican and Mallory is a more materialistic young woman in contrast to her feminist mother.[2] Mallory was also presented as a vacuous airhead, who was fodder for jokes and teasing from her brother Alex. Jennifer, an athletic tomboy and the youngest child, shares the values of her parents and just wants to be a normal kid. Elyse and Steven have a fourth child, Andrew, born in 1984 whom Alex doted on and quickly molded in his conservative image.


The show had been sold to the network using the pitch "hip parents, square kids".[4] 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.[2][4] Fox had received the role after Matthew Broderick turned it down.[5] Coincidentally, Meredith Baxter had previously starred alongside Matthew Broderick's father James (as his daughter) on the TV series Family.

Supporting cast and characters included 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 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. Bewitched actor Dick Sargent guest starred as Elyse's father Charlie in Season 1.

Guest stars

Several Hollywood stars appeared on the show before they were famous or during the early years of their careers

  • Judith Light appeared in Season 2 as a colleague of Steven's, whom she unsuccessfully attempted to seduce.
  • Tom Hanks appeared during the first and second seasons as Elyse's younger alcoholic brother Ned[4]
  • Geena Davis portrayed inept housekeeper Karen
  • River Phoenix played a fourteen-year-old math genius who develops a crush on Jennifer after coming to tutor Alex. Phoenix's sister, Rain, would also appear as one of Jennifer's friends in a different episode.
  • Courteney Cox played Alex's girlfriend Lauren at the end of the series
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus portrayed a lawyer in the two-part episode "Read It and Weep". Louis-Dreyfus would later co-star on the Family Ties spin-off Day by Day. It was revealed that the family patriarch, Brian Harper (played by Douglas Sheehan) was a college roommate of Steven Keaton. A total of 33 episodes were produced.
  • Crispin Glover played one of Alex's friends on the episode "Birthday Boy". Glover would later become famous for his portrayal of George McFly, the father of Michael J. Fox's character Marty McFly, in the blockbuster film Back to the Future.
  • Wil Wheaton played a kid in which Jennifer played dumb in order to date him.
  • Corey Feldman played a 7th grade classmate of Jennifer who was a nominee to win the Thomas Dewey best student achievement award on the episode "The Disciple"
  • Jeff Cohen played 2 different characters, Marv Jr. on the episode, "The Visit", and Dougie Barker on the episode, "4 Rms Ocn Vu".
  • Christina Applegate played Kitten, a member of Jennifer's band, on the episode, "Band on the Run".[6]
  • Stephen Baldwin appeared as a member of a therapy group that Alex attends with his girlfriend.
  • Daniel Baldwin appeared as an army recruit who harasses Skippy.
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt played Dougie, a friend of Andrew in Kindergarten in two episodes, "Sign of the Times" and "Father can you spare me a Dime".
  • Jane Adams played Marty Broadie in two 7th season episodes, "They Can't Take That Away from Me: Part 1" and "They Can't Take That Away from Me: Part 2".
  • James Cromwell played John Hancock in the 3rd season episode, "Philadelphia Story".

Theme Song

The Theme Song, "Without Us", was composed by Jeff Barry and Tom Scott in 1982. It was performed by Deniece Williams and Johnny Mathis. The first 10 episodes were performed by Dennis Tufano and Mindy Sterling.


  • 1982–1983: outside the top 30[7]
  • 1983–1984: #43[8]
  • 1984–1985: #5, 18,847,800 households[9]
  • 1985–1986: #2, 25,770,000 households[10]
  • 1986–1987: #2, 28,579,800 households[11]
  • 1987–1988: #17, 15,327,800 households[12]
  • 1988-1989: #36[13]



Emmy Awards

  • 1986: 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
  • 1988: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (Michael J. Fox)

Golden Globes

  • 1989:Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series (Michael J. Fox)

TV Land Awards


NBC aired reruns of Family Ties weekday mornings from December, 1985 until January, 1987. In the fall of 1987, several Fox and independent stations, like WNYW-TV 5 in New York City, KTTV-TV 11 in Los Angeles, WFLD-TV 32 in Chicago WSBK-TV 38 in Boston, among others aired the show.

FamilyNet aired the program as part of its "Families on FamilyNet" programming block, also featuring My Three Sons and Happy Days between January 2009 and February 2010.

In the summer of 2008, WGN America aired reruns as part of their Outta Sight Retro Night programming block. Reruns previously aired on TBS, YTV, Nick at Nite, TV Land, and Hallmark Channel during the early to mid 2000s. Currently, it airs on 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.[14]

In Australia, reruns air every afternoon on Eleven.

DVD releases

CBS DVD (distributed by Paramount) has released the first five seasons of Family Ties on DVD in Region 1. Each release features music replacements due to copyright issues as well as special features such as 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. Seasons 6 and 7 have yet to be released.

DVD Name Ep# Release dates
Region 1 Region 4
The Complete First Season 22 February 20, 2007[15] April 9, 2008[16]
The Second Season 22 October 9, 2007[17] September 4, 2008[18]
The Third Season 24 February 12, 2008[19] April 2, 2009[20]
The Fourth Season 28 August 5, 2008[21] TBA
The Fifth Season 30 March 10, 2009[22] TBA

References to prior media

Media critic Ben Shapiro has stated that, based on his interview with Gary David Goldberg, the show was an unintentional comic reversal of All in the Family (which had conservative parents and liberal kids). Goldberg didn't plan it that way, but discovered that later as a happy accident.[23]

References in other media

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[24] and the episode contained a reference to an off-screen character named "Mallory".[25] In the episode, after Flaherty becomes an environmental lobbyist in Washington D.C., he meets a "conservative congressman named Alex P. Keaton."[26] 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, as it is a favorite show of Seth MacFarlane. In the opening scene of the episode "Fifteen Minutes of Shame", Peter Griffin is coloring the painting of the Keaton family, just like in the title sequence (with the theme song in the background). In the episode "Movin' Out (Brian's Song)", Stewie Griffin compared Brian's breakup with Jillian to Alex's: "Remember when Alex P. Keaton lost his girlfriend? And then he got another one and everything was all right? And then he got Parkinson's. Yikes." In the episode "Jerome is the New Black", Family Ties is playing on the television and Jerome buys Peter Griffin a sculpture made by the character Nick. In the episode "Brothers & Sisters", the Griffins are watching a "later-season" episode of Family Ties, in which puberty has changed Jennifer into a buffalo. Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter reprised their roles for the scene. Coincidentally, this episode of Family Guy aired at the same time as the 9th Annual TV Land Awards when the cast of Family Ties accepted the Fan Favorite Award for the show.

The cast of Family Ties publicly reunited for the first time on February 7, 2008 for an interview on The Today Show.[27]



  1. ^ For the first 10 episodes, the opening theme was performed by Dennis Tufano and Mindy Sterling. IMDb (1990-2009). "Biography for Dennis Tufano". Retrieved 28 October 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d The Museum of Broadcast Communications: Family Ties
  3. ^ What he left behind: From Tom Clancy to Alex P. Keaton, Ronald Reagan's legacy extends beyond the political and into the cultural
  4. ^ a b c Reagan's Favorite Sitcom: How Family Ties spawned a conservative hero
  5. ^ The Biography Channel - Matthew Broderick Biography
  6. ^
  7. ^ TV hits '82
  8. ^ TV hits '83
  9. ^ TV hits '84
  10. ^ TV hits '85
  11. ^ TV hits '86
  12. ^
  13. ^ TV hits '88
  14. ^ Netflix:Family Ties (1982-1988) Seasons 1-7
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ Putting His Own Spin on ‘City’s’ season finale
  25. ^ Shales, Tom. "Michael J. Fox, Playing 'Spin City' to a Fare-Thee-Well." Washington Post, May 24, 2000, C1.
  26. ^ Michael J. Fox Database
  27. ^ "Family Ties: Reunited After Almost 20 Years!". Retrieved 2008-02-07. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Family Ties — Título Lazos de familia (Argentina) Enredos de familia (España) Derechos de Familia (México) Género Comedia de situación Creado por Gary David Goldberg Reparto Meredith Baxter Michael Gross Michael J. Fox Justine Bateman Tina Y …   Wikipedia Español

  • Family Ties — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Family Ties est le titre original de la série télévisée américaine Sacrée Famille, créée par Gary David Goldberg en 1982. Family Ties (Kao shi yi jia qin) …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Family Ties — Seriendaten Deutscher Titel: Familienbande (RTL) Jede Menge Familie (ProSieben, kabel eins) Originaltitel: Family Ties Produktionsland: USA Produktionsjahr(e): 1982–1989 Episodenlänge …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • family ties — family bonds, familial connection, blood relations, relations among relatives …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Family Ties (disambiguation) — Family Ties was an American TV sitcom during the 1980s.Family Ties may also refer to: * Family Ties (film), a 2006 South Korean film * Family Ties (Arrested Development episode), an episode of the TV series Arrested Development * Family Ties… …   Wikipedia

  • Family Ties (Arrested Development episode) — Infobox Arrested Development episode| episode name = Family Ties| episode no = 3AJD11 | airdate = February 10, 2006 | writer = Ron Weiner | director = Bob Berlinger | on the next = “G.O.B. has a religious conversion, and Buster’s fake coma is put …   Wikipedia

  • Family Ties (album) — Infobox Album Name = Family Ties Type = Album Artist = Daddy X Background = orange Released = January 31, 2006 Recorded = 2006 Genre = Punk rock,Hip hop Length = Label = Suburban Noize Records Producer = Daddy X DJ Bobby B Last album = Organic… …   Wikipedia

  • Family - Ties of Blood — Infobox Film name = Family Ties of Blood imdb id = 0437182 writer = Rajkumar Santoshi (dialogue and screenplay), Shaktimaan (story), starring = Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Bhoomika Chawla director = Rajkumar Santoshi producer = Keshu Ramsey… …   Wikipedia

  • Family Ties (film) — Infobox Korean Film name = Family Ties caption = director = Kim Tae Yong producer = writer = Kim Tae Yong Sung Ki yeong starring = Moon So ri Kong Hyo jin Bong Tae gyu music = cinematography = editing = distributor = released = 18 May, 2006… …   Wikipedia

  • Family Ties (Farscape episode) — Infobox Television episode Title =Family Ties Series =Farscape Caption =The Gammak base is destroyed Season =1 Episode =22 Airdate =January 28th, 2000 Production =| Writer =Rockne S. O Bannon David Kemper Director =Tony Tilse Guests = Episode… …   Wikipedia

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