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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 Statesmarker 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 (Michael J. Fox) and his liberal, former hippie parents, Elyse and Steven Keaton (Meredith Baxter Birney and Michael Gross). According to the "Encyclodpedia of Television First Edition", one of Alex's heroes, President Ronald Reagan, declared "Family Ties" to be his favorite television program.


[[Image:Family Ties.jpg|thumb|left|200px|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 show takes place in Columbus, Ohio.

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 Streetmarker. 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) and there is a reference to an off-screen character named "Mallory". After Flaherty becomes an environmental lobbyist in Washington D.C., he meets a "conservative congressman named Alex P. Keaton."


Main Cast

Recurring Cast


The show had been sold to the network using the pitch "hip parents, square kids", 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. 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.

Supporting cast and characters included neighbor Irwin "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' 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, Geena Davis portrayed an inept housekeeper, Courteney Cox was Alex' girlfriend Lauren at the end of the series, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus portrayed a lawyer in the two-part episode "Read It and Weep".

The show was originally set in Tenafly, New Jerseymarker.


  • 1984–1985: #5
  • 1985–1986: #2
  • 1986–1987: #2
  • 1987–1988: #2
  • 1988-1989: #3


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

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


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.

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.

At other times, the cast members "reunited" on other shows/episodes such as on Spin City.



In January 2009, FamilyNet began airing the program as part of its "Families on FamilyNet" programming block, also featuring My Three Sons and Happy Days. In the summer of 2008, WGN America aired reruns as part of their Outta Sight Retro Night programming block. Previous reruns aired on Nick at Nite, TV Land, & Hallmark Channel during the early 2000's.

DVD releases

CBS Home Entertainment (distributed by Paramount) has released the first five seasons of Family Ties on DVD in Region 1. [26148] Each release features music replacements due to copyright issues as well as special features such as gag reels and featurettes.

DVD Name Ep# Release dates
Region 1 Region 4
The Complete First Season 22 February 20, 2007 April 9, 2008 [26149]
The Second Season 22 October 9, 2007 September 4, 2008 [26150]
The Third Season 24 February 12, 2008 April 2, 2009 [26151]
The Fourth Season 28 August 5, 2008 TBA
The Fifth Season 30 March 10, 2009 TBA
The Sixth Season 28 TBA TBA
The Seventh Season 26 TBA TBA


  1. The Museum of Broadcast Communications: Family Ties
  2. Putting His Own Spin on ‘City’s’ Season Finale
  3. Shales, Tom. "Michael J. Fox, Playing 'Spin City' to a Fare-Thee-Well." Washington Post, May 24, 2000, C1.
  4. Michael J. Fox Database
  5. Reagan's Favorite Sitcom: How Family Ties spawned a conservative hero
  6. Star Misses: 10 Career-Changing Roles That Weren't
  7. TV hits '84
  8. TV hits '85
  9. TV hits '86
  10. TV hits '87


External links

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