World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Family Ties

Article Id: WHEBN0000172943
Reproduction Date:

Title: Family Ties  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Michael J. Fox, Alex P. Keaton, Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy, Meredith Baxter, Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series
Collection: 1980S American Comedy Television Series, 1980S American Television Series, 1982 American Television Series Debuts, 1989 American Television Series Endings, American Television Sitcoms, Culture of Columbus, Ohio, English-Language Television Programming, Nbc Network Shows, Television Series About Families, Television Series by Cbs Paramount Television, Television Series by Cbs Television Studios, Television Shows Set in Columbus, Ohio, Television Shows Set in Ohio
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Family Ties

Family Ties
Genre Sitcom
Created by Gary David Goldberg
Starring Meredith Baxter-Birney
Michael Gross
Michael J. Fox
Justine Bateman
Tina Yothers
Brian Bonsall
Theme music composer Jeff Barry
Tom Scott
Opening theme "Without Us"
Performed by Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams[1]
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 7
No. of episodes 168 (list of episodes)
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 24 minutes
Production company(s) Ubu Productions
Paramount Television
Distributor Paramount Domestic Television (1987–2006)
CBS Paramount Domestic Television (2006–2007)
CBS Television Distribution (2007–present)
Original channel NBC
Audio format Stereo
Original release September 22, 1982 (1982-09-22) – May 14, 1989 (1989-05-14)
Related shows The Art of Being Nick (TV pilot)
Day by Day

Family Ties is an American sitcom that aired on NBC from September 22, 1982 until 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.[2] 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).

The show won multiple awards, including three consecutive Emmy Awards for Michael J. Fox as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.


  • Overview 1
  • Cast 2
    • Main cast 2.1
    • Recurring cast 2.2
    • Guest stars 2.3
  • Theme song 3
  • US broadcast history and Nielsen ratings 4
  • Episodes 5
  • Connection to Day by Day 6
  • Awards 7
    • Emmy Awards 7.1
    • Golden Globes 7.2
    • TV Land Awards 7.3
  • Syndication 8
  • Home media 9
    • DVD 9.1
    • Streaming 9.2
  • References to prior media 10
    • References in other media 10.1
  • References 11
  • Notes 12
  • External links 13


Set in suburban Columbus, Ohio during the Reagan administration, Steven and Elyse Keaton (Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter-Birney) are baby boomers, liberals and former hippies,[2] 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.[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. 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, born in 1984, whom Alex doted on and quickly moulded in his conservative image.


Cast of Family Ties (from left): Tina Yothers, Brian Bonsall (added in season five), Michael Gross, Meredith Baxter-Birney, Michael J. Fox, and Justine Bateman.

Main cast

Recurring cast

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]

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. Bewitched actor Dick Sargent guest-starred as Elyse's father Charlie in Season 1.

Guest stars

A number of 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, unsuccessfully attempting to seduce him.
  • Tom Hanks appeared during the first and second seasons as Elyse's alcoholic younger brother Ned Donelly.[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.
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus portrayed a lawyer in the two-part episode "Read It and Weep", which was about Jennifer's wanting to do a book report on a banned book.
  • Marty McFly in the original Back to the Future in 1985.
  • Wil Wheaton played the target of Jennifer's affection; she played dumb in order to convince him to date her.
  • 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 kindergarten friend of Andrew in two episodes, "Sign of the Times" and "Father, Can You Spare 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".
  • John Randolph played Jacob Keaton, Steven's father, in "I Never Killed for My Father". He was revealed to be dead in "Remembrance of Things Past, Parts 1 & 2".
  • Timothy Busfield played Doug in two 1984 episodes ("Best Man" and "Little Man on Campus"), and "Young Matt" in a 1986 episode ("My Back Pages").
  • Hank Azaria played a co-worker of Mallory's in the season 7 episode "Designing Women".
  • David Faustino played Keith Bailey the son of a divorced family friend who was taken away from his mother by his father in the episode "To Snatch a Keith".
  • Danny Nucci played a school bully who got beaten up by Jennifer after harassing her boyfriend at school in the episode "Designated Hitter".
  • Anne Ramsey played Mrs. Warfield in the episode "Help Wanted". Ramsey played Mrs. Fratelli in the Goonies.
  • John McCook played the commercial character of "Sir Penguin" in the season 2 episode "This Year's Model" where Elyse was filming a commercial and Mallory kept sabotaging it.

Theme song

The theme song, "Without 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.[7][8] For the rest of the show's run, the song was performed by Deniece Williams and Johnny Mathis.

US broadcast history and Nielsen ratings

Season Timeslot Rank Rating Households
(in millions)
1) 1982–1983 Wednesday nights at 9:30pm #49[9] 15.1 N/A
2) 1983–1984 #34[10] N/A N/A
3) 1984–1985 Thursday nights at 8:30pm #5[11] 22.1 18.7
4) 1985–1986 #2[12] 30.0 25.8
5) 1986–1987 #2[13] 32.7 28.6
6) 1987–1988 Sunday nights at 8:00pm #17[14] 17.3 15.4
7) 1988–1989 #40[15] 14.3 N/A


Connection to Day by Day

During its final two seasons, Family Ties was scheduled on Sunday nights 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).


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, the series went into syndication in the United States. Currently, it airs on UP and Antenna TV. Reruns previously aired on WFMZ, Disney Channel, FamilyNet, WGN America, TBS, YTV, Nick at Nite, TV Land, Hallmark Channel, Fox Broadcasting Company 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.[16]

In Australia, reruns aired on Channel 11 (a digital channel of the TEN Network) in the afternoons and late night until June 2013. Family Ties was aired on the Seven Network in 1982 -1998 and aired on the Nine Network in 2003.

In the UK, Family Ties aired on Channel 4 from July 1985.

Home media


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.[17]

DVD Name Ep# Release dates
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 28 August 5, 2008
The Fifth Season 30 March 10, 2009
The Sixth Season 30 April 9, 2013
The Seventh Season 30 August 13, 2013
The Complete Series 156 November 5, 2013/November 11, 2014 TBA


All seven seasons of the series were made available for streaming through Netflix (removed again August 15, 2015[18]) and Amazon Video as well as Hulu Plus.[19]

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.[20]

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[21] and the episode contained a reference to an off-screen character named "Mallory".[22] In the episode, after Flaherty becomes an environmental lobbyist in Washington D.C., he meets a "conservative junior senator named Alex P. Keaton."[23] 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 also subtly referenced on The Simpsons in season 5, episode 22 "Secrets of a Successful Marriage". In the scene where Homer is applying to teach an adult education class, he sings the opening credits tune "Sha la la la" in reference to his happy family.

The cast of Family Ties publicly reunited for the first time on February 7, 2008 for an interview on The Today Show.[24]

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).”


  • Goldberg, Gary David. "Comedy Stop: What Would Alex Keaton Do?." New York Times, March 3, 2008.
  • Haglund, David. "Reagan's Favorite Sitcom: How Family Ties spawned a conservative hero." Slate. March 2, 2007.
  • Hurst, Alex. "Remembering an icon from the 'Me-Decade'." The Daily Pennsylvanian, April 24, 2001.
  • Patterson, Thomas. "What would Alex P. Keaton do?." CNN, November 1, 2006.
  • Saenz, Michael. "Family Ties." - Museum of Broadcast Communications
  • Stewart, Susan. "The Parents Ate Sprouts; the Kid Stole the Show. New York Times, February 25, 2007.


  1. ^ For the first season, the opening theme was performed by Dennis Tufano and Mindy Sterling.
  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. ^ Amazon Video: Family Ties Retrieved February 18, 2013
  8. ^ Netflix: Family Ties Retrieved February 18, 2013
  9. ^ TV hits '81
  10. ^ TV hits '82
  11. ^ TV hits '84
  12. ^ TV hits '85
  13. ^ TV hits '86
  14. ^ TV Stats
  15. ^ TV hits '88
  16. ^ :Family Ties (1982-1988) Seasons 1-7Netflix
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ Amazon Video: Family Ties Retrieved January 23, 2013
  20. ^
  21. ^ Putting His Own Spin on ‘City’s’ season finale
  22. ^ Shales, Tom. "Michael J. Fox, Playing 'Spin City' to a Fare-Thee-Well." Washington Post, May 24, 2000, C1.
  23. ^ Michael J. Fox Database
  24. ^

External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.