Family Ties

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Family Ties
Created byGary David Goldberg
Theme music composer
Opening theme"Without Us" performed by Dennis Tufano and Mindy Sterling (season 1, episodes 1–10); Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams (remainder of series run)
Ending theme"Without Us" (instrumental)
ComposerTom Scott
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons7
No. of episodes176 + one film (list of episodes)
Executive producers
  • Gary David Goldberg
  • Lloyd Garver
  • Mikel Neiers
  • Christopher Lynch
  • Dominic Palmieri
  • Robert F. Liu
  • Gary Anderson
  • Ed Brennan
  • John Carroll
Camera setupMulti-camera, Videotape
Running time24 minutes
Production companies
Original release
ReleaseSeptember 22, 1982 (1982-09-22) –
May 14, 1989 (1989-05-14)
The Art of Being Nick (TV pilot)
Day by Day

Family Ties is an American television 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 social shift in the United States from the cultural liberalism of the 1960s and 1970s to the conservatism of the 1980s.[2] Because of this, Young Republican Alex P. Keaton (portrayed by Michael J. Fox) develops generational strife with 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.

The show premiered on September 22, 1982, and for the first two seasons, aired on Wednesday nights. In the show's third season, it started airing on Thursday nights. In 1987, for its sixth season, it was moved to Sunday nights where it stayed until the series' seventh and final season on May 14, 1989. Since then, it is considered, among with The Cosby Show and Roseanne, to be among the greatest family sitcoms of all time. The Writers Guild of America named it #95 on their list of 101 Best-Written TV Series, surpassing Lonesome Dove, Soap, Louie, The Fugitive, Late Night With David Letterman, and Oz.[3] President Ronald Reagan named it his favorite TV show, and Entertainment Weekly ranked it among their 100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.


Set in Columbus, Ohio, during the Reagan administration, the show depicts Steven and Elyse Keaton (Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter) as baby boomers,[4] liberals and former hippies,[2] raising their three children: ambitious, aspiring 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.[5] Alex, the eldest, is a Young Republican who embraces Reaganomics and exhibits conservative attitudes. In contrast to her feminist mother, Mallory is an apolitical and materialistic young woman[2] presented as a vacuous airhead, fodder for jokes and teasing from her brother. Jennifer, an athletic tomboy and the second-youngest child, shares more of the values of her parents and just wants to be a normal kid. Steven and Elyse have a fourth child, Andrew, who is born in early 1985. Alex dotes on his young brother and molds Andy in his conservative image.

Regarding the concept, show creator Goldberg observed, "It really was just an observation of what was going on in my own life with my own friends. We were these old kind of radical people and all of a sudden you're in the mainstream ... but now you've got these kids and you've empowered them, and they're super intelligent, and they're definitely to the right of where you are. They don't understand what's wrong with having money and moving forward."[6] A recurring theme involved Alex hatching a scheme involving some amount of greedy money-making, which led to a humorous misadventure and ended with Alex being forced to apologize for his choices. According to Goldberg, "We actually had this structure that we'd inherited from Jim Brooks and Allan [Burns], which was six scenes and a tag ... And then the last scene became Alex apologizes, in every show, we just left it up. Alex apologizes. Some version of it."[7] Nevertheless, Fox's portrayal of a likable Alex proved to be an important part of the show's success. Goldberg again stated, "With Alex, I did not think I was creating a sympathetic character. Those were not traits that I aspired to and didn't want my kids to aspire to, actually ... But at the end of Family Ties, when we went off the air, then The New York Times had done a piece and they said, 'Greed with the face of an angel.' And I think that's true ... [Michael J. Fox] would make things work, and the audience would simply not access the darker side of what he's actually saying."[6]


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

Main cast[edit]

  • Meredith Baxter as Elyse Donnelly Keaton: Steven's wife and the mother of Alex, Mallory, Jennifer, and Andy. She is a successful architect and an ex-hippie liberal who lived in California in the 1960s. She is a patient, caring, and loving wife and mother. She met Steven in college where they later married.
  • Michael Gross as Steven Keaton: Elyse's husband and father to Alex, Mallory, Jennifer, and Andy. He is a branch manager of the local PBS station, the fictional WKS, who is an ex-hippie liberal who lived in California in the 1960s. He can be argumentative at times, but in the end is a diligent and supportive father who cares about his family deeply. He met and married Elyse in college in Berkeley.
  • Michael J. Fox as Alex P. Keaton: the oldest child of Steven and Elyse. He is an intelligent and ambitious Young Republican with two goals in life: to be successful and make money. He goes on to attend Leland University, and has long-term relationships with two women: Ellen Reed and Lauren Miller. He often clashes with his parents about their liberal politics, which conflict with his own conservative views.
  • Justine Bateman as Mallory Keaton: the second child and first daughter of Steven and Elyse. She is an unscholarly material girl, but kind-hearted and inoffensive, whose main interests are shopping and boys. She has a longtime relationship with Nick Moore. In the episode "Designated Hitter," it is revealed that Mallory has a higher I.Q. than scholastic overachiever Alex.
  • Tina Yothers as Jennifer Keaton: third child and second daughter of Elyse and Steven. She is a tomboy whose cares mostly include athletics. She skews more closely to her parents' liberal views, in contrast to her siblings' more conservative views. She is shown to be aggressive but sweet. She is shown to be jealous at first of Andy, but later cares for him.
  • Brian Bonsall as Andrew "Andy" Keaton (seasons 5–7)
    • Garrett and Tyler Merriman as Baby Andrew "Andy" Keaton (season 4): the youngest child of Elyse and Steven. He is born during season 3, coinciding with Meredith Baxter's real life pregnancy. After he is born, the whole family quickly shows affection and a loving attitude towards him, especially Alex, who attempts to imbue him with conservative values. He quickly ages by about four years between seasons 4 and 5.

Recurring cast[edit]

Notable guest stars[edit]

The show had been sold to the network using the pitch "hip parents, square kids."[8] 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][8] Fox had received the role after Matthew Broderick turned it down.[9] Laura Dern was considered for the role of Mallory Keaton.[10] Ed O'Neill auditioned for Steven Keaton,[11] but he later turned it down as he felt he was not right for the part.[12]

Supporting cast and characters include neighbor Irwin "Skippy" Handelman (Marc Price), who has an eternal crush on Mallory; Nick Moore (Scott Valentine), Mallory's Sylvester Stallone-esque artist boyfriend; Lauren Miller (Courteney Cox); 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). Twins Garrett and Tyler Merriman played baby Andrew.


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 on-screen son, played by Michael J. Fox, was, in fact, only fourteen years younger than Baxter and Gross in real life.[13]

The show had several similarities or parallels to Baxter's prior series, Family. In addition to similar names for both series, the shows both initially featured three children, the youngest a tomboy, and later added another child to the cast. Baxter played the eldest child on the earlier show, and assumed the role of mother in Family Ties.

Theme song[edit]

The theme song "Without Us" (credited in season one as "Us") was composed by Jeff Barry and Tom Scott in 1982. During the first ten episodes of the first season it was performed by Dennis Tufano and Mindy Sterling.[14][15] From episode 11 onward the song was performed by original recording artists Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams, as producers were displeased with Tufano's and Sterling's version. A full-length version of "Without Us" is featured on Mathis and Williams' duet album "That's What Friends Are For," released by Columbia Records on the 2003 CD release of the album.

"At This Moment"[edit]

"At This Moment" was a 1981 single written by songwriter and recording artist Billy Vera and recorded live by Vera and his band, Billy Vera & The Beaters. Five years after its original release, a studio recording of "At This Moment" was featured at the beginning of several episodes of the fourth and early fifth seasons as the love song associated with Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox) and his girlfriend Ellen Reed (Tracy Pollan).[16] Its exposure on Family Ties renewed a huge interest in the song. People called and wrote NBC asking for the name of the song and its singer. The tune then began a revived chart run, eventually hitting #1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts in January 1987. It also hit the Billboard R&B Chart and the Billboard Hot Country Chart. "At This Moment" quickly sold over a million copies in the United States, becoming one of the last Gold-certified singles in the 45 RPM format. The song crossed over to the R&B and Country formats, reaching #42 Country; as country was moving away from pop influence at the time, "At This Moment" would be the last song to appear on the country charts and reach number one on the pop charts for 13 years.

The first Billy Vera & The Beaters album was recorded live, so when "At This Moment" was used in Family Ties, only the live version existed. Vera later explained: "We re-recorded pieces of the song. In other words, they'd need 12 seconds here, or 20 seconds there in the show. So we went in and recorded just those pieces in the studio without the audience, because the audience would have been annoying, to the TV viewer. The thing that made it work better the second time was that the story of the song, boy-loses-girl, was the story of the episode "Boy Loses Girl." The first time they used the song, it was when he met the girl."

Family Ties writer Michael Weithorn would later recall: "In 1985, I had written an episode of Family Ties to start the fourth season, and we needed a sort of a sad romantic song. I just happened to go into a bar in Los Angeles and saw Billy and the Beaters. That was the perfect song, and the rest was history." In an interview, Vera talked about his meeting with Weithorn: "One afternoon I got a phone call, and this guy said, 'Hey I produce a show called Family Ties, and some of us were at your show the other night, and we heard you do this song that we thought would be perfect for an episode that we have coming up.' I got my publisher to make a deal for that with them and America responded like crazy." "NBC called us up, they said, 'My God, we've never had any response like this in the history of the network for a song. The switchboards are lighting up, we're getting letters, telegrams, where can we find this song?' People started calling radio stations, which never happens. I mean, it was a total organic hit."

On the DVD releases of both Family Ties' fourth and fifth seasons, "At This Moment" is still included and heard in those episodes.

In an interview with Rachael Ray in 2007, Michael J. Fox good-naturedly said, "Tracy and I couldn't get on the dance floor anywhere in the world for like ten years without them playing 'What did you think..."

At the 2011 TV Land Awards held in New York City, Billy Vera performed "At This Moment" with the main Family Ties cast in attendance that also included Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan, as the show had been nominated for and won Outstanding Fan Favorite.

Connection to Day by Day[edit]

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). This episode is included on a bonus special-features disc in the Family Ties: The Complete Series Deluxe Family Album Collection Edition Box Set DVD.

Other appearances[edit]

Some characters were featured on Mickey's 60th Birthday, broadcast on November 13, 1988, on NBC, and featured Justine Bateman, Tina Yothers, and Brian Bonsall as their Family Ties characters, trying to help Mickey Mouse when everybody fails to recognize him due to a spell. Michael J. Fox additionally had a cameo in a flashback using archive footage.


SeasonEpisodesOriginally airedRankRating
First airedLast aired
122September 22, 1982 (1982-09-22)April 4, 1983 (1983-04-04)56[17]
222September 28, 1983 (1983-09-28)May 10, 1984 (1984-05-10)4216.0 [18]
324September 20, 1984 (1984-09-20)March 28, 1985 (1985-03-28)522.1
FilmSeptember 23, 1985 (1985-09-23)22.1
424September 26, 1985 (1985-09-26)May 1, 1986 (1986-05-01)230.0
530September 25, 1986 (1986-09-25)August 13, 1987 (1987-08-13)232.7
628September 13, 1987 (1987-09-13)May 1, 1988 (1988-05-01)1717.3
726October 30, 1988 (1988-10-30)May 14, 1989 (1989-05-14)3514.5 [19]


Emmy Awards[edit]

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

Golden Globes[edit]

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

TV Land Awards[edit]

  • 2008: Character You'd Pay to Do Your Homework for You (Michael J. Fox)
  • 2011: Fan Favorite, Presented by Ben Stiller to the Family Ties cast

Young Artist Awards[edit]

  • 1985: Best Young Actress in a Television Comedy Series (Justine Bateman)
  • 1985: Best Young Supporting Actress in a Television Comedy Series (Tina Yothers)
  • 1986: Best Young Actor Starring in a Television Series (Marc Price)
  • 1988: Best Young Actor Under Nine Years of Age (Brian Bonsall)
  • 1989: Best Young Actor Under Ten Years of Age in Television or Motion Pictures (Brian Bonsall)

Syndication and international broadcast[edit]

NBC aired reruns of Family Ties weekday mornings from December 1985 until January 1987 before it was replaced by the Bill Rafferty version of Blockbusters. In the fall of 1987, the series went into syndication in the United States. Currently, reruns air on Antenna TV, Rewind TV and Pluto TV. Reruns previously aired on FamilyNet, TBS, Nick at Nite, TV Land, Hallmark Channel, The Hub and Pop.

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 seasons 1–7 on its "watch instantly" streaming service.[20]

In Australia, Family Ties originally screened on the Seven Network from 1983 onwards. It became a perennial favorite repeated many times before being bought by the Nine Network which screened it up until 2008.[citation needed] It later screened on pay TV network TV1 before airing on 10 Peach (then known as Eleven) in the afternoons and late night until June 2013. As of June 2020, two episodes are shown on Saturday afternoons between 1 and 2 p.m.

In Germany, Family Ties was first aired on ZDF in 1984 under the title "Hilfe, wir werden erwachsen!" ("Help, we grow up!"), later on RTL (1989) as "Familienbande" (translation of the original title) and on ProSieben as "Jede Menge Familie" ("Whole lot of family").

Austria aired the show on ORF as "Jede Menge Familie" similar to ProSieben.

In the UK, Family Ties aired on Channel 4 from July 1985.[21]

In Indonesia, Family Ties aired on RCTI and SCTV between 1990 and 1993.

In Italy, the show aired on Italia 1 under the name of Casa Keaton (Keaton House) from 1986 until 1992.

In the Philippines, the show aired on GMA Network and was simulcast on RPN-9, IBC-13, PTV-4 and ABS-CBN from 1983 to 1991. It moved to ABC-5 Pilipino and was dubbed in 1998–2000.[citation needed]

The show screened in New Zealand on TVNZ in the 1980s and early '90s, but has never been repeated.

Home media[edit]


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.[22]

In Australia (Region 4), after the first three seasons were released, no further release came to light. In 2016, Via Vision Entertainment obtained the rights to the series and re-released the first three seasons along with season four on July 6, 2016. The remaining seasons were released each month after including a 'Complete Series' box set.

DVD name No. of
Release dates
Region 1 Region 4
The Complete First Season 22 February 20, 2007 April 9, 2008,

July 6, 2016 (re-release)[23]

The Second Season 22 October 9, 2007 September 4, 2008,

July 6, 2016 (re-release)[24]

The Third Season 24 February 12, 2008 April 2, 2009,

July 6, 2016 (re-release)[25]

The Fourth Season 24 August 5, 2008 July 6, 2016[26]
The Fifth Season 30 March 10, 2009 August 3, 2016[27]
The Sixth Season 28 April 9, 2013 September 7, 2016[28]
The Seventh Season 26 August 13, 2013 October 5, 2016[29]
The Complete Series 176 November 5, 2013/November 11, 2014 November 2, 2016[30]

Digital format[edit]

In addition to DVD, the TV series is available through a variety of services such as Prime Video and Vudu in the digital format.

References in other media[edit]

Over a decade after the end 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[31] and the episode contained a reference to an off-screen character named "Mallory".[32] In the episode, after Flaherty becomes an environmental lobbyist in Washington, D.C., he meets a "conservative junior senator named Alex P. Keaton."[33] Meredith Baxter also portrayed Mike Flaherty's mother, Macy Flaherty, in the two-part episode "Family Affair".

The main cast of Family Ties (minus a few other recurring cast members) has reunited publicly on three occasions (along with series creator/producer Gary David Goldberg on two occasions). They first reunited on February 7, 2008 (minus Tracy Pollan, Scott Valentine, Marc Price, Brian Bonsall and Courteney Cox) for an interview on The Today Show to help promote Goldberg's memoir Sit, Ubu, Sit.[34] The cast reunited again (minus Valentine, Bonsall and Cox) for a second time for the 2011 TV Land Awards in March of that year, which included Pollan alongside her husband Fox. That awards show would be the final appearance of Goldberg with the entire group.[citation needed] In October 2015, the main cast reunited for a third time with a second appearance (which included Pollan alongside Fox, but minus Price, Valentine, Bonsall and Cox) on The Today Show, and the first cast reunion since the 2013 death of Goldberg from cancer.[citation needed]


The 2021 Marvel Cinematic Universe series for the Disney+ video streaming service, references the series in the fifth episode, "On a Very Special Episode...," such as a stylized title sequence partially parodying the Family Ties opening that depicted the family first as a penciled sketch before finishing as a painted portrait, along with an upbeat theme song praising the family's love and closeness. In the episode, Wanda Maximoff and Vision are attempting to navigate raising their new children Tommy and Billy, both of whom are developing superhero abilities of their own.


  1. ^ Clements, Erin (October 7, 2015). "Family Ties cast reflects on show 3 decades later: 'We all loved each other'". USA Today. Archived from the original on June 2, 2017. Retrieved June 20, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d Saenz, Michael. "Encyclopedia of Television: Family Ties". Museum of Broadcast Communications. Archived from the original on June 6, 2016. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  3. ^ "101 Best Written TV Series". Writers Guild of America West. June 2, 2013. Retrieved May 17, 2024.
  4. ^ Patterson, Thom (November 1, 2006). "What would Alex P. Keaton do?". CNN. Retrieved September 26, 2021.
  5. ^ Kiehl, Stephen (June 7, 2004). "What he left behind: From Tom Clancy to Alex P. Keaton, Ronald Reagan's legacy extends beyond the political and into the cultural". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on June 14, 2018. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  6. ^ a b Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How The Left Took Over Your TV" by Ben Shapiro, Broadside Books, 2001, p. 125
  7. ^ Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How The Left Took Over Your TV" by Ben Shapiro, Broadside Books, 2001, p. 127
  8. ^ a b Haglund, David (March 2, 2007). "Reagan's Favorite Sitcom: How Family Ties spawned a conservative hero". Slate. Archived from the original on May 16, 2010. Retrieved August 3, 2008.
  9. ^ The Biography Channel - Matthew Broderick Biography Archived February 20, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Almost a KeatonWhat if actress LAURA DERN". Chicago Tribune. August 2004.
  11. ^ "The Lost Roles of Cheers". March 2012.
  12. ^ "Ed O'Neill". Television Academy Interviews. October 22, 2017.
  13. ^ Baxter, Meredith (2011). Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame, and Floundering. Random House LLC.
  14. ^ Amazon Video: Family Ties Archived October 8, 2020, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved February 18, 2013
  15. ^ Netflix: Family Ties Archived February 5, 2013, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved February 18, 2013
  16. ^ Beviglia, Jim (December 8, 2023). "The Meaning Behind Alex P. Keaton's Favorite Slow-Dance Song for the Ages: "At This Moment" by Billy Vera & the Beaters". American Songwriter.
  17. ^ "1982-83 Ratings History". Archived from the original on June 30, 2018. Retrieved July 20, 2021.
  18. ^ "1983-84 Ratings History". Archived from the original on January 18, 2018. Retrieved July 20, 2021.
  19. ^ "1988-89 Ratings History". Archived from the original on January 18, 2018. Retrieved July 20, 2021.
  20. ^ "Netflix: Family Ties (1982–1988) Seasons 1–7". Netflix.
  21. ^ "BBC - Comedy Guide - Family Ties". December 26, 2004. Archived from the original on December 26, 2004.
  22. ^ Lambert, David (August 22, 2014). "Family Ties - 'The Complete Series' Gets Re-Released in a New 'Unlimited' Box". Archived from the original on August 26, 2014. Retrieved August 24, 2014.
  23. ^ "Family Ties - Season 1". Sanity. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  24. ^ "Family Ties - Season 2". Sanity. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  25. ^ "Family Ties - Season 3". Sanity. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  26. ^ "Family Ties - Season 4". Sanity. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  27. ^ "Family Ties - Season 5". Sanity. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  28. ^ "Family Ties - Season 6". Sanity. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  29. ^ "Family Ties - Season 7". Sanity. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  30. ^ "Family Ties - Season 1-7 | Collection". Sanity. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  31. ^ Wallace, Amy (March 20, 2000). "Putting His Own Spin on 'City's' season finale". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on July 15, 2012. Retrieved August 5, 2008.
  32. ^ Shales, Tom (May 24, 2000). "Michael J. Fox, Playing 'Spin City' to a Fare-Thee-Well." The Washington Post. p. C1.
  33. ^ Michael J. Fox Database Archived November 19, 2004, at the Wayback Machine
  34. ^ "Family Ties: Reunited After Almost 20 Years!". Archived from the original on August 11, 2007. Retrieved February 7, 2008.


External links[edit]