“Family Ties” was an American sitcom series 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.Steven Keating (Michael Gross) and his wife, Elyse (Meredith Baxter), once 1960s hippies, found themselves in Reagan-era America trying to raise a traditional family in suburban Columbus, Ohio. Steven and Elyse were baby boomers, liberals, and former hippies, raising their children and dealing with a clash of cultures between them and their kids.
Married in 1964, Elyse was an independent architect and Steven, a native of Buffalo, New York, was the station manager of WKS, a local public television station. Their son Alex (Michael J. Fox) was an ambitious young Republican. Their older daughter Mallory (Justine Bateman) was music obsessed, fashion-conscious, boy-crazy, and gossipy. Jennifer (Tina Yorkers), the “normal one,” was a bit of a tomboy. In later seasons, the Keatons add a fourth child, Andy (Brian Bonsall).
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 materialism and conservative politics which came to define the 1980s. Alex, the oldest, embraced Reaganomics and exhibited strong conservative attitudes. Mallory was apolitical and a materialistic young woman in contrast to her feminist mother. She was also a bit of an airhead, fodder for jokes and teasing from her older brother. Jennifer, an athletic tomboy and the second youngest child, shared more of the values of her parents and just wanted to be a normal kid. Alex doted on his young brother Andy and tried to mold him in his conservative image.
It was “Family Ties” that launched Michael J. Fox’s acting career.
One of the reasons I chose this show, other than it was a fun, topical sitcom, is that during its seven year run on TV in the 80s, people kept telling me that I looked like a doppelgänger of Michael Gross, the father. I actually wrote about it in my “D is for Doppelgänger” post for the 2018 A to Z challenge. Some of my friends went so far as to encourage me to reach out to NBC and volunteer to play the role of a brother or cousin to Steven Keaton. I didn’t follow through.