In the annals of television history there are a multitude of great fictional families. The Simpsons, the Bunkers, the Bundys. One of my favorite has always been the Keatons from Family Ties, starring Justine Bateman, Michael J. Fox, Meredith Baxter Birney, Tina Struthers and Michael Gross.
The premise was simple. Two former hippies must raise one of the most conservative, Regan loving kids that ever lived, Alex P. Keaton, played with gusto and confidence by Michael J. Fox. It was set during the early portion of Regan’s presidency and focus a lot of Alex’s love of conservatism and his parent’s free loving, ex-hippy ideals and the friction there in. Much of the conflict and comedy was had within this premise.
At least at first. While it remained a theme throughout much of its impressive 7 year and 176 episode run, Family Ties was more about, believe it or not, the family. We go to learn all about the entire Keaton family, and with Mallory being about as far opposite from Alex as siblings could be, it made for not only comedy but gave the show heart when Alex and she helped each other. The actors pulled off a difficult job, with both conflict being a central theme but deep down, you always knew they all cared about each other deeply.
I think I miss that about a lot of 80’s shows. There was a general sweetness that is missing nowadays in most programs, even ones that are suppose to be about normal people. The casts are always so cynical and mean to each other and they forget they are suppose to be good to each other as well.
Much of the supporting cast were memorable as well, with the lovable neighbor Skippy, who was always trying to hit on Mallory and failing and then her full time boyfriend Nick, a bit of a Neanderthal but a good guy.
I find it interesting that Alex was not intended to be the main focus of the show but when audiences responded so well to Michael J. Fox’s performance, they changed the focus to him.