Happy 40th Anniversary To TV's "Family Ties"

Herbie J Pilato

[The Classic TV Preservation Society]

It's viewed by some as The Brady Bunch of the 1980s with a more political and realistic twist.

It made a star out of one member of its cast (Michael J. Fox) but was intended as a star vehicle for another (Meredith Baxter-Birney).

Now celebrating its 40th Anniversary, the series is considered by many as one of the most popular television family sitcoms in history.

Its name is Family Ties, which was created by Gary David Goldberg, and it originally aired on NBC from 1982 to 1989. The show also starred Michael Gross, Justine Bateman, Tina Yothers, and Brian Bonsall. Baxter and Gross were the former hippie parents to the rest of the cast, including Fox who played a young Conservative Republican.

As recently documented by entertainment journalist Nick Paschal on Yahoo!, "Much of the tension in the early seasons was between Fox's character as a young Republican and his hippie parents. The political nature of the show is not something Baxter thinks would work in today's hostile political climate.

Baxter told Paschal, "I don't see how you could have it, because the divide given the positions of the people, of the family at the time if you just take that to their natural corners, I don't think there would be anything to come together on, you know, because it's so, the political landscape is so ugly today."

Gross said: "On the other hand, you could argue that it might be a healing experience to see somebody who can settle some of their differences in that way."

Gross added: "What I think was important about the show is we did deal with politics but was a kinder, gentler politics. The Reagan years were different than these years now. People were not mortal enemies if they disagreed with each other. And I think that was one of the nicest things about the show is that…we could disagree with our children and not send them up to bed without supper."

According to IMBD.com, "The cast wanted to end the show with the entire Keaton family dying in a plane crash. They absolutely didn't want to do a reunion show in the future."

In their interview with Paschal, Baxter and Gross shared what their characters would be doing today. Gross said he could envision his former TV parental figure "possibly volunteering somewhere." Baxter said she'd like to think her character would somehow be employed by Planned Parenthood.

As Paschal observed, "Family Ties has perhaps become best known as the show that launched Michael J. Fox's career. But the show sought to be a comedic reflection of families across America and ultimately how differences could be overcome with love and compassion — a welcome, if quaint, message four decades later where politics can drive a wedge between families and friends around the country.

Gross's perspective about the series has altered over the years. As he told Paschal, he used to think "Family Ties was a rather stupidly generic title until the more I thought about it, we have so many differences, and yet there are these ties that keep holding us together in spite of our differences. And so I grew to like the title."

Every season of Family Ties is streaming now on Paramount+.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS: A TREASURE HOUSE OF DECEMBER MEMORIES REVEALED, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA

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