One of my favorite TV shows as a teen was Family Ties. The show ran from 1982 – 1989, so it began my senior year of high school and continued through my college and first career years. It was timed perfectly for me.
Just to refresh your memory: in the show, Steven and Elyse Keaton were liberal, hippie parents of three children: teenage Alex, who is a Reagan conservative, and quite vocal about it; Mallory, the stereotypical airhead; and Jennifer, the tomboy who didn’t get as much attention on the show (in a later season, fourth child Andrew was born).
It amazes me now to remember the show, and how Alex really stole most episodes with his fervent love of all things conservative (he had a framed photo of Nixon in his bedroom). The show was a sit-com, and yet Alex’s conservatism wasn’t really derided. I can’t imagine such a premise for a TV show today — although I’d love it! It was the ’80s, and while the neon shades and big hair were a bit over-the-top, these were the Reagan years (Reagan once said that Family Ties was his favorite TV show). We didn’t have to try to make America great again, because she already was. Gosh, I miss the ’80s!
Family Ties was hugely popular during this decade. At its peak, 1/3 of households tuned in to the show weekly. With all our channels available now — not to mention the internet — shows just aren’t as universally-watched anymore.
What are the Family Ties actors up to now?
Michael Gross played dad Steven Keaton on the show. He continues to act in TV shows and movies, and has been married for over 30 years, with 2 stepdaughters. He is interested in railroads, trains, and model trains. Fun fact: he and Family Ties “mom” Meredith Baxter share the same birth date: June 21, 1947.
Mom Elyse Keaton was played by Meredith Baxter, who’s had a colorful history. She’s been married four times; three of those to men and currently to a woman. She has five children. Baxter has continued her Hollywood career with many TV and movie roles.
Michael J. Fox
Fox, who played Alex Keaton, is probably the famous of the Family Ties family members. Why the “J,” you wonder? When Fox registered with the Screen Actors Guild, there was already another actor with that name. Fox’s actual middle initial is “A,” but he didn’t like the sound of “Michael A. Fox,” so he decided to go with J.
Family Ties made Fox famous. He also met his wife, Tracy Pollan, on the show — she played his girlfriend, Ellen. Fox went on to fame, starring in “Back to the Future” films and many others. He and Pollan married in ’88, while Family Ties was still filming. They have four children.
Fox was famously diagnosed at age 30 with early-onset Parkinson’s Disease in 1991, and started the Michael J. Fox Foundation which seeks to find a cure for the disease. Fox is still in various TV roles and films.
Justine Bateman played lovably-dumb younger sister Mallory. Although she has had other film and TV roles in the intervening years, Bateman is best-known for her Family Ties character. She has been married since 2001 and has two children. She began classes at UCLA in 2012 and is scheduled to graduate this year, with a degree in digital management and computer science.
A child actor since age 3, the role of Jennifer Keaton has been Tina Yothers’ most famous. She has appeared in many reality shows in recent years; among them, “What Not to Where,” “Celebrity Fit Club,”and “Celebrity Wife Swap.”
Fun fact: Yothers played Tonya Harding in the 1993 film “Spunk: The Tonya Harding Story.”
Want a little trip down memory lane? Check out the Family Ties theme song:
Ahhh, the memories this song brings back — “sha la la la”!!! It sounds so cheesy now, but at the time, nope. Totally normal.
Did you watch Family Ties?