The Show Family Ties, Cast, and Trivia!
This was a series about a close-knit, loving family who counted on one another to be there through good times and bad.
The parents of this family are Steven (Michael Gross) and Elyse (Meredith Baxter-Birney) Keaton, former hippies of the 1960’s and proud of it! They have been in love with each other almost from the moment they met, and were married in 1964. Heavily influenced by John F. Kennedy, Steven and Elyse joined the Peace Corps immediately after their marriage, the next year while in Africa, their first child, Alex (Michael J. Fox), was born. Soon after, they started attending the University of California, Berkeley, which was where their second child, Mallory (Justine Bateman), was born in 1967. And their third child, Jennifer (Tina Yothers), was born on the night of President Richard Nixon’s win for a second term in office in 1972.
The Keatons now live in the town of Columbus, Ohio. Steven is the station manager for a local public television station called WKS, while Elyse is an independent architect, and both love their jobs. It is the early years of the Reagan administration, and Alex is a Young Republican who is a heavy supporter of “Reganomics” as well as conservative attitudes. Mallory is also in support of these things but to a much lesser degree than her brother. She is much more worried about shopping and how good her hair looks, which is in sharp contrast to her feminist mother. Of course the fact that Steven and Elyse are liberals and Democrats while their two oldest children are conservatives tends to make for some heated and interesting discussions. The youngest member of the family, Jennifer, is more like her parents in most ways, and somewhat of a tomboy and an athlete. Later on, Elyse becomes pregnant again and they have a fourth child, Andrew (Brian Bonsall). Andrew (Andy), is adored by all, but becomes especially close to Alex. In return for his adoration of his older brother, Alex bestows all of his love on Andy, as well as his political views, managing to mold him into a very, very young Republican! There was also a few other characters who added both warmth and laughter as well as some interesting storylines on Family Ties. The first was Skippy (Marc Price), who was a nearby neighbor and the best friend of Alex, but sometimes felt like Mallory’s’ nightmare because of the great love that he had for her. Despite never having his feelings returned, Skippy still remained sweet, true and caring throughout the series. There was Mallory’s’ longtime boyfriend, Nick (Scott Valentine), an artist who despite being somewhat on the stupid side at times, could also be quite charming and was very sweet. Ellen Reed (Tracy Pollan), was the first serious girlfriend of Alex, a feminist artist whom he doesn’t plan on becoming attracted to, but somehow ends up falling in love with! And lastly is Lauren Miller (Courtney Cox), who is the second serious relationship for Alex. Lauren is a liberal psychology student, and much to Alex’s surprise is a feminist as well, just like his former girlfriend Ellen, and his own mother.
Family Ties is a show that always has something for you. It has laughter, love, political views and life issues of all kinds. The cast worked well together and you truly feel as if you are watching a real family that faces actual problems both inside and outside of the family unit. Always enjoyable to watch for its entire run of seven seasons, I give this series 9 out of 19.
Recurring Cast Years
Skippy Handelman-Marc Price 1982-1989 Nick Moore-Scott Valentine 1985-1989 Ellen Reed-Tracy Pollan 1985-1987 Lauren Miller-Courtney Cox 1987-1989 GusThompson-John Hancock 1983-1989 George Bellack-Alan Blumenfeld 1984-1987 Sam-Robert Schanche 1983-1989 Phyllis-Enid Kent 1982-1988 Dr.Schulte-Terry Wills 1983-1989 Carmine-Robert Costanzo 1984-1987 Ted Waterman-John Petlock 1982-1986 Robert Keaton-Norman Parker 1985-1987 Jeff Wakefield-John Dukakis 1983-1984 Mr. Wertz-Ben Piazza 1984-1987 Oscar-David Wohl 1985-1988 Young Steven-Michael David Wright 1984-1988 Party Girl-Wendy Wells-Gunkel 1987 Ned Donnelly-Tom Hanks 1983-1984 Customer #1- Bunny Summers 1983-1985 Neil-John Putch 1982-1986 Bernice-Belita Moreno 1983-1989 Doug-Timothy Busfield 1984-1986 Karen Nicholson-Geena Davis 1984-1986 Customer #2-Denise D’Amico 1985-1989 Bill Channing-Walter Olkewicz 1984-1987 Bellhop-James N. Hamilton 1985-1987 Dr. Skip Williamson-Matthew Faison 1985-1987 Grover Garver-Michael B. Moynahan 1983-1986 Young Elyse-Margaret Marx 1986-1988 Buffaloed Bill-Raymond Singer 1986-1988 Rebecca Ryan-Melinda Culea 1986-1987 Marty Brodie-Jane Adams 1987-1989 Dr. Harrison-Philip Baker Hall 1988 Kate-Priscilla Morrill 1982-1984 Richard Grasso-Sal Viscuso 1982-1984 Carol Mannings-Mary Farrell 1983-1985 Mr. Carlyle-Richard Venture 1983 Mr. Winkler-Philip Sterling 1982-1984 Suzanne Davis-Brooke Alderson 1982-1983 Ron Davis-Jay Tarses 1982-1983 Bill-Sam Whipple 1984 Rachel Miller-Daphne Zuniga 1984 Jackie Jackerman-Rick Podell 1985 Tricia Armstrong-Suzanne Snyder 1985 James Jarrett-Jeffrey Joseph 1984-1985 Attendant-Earl Boen 1983-1984 Leonard-Jack Blessing 1985 Larry Harris-David Paymer 1985 Young Alex-Chris Hebert 1982-1983 Marge-Karlene Crockett 1985 Suzie Harris-Julie Fulton 1985 Bud Carlson-Ron Karabatsos 1985 Mr. Rubin Redesco-Edward Edwards 1983-1986 Mrs. Rose Handelman-Lois De Banzie 1984-1989 Doug-Crispin Glover 1984-1986 Flaum-Michael Zorek 1984-1986 Deena-Tracy Nelson 1984-1985 Joe Moore-Dan Hedaya 1988-1989 Dougie-Joseph Gordon-Levitt 1988 Harry Handelman-Raleigh Bond 1984-1989 Stage Manager-John Hostetter 1984-1987 Carol-Bernadette Birkett 1985-1988 Dougie Barker-Jeff Cohen 1984-1987 Todd-Ford Austin 1984-1985 Ted-Marc Wasserman 1984-1985 Baby Andy Keaton-Garrett & Tyler Merriman 1985 Boardwoman-Anne Bellamy 1987-1989 Brother Timothy-Richard McGonagle 1987-1989 Simon Wickerson-Jason Naylor 1987-1989 Maureen Keaton-Julie Cobb 1987 Brooke-Alyson Croft 1987 Amy Sussman-Sonia Curtis 1987 Zack-Gino De Mauro 1987 Holly-Stephanie Dizon 1987 Brett-Niall Gartlan 1987 Stacie Connors-Heather Hobbs 1987 Marilyn Keaton-Tammy Lauren 1987 Chrissy Nardino-Amy Lynne 1987 Kathy Brady-Wendel Meldrum 1987 Beth-Nicole Nourmand 1987 Reggie-Fess Reynolds 1987 Jonathan Keaton-Blake Soper 1987 Bob-Kevin Dunn 1988-1989 Mrs. Hummier-Baillie Gerstein 1988-1989 Paul Corman-Billy Morrissette 1988-1989 Dr. Hewitt-Bibi Besch 1988 Mr. Flaherty-Christian Clemenson 1988 Peggy Vincent-Caroly Mignini 1988 Mr. Meyers-Richard Kuss 1988 Ruth Hobart-Christina Pickles 1988 Michael Thompson-Keith Amos 1989 Maya Thompson-Rosalind Cash 1989 Phil-Mark L. Taylor 1989
Michael J. Fox grew up in Canada and when he was fifteen years old he was on a Canadian TV series called, “Leo and Me”. When he was 18 years old he moved to Los Angeles to further pursue his acting. Three members of the cast and crew of the series of Leo and Me, as well as Fox himself, have developed Parkinson’s disease in mid-life. Because it is an unusually high number for one group to have, some investigation has been done to determine whether or not any environmental factors played a part. Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, actually stated that Family Ties was his favorite show in the 1980’s. Brian Bonsall (Andrew), though in a number of other television productions, as well as films, decided to retire from acting in 1995. Tracy Pollan’s (Ellen Reed), best friend in real-life is actress, Jennifer Grey, they attended the same school as teenagers. Marc Price was childhood friends with Crispin Glover who guest-starred on Family Ties. The last episodes with Michael J. Fox (Alex), on the series “Spin City”, were filled with mentions and memories of Family Ties. Both Michael Gross (Steven Keaton) and Meredith Baxter (Elyse Keaton), did guest spots on the show, Gross as a therapist to Fox’s character, and Baxter who once again played his mother. They also use the name “Mallory”, in reference to an off-screen character, as well as the name of Alex P. Keaton. Meredith Baxter (she dropped the Birney years before after her divorce from David Birney), was actually pregnant in real-life so the pregnancy was simply written into the show. But instead of a boy, as on the show, she actually gave birth to twins. Crispin Glover, who played a friend of Alex P. Keaton on the show, worked with Michael J. Fox again only a year later, but not on Family Ties. Instead he played the father of Michael J. Fox’s character, “Marty McFly”, in the popular “Back To The Future” trilogy. Justine Bateman (Mallory), is married to Mark Fluent, and has two children, a son, Duke, and a daughter, Gianetta. Michael Gross is a very passionate railfan. He is a modeler, photographer, and part-owner of a working railroad, The Santé Fe Southern Railway. Meredith Baxter is a breast cancer survivor. She has also created her own skin-care line called Meredith Baxter Simple Works, which raises money for her breast cancer research foundation. Since 2001, Brian Bonsall has had numerous arrests, convictions and probations. He has been heavily into drugs and alcohol, and at one point in 2009 after being on the run for more than a year after failing to appear at a court hearing, said that he was bi-polar. The godmother of Courtney Cox‘s daughter, Coco, is former co-star and friend, Jennifer Aniston. Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991. He actually began experiencing symptoms a year prior to that while he was filming the movie, “Doc Hollywood”. However it took that long for a proper diagnosis to be made. Following the diagnosis Fox started to drink somewhat heavily, but he got help and has since stopped drinking completely. Due to the severity of his symptoms, he semi-retired from acting in the year 2000. He has since created the Michael J. Fox foundation which is aimed at finding a cure for Parkinson’s. The Karolinska Institutet of Sweden awarded Fox with a doctorate of medicine degree in 2010 for all of his work in both fundraising and advocating for a cure for the disease. He manages some of his symptoms with the help of the drug Sinemet, and has also had a thalamotomy in 1998. Michael Gross (Steven) and Meredith Baxter (Elyse), who play husband and wife on Family Ties, also have on other thing in common. They both have the same birthday in real-life, June 21, 1947. Tina Yothers (Jennifer), went from her natural blond hair color, and dyed it jet black after Family Ties ended. Marc Price (Skippy Handelman), has within the past few weeks begun to appear on Fox Sports Live with Jay and Dan. The role of Alex Keaton was originally supposed to go to actor Matthew Broderick, however, Broderick was forced to turn it down when his father became terminally ill. After Fox got the role, Brandon Tartikoff, who was one of the series’ producers, tried to get him replaced, reasoning that he was too short to play the part, in relation to the actors who were playing the roles of his parents. He also was reported as saying, “this is not the kind of face you’ll ever find on a lunch-box”. After some time had passed and Fox had become a success, he had a custom-made lunch box created and gave it to Tartikoff. The inscription read, “To Brandon, this is for you to put your crow in. Love and Kisses, Michael J. Fox”. For the rest of his career with the NBC network, Tartikoff kept the box in his office. TV Guide ranked “Steven Keaton” as #12 on their list of “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time”. The actress who played Ellen Reed (Alex’s girlfriend), was Tracy Pollan. Only three years later, she and Fox got married. They are still happily married today with four beautiful children. Time Magazine named Michael J. Fox in 2007, one of the 100 people “whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world”. Fox has also testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee in 1999. Scott Valentne (Nick Moore), had just taken a screen test for the movie, “The Lords of Discipline” in the year 1981, when he was hit by a truck. It took him three years to recover. The portrait shown in the opening credits of the Keaton family, was actually painted by Michael Gross. Michael J. Fox has written three books called, Lucky Man: A Memoir, Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future: Twists and Turns and Lessons Learned. Courtney Cox (Lauren Miller), was one of the six stars of the incredibly popular television series, “Friends”. Michael Gross is the spokesperson for the “World’s Greatest Hobby” campaign, as well as the celebrity spokesman for B & O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. Brian Bonsall formed a rock band in 1998 called “Late Bloomers”, and has also been in several punk bands as well. Meredith Baxter came out to the world in 2009 as a lesbian. She did it on the Today show, in an interview with Matt Lauer. She has stated that she didn’t realize that she was gay until 2002, when she was in her first same-sex relationship. She has since had a book published, her memoir called, “Untied”. Michael J. Fox has won countless awards, and had an amazing career on both film as well as television. His fourth movie role as Marty McFly in Back to the Future, was not only a great success for him financially, but personally as well. The director, Robert Zemeckis, had wanted him for the role from the beginning but was told it was not a possibility. At that time, Meredith Baxter was on maternity leave and Fox was needed to help carry the show until she returned, therefore, the part was given to Eric Stoltz. After Stoltz started filming the movie, Zemeckis felt that he just wasn’t right for it, and by that time Fox had a little more free time, as Baxter had returned. However the hours that Fox put in for the next two months were absolutely grueling. He would film Family Ties from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and then rush to the Back to the Future set and continue working until 2:30 a.m. It all turned out to be worth it in the end, as the movie was the #1 grossing movie of 1985 for eight weeks straight. It made a total of $381.11 million dollars world-wide. The theme song to Family Ties is called, “Without Us”, and was sung by Johnny Mathis, and Deniece Williams.