Observations on Re-watching the First Season of ‘Family Ties’

A few weeks ago at a gathering of the Black Sheep, Steve told us about how when he and his wife lived in Brooklyn they went on a “Family Ties” bender. They were so obsessed, he said, they went out and bought an orange juice pitcher and cups set, like the Keatons have. Also, the cereal container things.

This is Steven Keaton sans beard. See what I mean about the oogy creepiness?
This is Steven Keaton sans beard. See what I mean about the oogy creepiness?

Shortly after that I was reading Last Night at the Viper Room, which had a few paragraphs about the episode of “Family Ties” River Phoenix was in. Of course, I had to watch it immediately.

That one episode really whet my whistle. “Family Ties” was my favorite show growing up (well, my favorite after “Happy Days” went off the air) and it made obvious sense that it would be the first TV series to provide background for my Saturday create-a-thons. In fact, every Saturday between now and December 23 will be dedicated to making gifts and watching some sort of TV. Remember how I vowed to make all my Christmas gifts this year? Yeah. I got a lot of work to do. I’ve got two afghans done and three in various states of doneness.

Anyway, here are a few observations upon re-watching “Family Ties.”

  • TV seasons used to have 22 new episodes to them. It takes forever to get through a season.
  • Sister #2 and Ben are pretty much a modern-day Steven & Elyse Keaton, minus the hippie nonsense.
  • Alex P. Keaton is the most charming Republican that ever was and ever will be.
  • Julie from “Valley Girl” is in the High School Quiz bowl episode.
  • The Keatons’ politics probably played a huge role in my lefty-leaning tendencies. I know it wasn’t my own parents’ politics (my mom never voted until I started voting in 1990. My dad take great pride in being one of those assholes who has never voted).
  • Mr. Keaton sans beard is kinda creepy. He looks 100% better with the beard.
  • I still think Skippy Handelman is adorable in a doofusy way.
  • The show is pretty progressive for, well, 1982 (I’ve just started season 2). There’s a lot of talk about sex and hardly any slut shaming (though Alex tries really hard to shame). When Mallory’s one friend gets pregnant, she mentions the possibility of getting an abortion and there is nary a pearl clutched or an undie bunched. I can’t imagine that happening on TV today.
  • The way Jennifer continually shoots down Alex’s ridiculous chauvinism never ceases to make me laugh like a goon.
  • Darren from “Bewitched” plays Elyse’s dad. Tom Hanks plays her brother, Ned. What a family.
  • There’s a weird time-warpy thing that goes on between Season 1 and Season 2 whereby Mallory’s boyfriend Jeff who is a senior with Alex goes off to Princeton in Season 2 and yet Alex remains a high school senior.
  • Also, speaking of Jeff. He asks Mallory to go steady while home on break from Princeton and then pins her with his French club pin. Was this something people actually did in the world or just something people did on TV? I’ve never heard of anyone getting pinned ever. I mean aside from Marybeth on Happy Days and Gidget.


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