Anyone who grew up in the '80's will clearly remember "Family Ties", Gary David Goldberg ("Spin City")'s family comedy/drama that focused on the Keaton family - parents Elyse and Steven (Meredith Baxer and Michael Gross), older sister Mallory (Justine Bateman), younger sister Jennifer (Tina Yothers) and - of course - conservative son Alex (Michael J. Fox).
The series largely focused around the differences between Alex's conservative views and his parents, who grew up as left-wing activists. Despite the differences between the parents and the children, Steven and Elyse still respected their children's views and tried to raise them as best as they knew how. From the first episode, the Keatons were always portrayed as a loving, supportive (keep in mind, the Bundys would arrive 5 years later) family (yet, were portrayed as such without the series seeming too sentimental or manipulative) and we believed them thanks to stellar writing and excellent performances.
The third season of the series brought a new character into the mix, which is usually a pretty bad sign for any series (see the most devastating example of adding a child to "Married...with Children.") However, Andrew (who was eventually played as a child by Brian Bonsall) was smartly integrated into the series and not just used for cuteness sake. Elise finds out that she's pregnant early in the season in "Here We Go Again" and has Andrew in the 2-parter, "Birth of a Keaton", where Elise goes into labor on-air, with Steven, Alex and Skippy stuck in a snowstorm trying to get to her.
The series continues in the third season to provide a terrific blend of both comedy and drama while also spreading the focus around to the different characters. A particularly funny Mallory-centric episode is "Fabric Smarts", where she finds something she's good at - working at a clothing boutique - but is forced to either quit or be tutored by Alex when her grades slip. Another amusing Mallory episode is "Cold Storage", where she gets locked in the basement with neighbor Skippy.
As always, there's a few good Alex episodes, such as "Philadelphia Story" (Alex wakes up in 1776, where he has to convince Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence), "4 RMS OCN VU" (to pay for the damage Mallory caused to the car, Alex rents out the house for the weekend while his parents are away), "Keaton and Son" (Alex loses out on a job at a bank and takes a job at his dad's station, but when the bank job opens up, Alex is afraid to tell his father) and "Hot Line Fever" (Alex volunteers at a crisis help line for college credits and immediately is faced with a caller in trouble, who is thinking about suicide.)
Note: as noted on the back of the box, some episodes have been edited (syndicated versions?) and music has been changed.
46. 3- 1 047 27 Sep 84 Here We Go Again
47. 3- 2 050 4 Oct 84 Little Man on Campus
48. 3- 3 054 11 Oct 84 Love Thy Neighbor
49. 3- 4 052 18 Oct 84 Keaton and Son
50. 3- 5 048 25 Oct 84 Fabric Smarts
51. 3- 6 055 1 Nov 84 Hotline Fever
52. 3- 7 057 8 Nov 84 4 Rms Ocn Vu
53. 3- 8 051 15 Nov 84 Best Man
54. 3- 9 049 22 Nov 84 Lost Weekend
55. 3-10 053 29 Nov 84 Don't Kiss Me, I'm Only the Messenger
56. 3-11 056 6 Dec 84 Help Wanted
57. 3-12 058 13 Dec 84 Karen II, Alex 0
58. 3-13 060 3 Jan 85 Oh Donna
59. 3-14 059 10 Jan 85 Auntie Up
60. 3-15 061 17 Jan 85 Philadelphia Story
61. 3-16 062 24 Jan 85 Birth of a Keaton (1)
62. 3-17 063 31 Jan 85 Birth of a Keaton (2)
63. 3-18 064 7 Feb 85 Cry Baby
64. 3-19 065 14 Feb 85 Don't Know Much About History . . .
65. 3-20 067 21 Feb 85 Bringing Up Baby
66. 3-21 066 7 Mar 85 Cold Storage
67. 3-22 068 28 Mar 85 Remembrances of Things Past (1)
68. 3-23 069 28 Mar 85 Remembrances of Things Past (2)
VIDEO: "Family Ties" is presented by Paramount Home Entertainment in 1.33:1 full-frame. These episodes aired nearly 25 years ago and the episodes do look about that old. These are clearly taken from video masters, and the the picture quality is just satisfactory (considering the age of the series.) While there are times when the show just manages to look moderately crisp, other scenes can appear soft and fuzzy. On a positive note, at least the elements used really do not display any noticable wear and tear, and colors look natural and accurate.
SOUND: The show's mono soundtrack fares a bit better than the video quality, as dialogue and music sounded a bit fuller and clearer than one would expect, given the age of the episodes.
EXTRAS: Gag reel and episode promos. The prior season offered some featurettes with cast and crew interviews - it's too bad that they couldn't be brought back to contribute to a discussion about this season, as well. Hopefully, future seasons can have a commentary or two from those involved with the show.
Final Thoughts: Deeply funny, deeply sweet and occasionally moving, "Family Ties" benefitted from stellar writing and an ensemble cast that not only had wonderful chemistry with one another, but created memorable, engaging characters that people really responded to. The look of the series is rather dated at this point, but the humor and heart is certainly still there. Recommended.