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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Family Ties is a classic '80s sitcom centering on a strong family headed by loving parents who happily share domestic duties. Much of the show's humor stems from the personality differences among the family members, but despite many disagreements, the parents support their kids and encourage them to express their views. Some episodes touch on serious issues like teen pregnancy, grief, extramarital affairs, and crime, but they're all addressed in an honest, thoughtful manner.
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What's the story?
Former hippies/leftwing activists from the '60s, Steven (Michael Gross) and Elyse Keaton (Meredith Baxter-Birney) now face the uncertainty of raising a family in the '80s in FAMILY TIES. Parenthood has pitfalls enough, but toss in the added challenge of meshing diverse philosophies between generations, and it's clear why there's never a dull moment in the Keaton household. Steven and Elyse may not always see eye to eye with their brood -- ultra-conservative Alex (Michael J. Fox), popularity queen Mallory (Justine Bateman), and free spirit Jennifer (Tina Yothers) -- but they always respect their ideals and give them support and guidance to find their way in life. (In later episodes, the Keatons welcomed another son, Andy, played by Brian Bonsall.)
Is it any good?
This iconic series set trends of its own, finding heartfelt entertainment in the ups and downs of one of TV's most believable TV families. During its seven-year run in the '80s, Family Ties did a lot more than just making it cool to don a calculator watch and tie like Alex. The Keatons were symbols of a new kind of American household, where both parents were successful professionals and shared domestic duties. Despite the Keatons' vastly different views -- which often led to some heated discussions -- the result was a heartwarming family atmosphere where everyone had a voice and loved ones always pulled together in the end.
In addition to common teen woes like dating and applying to college, the series also tackled serious topics like racial tension, alcoholism, drug addiction, and teen pregnancy, so some of the content may be on the mature side for young kids. But through every trial, Steven and Elyse remained positive role models who offered messages of tolerance, respect, and self-awareness -- making this series still an excellent choice for families. If you can look past the shoulder pads and big hair, you'll find timeless stories and positive lessons that resonate today with the same force as they did in the '80s.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Family Ties' messages about family life. Are the Keatons a realistic family? How do the issues they face compare to your family’s? How does this series compare to others you’ve seen that center on families?
How does the fact that this series is many years old affect how you view it? Are the show’s messages still relevant?
- Premiere date: September 22, 1982
- Cast: Meredith Baxter, Michael Gross, Michael J. Fox
- Networks: Syndicated, Discovery Family Channel
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Book Characters, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models
- Character strengths: Communication, Self-control
- TV rating: TV-G
- Available on: DVD, Streaming
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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