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Family Ties

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Family Ties TV Poster Image
Classic 1980s sitcom's messages still ring true today.
Parents recommend

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 9 reviews

We think this TV show stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The importance of family and respecting other people’s points of view are underscored here.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The Keatons are a loving, happy, generally communicative family who share in household tasks and other responsibilities. Disagreements are frequent, but despite some sibling spats and the humorous mild name-calling and sarcastic put-downs, they try to respect each other’s views and demonstrate self-control.


Some kissing between a husband and wife as well as teen couples. Some storylines touch on sexual topics like teen pregnancy and extramarital affairs. Mallory is obsessed with being popular and having a boyfriend, so she often talks about guys being cute.


Very rare use of words like “hell” and “damn.”

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some storylines center on issues like underage drinking, alcoholism, and drug abuse, but the messages are always positive and honest.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8, 9, and 11 year old Written byMike Weston August 11, 2009

Great conversation starting TV show

I love this show. The messages are timeless (except for some of the political stuff), and the characters all have their lovable sides. I just wish I knew when... Continue reading
Adult Written bystargategeek May 5, 2010
Teen, 13 years old Written bypepsicola14 April 5, 2011

Really good, just wach it.

I think this show is really good, very funny, it always puts a smile on my face, even on my worst days. The messages are extreamly good, always showing the trut... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byi heart reading December 28, 2010

great show for familys

This is a great show that sends out useful messages, also even though it was made in the 80's kids will still be able to relate to it today. This is a grea... Continue reading

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?

  • How do the characters on Family Ties demonstrate communication and self-control? Why are these important character strengths?

TV details

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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For kids who love family sitcoms

Our editors recommend

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