TV Trivia: Family Ties


family ties, tv shows, sitcoms, cast members, meredith baxter birney, michael gross, justine bateman, tina yothers, alex p keaton, mallory keaton, jennifer keaton, steven keaton, elyse keaton, nbs series(Family Ties Cast c. 1982: NBC Photo [colorized, text added])

From fall 1982 until spring 1989 Family Ties provided a half hour of prime time family-friendly humour. Originally the baby boomer parents, Michael Gross playing Steven Keaton and Meredith Baxter-Birney as Elyse Keaton, were to be the stars of the show. Then funny young Canadian Michael J. Fox was cast as their conservative oldest child son Alex P. Keaton, and he stole the spotlight. Michael J. Fox won 3 Emmy Awards as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (1986, 1987 and 1988) for his work on Family Ties.

During the 1986/7 season, actress Tracy Pollan had a recurring role on the show as Alex’s girlfriend. Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan later married in real life (in 1988) and have 4 children (twin daughters Aquinnah & Schuyler, son Sam, and youngest daughter Esme). Fox went on to star in movies (including the 3 Back to the Future movies which were filmed while the Family Ties series was still running) and subsequent television series (Spin City, etc.). Pollan has continued acting on screen periodically, most recently an episode of the 2022 mini-series Inventing Anna. The couple celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary in 2023.

In 1998 Michael J. Fox (born June 9, 1961 in Edmonton, Alberta) disclosed that he had been battling Parkinson’s Disease since being diagnosed in 1991, at the very young age of 30. Now 50+, Fox still acts occasionally and is an advocate for Parkinson’s Disease research funding including stem cell research. He founded the Michael J. Fox for Parkinson’s Research and has received honorary doctorates from several universities for his work in Parkinson’s Disease research funding, including a Doctor of Laws from the Justice Institute of British Columbia in 2012.

Despite his health struggles, Fox has continued appearing on TV (episodes of Designated Survivor in 2018 & The Good Fight in 2020) and in films such as See You Yesterday (2019), as well as doing voice-overs for animated movies and TV. He’s the subject of  director Davis Guggenheim’s documentary Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, which premiered on Apple TV+ in 2023. 

Both Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter, who played his parents on the show, are now senior citizens (coincidentally they were both born  June 21, 1947), and are still acting. Meredith Baxter came out as a lesbian in 2009, after having had 5 children and been married (and divorced) 4 times previously to men; she’s been married since 2013 to Nancy Locke, her long-time (since 2005) partner. Michael Gross is married with 2 children, and is a railroad and train enthusiast and historian. Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter were reunited onstage for a 2023 fundraiser in a production of The Diaries of Adam and Eve (a creation of Meredith’s late ex-husband David Birney).

Justine Bateman, who played Alex‘s mall-loving sister Mallory, continued acting on stage, TV, films, and web series. She began producing as well after Family Ties ended, and in 2021 her feature film debut effort as a screenwriter & director – Violet – premiered at film festivals. In 2012 (at age 46) Justine Bateman (born February 19, 1966 in Rye, New York) began studying at UCLA.; she graduated with a combined degree in computer science and digital media management in 2016. Bateman is also a licensed single-engine airplane pilot, and is married with two children.

Tina Yothers (nee Kristina Yothers, born May 5, 1973 in Whittier, California), who played blonde youngest sister Jennifer Keaton, has had sporadic acting roles and appeared on several different reality television episodes. Interviewed in November 2022 by Daily Blast Live, Yothers said there was no drama behind the scenes, and the cast remained friends after the series ended. Tina Yothers has been married since 2002 and has two children.

The youngest Keaton sibling, Andrew, was played by Brian Bonsall, who joined the Family Ties cast in the 5th season. Bonsall retired from acting at age 13 in 1995 and pursued a career in music. Now a married father of one, Bonsall expressed reservations at the thought of his son becoming a child actor (as he had been), and having to face the challenges of growing up in the industry, to interviewer Nick Lee for

A1. Tom Hanks guest-starred as Elyse‘s brother on the first two seasons of Family Ties.

A2. Courtney Cox (Monica on Friends) played Alex’s girlfriend Lauren Miller during the last two seasons of the show.

Note: This article was first published in 2015. It has been updated with new & additional content.

Anita Hamilton

50+ World editor & writer Anita Hamilton's articles are inspired by real historical events, places, and people. Her travel experiences, a lifelong keen interest in history, art, vintage music, books, silent films, classic movies, "golden age" television shows, fashion, & entertainment in general - combined with years of research - make her a subject matter expert with acquired knowledge & expertise on these topics. This, and a loving and supportive family complete with 3 mini-dachshund minions, keeps her busy.

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