TV Trivia: Family Ties
Q1. Which famous movie actor portrayed Elyse Keaton’s (Meredith Baxter-Birney) alcoholic brother on Family Ties?
Q2. Which cast member of the Friends television show, had an earlier, recurring role on Family Ties?
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 (right, with Tracy, twin daughters and son Sam in 2012). 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.).
In 1998 Michael J. Fox 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.
Both Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter, who played his parents on the show, are now senior citizens (coincidentally there were both born on the same date, 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.
Justine Bateman, who played Alex’s mall-loving sister Mallory, continued acting and also turned to producing for many years after Family Ties ended. In 2012 (at age 46) Justine Bateman began studying Computer Science at UCLA and is set to graduate with a degree in 2016; she’s married with one child.
Tina Yothers, who played youngest sister Jennifer, has had sporadic acting roles and appeared on several different reality television episodes. Tina Yothers has been married since 2002 and has two children. The youngest Keaton sibling, Andrew, was played by Brian Bonsall, who retired from acting in 1995.
Below, the cast of Family Ties reunited 20 years later on Today and talked about the experience of working on the series.
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.