Family Ties: Where Are They Now?
No television show defined the 1980s to the degree of “Family Ties,” but even today, the
delightfully clean comedy is still surprisingly relevant. As the title of the Emmy-nominated series so proudly proclaims, the bond between parents and their children is truly unbreakable, in spite of bumps in the road. Outside of the typical triumphs and travails of three teenage children (and later down the road, a newborn baby), former ’60s political activist parents Steven and Elyse Keaton (Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter-Birney) have several hilarious bouts with their wise-cracking conservative son, Alex (Emmy Award-winner Michael J. Fox).
In honor of its 30th anniversary since first hitting the air, gmc is currently reviving all the memories weekday mornings from 10 a.m. until noon Eastern. But before flashing back through the entire 180-episode run, here’s a refresher on all the lead actors and their closest confidants, along with what they’ve been up to from then through these days.
Michael J. Fox as Alex P. Keaton
If “Family Ties” was the sitcom of the ’80s, Michael J. Fox was hands-down the decade’s top actor. Aside from his stint on the show as the Ronald Reagan-loving teenager, the heartthrob ruled the silver screen as Marty McFly in the “Back to the Future” trilogy and even bounced back on the small screen as Mike Flaherty in “Spin City” from 1996–2000. Though Fox’s career hit a roadblock when he announced his struggle with Parkinson’s disease in the late ’90s, he’s since become a dedicated research activist and inspirational author, whose titles include “Lucky Man: A Memoir,” “Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future: Twists and Turns and Lessons Learned.”
Meredith Baxter-Birney as Elyse Keaton
The matriarch of the Keaton family always had a knack for knowing when to give advice and when to let her loved ones learn a lesson on their own. It’s no surprise that Meredith Baxter-Birney (now just Baxter) gravitated towards more motherly roles throughout her career, though they sometimes took a more dramatic shift, such as her made-for-TV movies “Down Will Come Baby” and “A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story” (both of which have since become cult classics). Other diverse pop culture appearances include “Spin City,” “Family Guy,” the new situation comedy “Dan Vs.” and the autobiography “Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame, and Floundering.”
Michael Gross as Steven Keaton
Besides perfectly playing the role of a former hippie turned father, Michael Gross has become one of television’s most frequent guest stars, popping up on “Boston Legal,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “ER” and “Law & Order.” Though he’s most famous for “Family Ties,” he also earned quite a name for himself as Burt Gummer in the “Tremors” movie trilogy, along with a significant stint on “The Young and the Restless.”
Justine Bateman as Mallory Keaton
Her character may have been the ditsiest on the show, but she was also the sweetest and most fashion-focused of the entire Keaton family. In real life, Justine Bateman is the sister of Jason Bateman (“The Hogan Family,” “Arrested Development”) whose numerous post-“Family Ties” appearances included that latter show, “Desperate Housewives” and “Private Practice.” Bateman also runs her own production and consulting company, co-hosts the internet talk show “Wake Up and Get Real,” and just announced she plans to take classes this fall at UCLA.
Tina Yothers as Jennifer Keaton
Jennifer just so happened to be the most studious sibling, though that didn’t detract from the youngest sibling's social life. Tina Yothers has also excelled in well-roundedness outside the show, as the co-founder of the rock band Jaded, performing in various plays at the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater and starring in the reality shows “Celebrity Fit Club” and “Celebrity Fit Club: Boot Camp.”
Brian Bonsall as Andrew Keaton
At the end of season three, Steven and Elyse welcomed a new child into the family, though by the start of season five, little Andrew’s age had advanced to four for the sake of more interactive storylines. Following the show, Brian Bonsall branched out into science fiction on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” along with movies like “Father Hood” and “Blank Check,” though after retiring from acting in 1995, the now 30-year-old formed the rock band Late Bloomers, followed by several punk bands.
Marc Price as Irwin “Skippy” Handelman
The Keaton family’s nerdy neighbor was a whole lot cooler looking after the show on the stand-up comedy circuit, touring with “Weird Al” Yankovic and Carrot Top, while also opening for Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld. He also has a thriving production career with credits spanning the game show “National Lampoon’s Funny Money” to the environmentally themed “Green Collar Comedy.”
Scott Valentine as Nick Moore
His character’s not the sharpest pencil in the box, which makes him the perfect boyfriend for Mallory, but at least there’s an endless stream of laughs between the two of them. Though a proposed spin-off from the show never worked out for Scott Valentine, a career as a guest star certainly did with slots on “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” “CSI: NY,” “NewsRadio” and “JAG.”
Tracy Pollan as Ellen Reed
Speaking of significant others, Ellen was Alex’s first long-term crush, though off the screen Tracy Pollan just so happened to become Michael J. Fox’s real-life spouse. In addition to assisting in his medical activism efforts, she pops up on TV every so often, guest starring on “Spin City” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” plus many TV movies and the miniseries “The Kennedys of Massachusetts.”
Courteney Cox as Lauren Miller
As Alex’s relationship with Ellen ended, he soon met look-a-like Lauren, who remained his sweetheart through the final season. However, the recurring role was simply a stepping stone for Courteney Cox, who since went on to uber-fame in “Friends,” the “Scream” horror movie series and the sitcom “Cougar Town.”
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About the Writer
Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, IllinoisEntertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, MTV.com and Vibe.com. He’s also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park’s Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel’s very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).
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