DVD Review: Family Ties (The Sixth Season)

Michael J. Fox should have been just a movie star during 1987 and 1988. He had three major releases on the big screen. He was rocking out with Joan Jett for Light of Day. He sipped champagne for The Secret of My Succe$s. He snorted a lot of cocaine to survive Bright Lights, Big City. Yet he had to keep his day job as Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties. Why didn’t he just pull a Chevy Chase vanishing act to go Hollywood? Family Ties: The Sixth Season brought along a new love interest for the young conservative.

“The Last of the Red Hot Psychologists” has Alex back in school and stuck in a student’s psychology project. He seems pleased that it’s to study overachievers. Who could be picking Alex’s brain? How about future-Friends star Courtney Cox? The future savior of NBC was saved by hooking up with Alex. But This role allowed Courtney to overcome the career jolting failure from her first star turn on Misfits of Science. “Dear Mallory” gives the oldest sister (Justine Bateman) a chance to be the advice columnist in the college paper. Jane Adam (Hung) is a victim of a bad response. “The Other Woman” has the youngest child (Brian Bonsall) upset that Alex is spending more time with Courtney Cox. “Super Mom” has Meredith Baxter helping everyone except her family. How long can she keep it up? This is a family that needs to focus on themselves. “Invasion of the Psychologist Snatchers” has Campbell Scott arrive to tempt Courtney back onto his couch. Can Alex compete with the star of The Spanish Prisoner? “Mister Sister” lands Nick (The Cool Scott Valentine) a job as janitor at Mallory’s sorority. The girls love Nick even when he’s picking up the feathers from their nightly pillow fights.

“The American Family” is a sneaky clipshow. Everyone tells Courtney Cox stories involving the previous five seasons. “The Blues Brother” has Alex announce the death of a blues musician on his college radio show. Trouble is the guy isn’t dead. He shows up to set the record straight. Real blues legend Brownie McGhee plays the blues legend. “Read It and Weep” features another future star of NBC when Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld) gets a guest role. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Dark Knight Rises) gets to be part of “Quitting Time.” “Father, Can You Spare a Dime?” wraps up the season with Nick eager to start his own art school for kids. But nobody will give him a loan. He has to suck it up to ask his dad for the cash. His father is the imposing Dan Hedaya (Clueless).

This would be the penultimate season of Family Ties as its ratings dropped by half. Why did it go from #2 to #17 so fast while Fox was becoming a movie star? Blame it on NBC executives who untied Family Ties from The Cosby Show. It lost its time slot to A Different World. Alex and the Family had to hack it out on Sunday night with My Two Dads. The show didn’t drop in quality with Alex getting a new girlfriend.

The Episodes

“The Last of the Red Hot Psychologists” (two-parter), “Dear Mallory,” The Other Woman,” “Dream Date,” “Super Mom,” “Walking On Air,” “Invasion of the Psychologist Snatchers,” “The Way We Were,” “Mister Sister,” “Citizen Keaton,” “Father Time” (two-parter), “The American Family” (two-parter), “Anniversary Waltz,” “Miracle in Columbus,” “The Play’s the Thing,” “The Spirit of Columbus,” “The Blues Brother,” “Read It and Weep” (two-parter), “Quitting Time,” “Spring Reminds Me,” “The Boys Next Door,” “Sign of the Times,” “Return of the Native” and “Father, Can You Spare a Dime?”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The show was finished in standard definition video so there’s a bit of fuzz to the transfers. The audio is Dolby Digital Stereo so you can hear that theme song in its proper fullness. The episodes are subtitled.

There are no bonus features.

Family Ties: The Sixth Season keeps up the relaxed family tension. Alex gets himself a new girlfriend, but can he stand her picking his brain? Nick keeps up his fine time as a new member of the family. While the show lost a major chunk of its audience, it didn’t lose its way on the screen.

CBS DVDs presents Family Ties: The Sixth Season. Starring: Michael J. Fox, Courtney Cox and Tina Yothers. Boxset Contents: 26 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released: April 9, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.

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