DVD Review: Family Ties (The Seventh and Final Season)

Viewers knew that Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox) would leave his television family eventually. Fox became a certified cinema star with Teen Wolf and Back to the Future in 1985. But he hadn’t torn up his contract to focus on film. He juggled both the show and movies. He was a certified superstar on a Bill Cosby level except with a better choice of scripts such as Light of Day and The Secret of My Succe$s rather than Ghost Dad. As the ’80s wound down, NBC moved Family Ties away from the comforting womb of Thursday nights. The ratings slipped. The end was inevitable. The only question is if the network was going to let Alex move out or keep him trapped in the family house with an unexpected axe. Family Ties: The Seventh and Final Season has the Keatons dealing with mortality on so many levels.

“It Happened One Night” shows what happens when Steven (Micheal Gross) and Elyse (Meredith Baxter) want a fun family weekend camping. The kids don’t want to go. They’re too old for roughing it in the wilderness. The folks want to go anyway. This leads to the sad guilt that moments like this will get more rare. The kids hop in the car to be with the folks except in the pre-GPS world, they get completely lost. Will the Keatons end with cannibalism? My choice is for Nick (Scott Valentine) to eat them all. “Designing Woman” lands Mallory (Justine Bateman) a job designing clothes. Trouble is her co-worker is ripping off her ideas. Can she get any respect? Should she tangle with Hank Azaria (The Simpsons)? “Beyond Therapy” drags Alex into counseling with his girlfriend Courtney Cox (Friends) to improve their communication skills. But is she really going to want to understand what he’s saying?

“Heartstrings” is a three parter that deals with Steven having a heart attack. Is he going to pull through it? This is one of those rare times where a major sitcom character can bite the dust simply cause the show is coming to an end. At least he has a complete professional in Philip Baker Hall (Boogie Nights) as his doctor. He would have been doomed in Ted McGinley was the heart expert. Although the show wouldn’t have to search too far to locate a new daddy for Jennifer (Tina Yothers) and Andy (Brian Bonsall). Even after the surgery, there’s comedy with how the family treat Steven now that he’s on the mend. Alex’s relationship with Courtney gets tested when Jane Adams (Hung) arrives in the two part “They Can’t Take That Away from Me.” “Wrap Around the Clock” is another two-parter that deals with a family time capsule being filled up. This is a great excuse for a clip show. There were a lot of multi-episode stories for the final season. The finale “Alex Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” is also busted into two. Alex gets his dream job in New York City. He can no longer live with his parents and commute that far. Thus we get the fond farewell from his family and to the Keatons. The video includes the cast giving a final curtain call to the studio audience.

Family Ties gave America a family that had liberal parents, a conservative son and a bunch of kids who couldn’t care either way. There was even Nick, who could care less about living in the era of Reagan. They were a wonderful pack of idealists that showed how it was once possible to love a conservative without dinner turning into a bar fight. Nothing is more nerve wracking than sitting through a Thanksgiving meal stuck between Fox News and MSNBC. You get less punishment than being an offensive tackle for the Detroit Lions. Family Ties reminded us that politics should always come far behind the love between parents and children. The show also served to remind actors that just cause they can bolt from their TV show for the fat paycheck of movies, you shouldn’t screw the other actors. Family Ties would have ended a few seasons back if Michael J. Fox had blown off the show. Although it would have been cool if Eric Stoltz arrived as cousin Malex P. Keaton.

The Episode
“It Happened One Night,” “Designing Women,” “Truckers,” “Beyond Therapy,” “Heartstrings” (three-parter), “Basic Training,” “Deja Vu,” “Nick’s Best Friend,” “Get Me to the Living Room on Time,” “The Job Not Taken,” “The Wrecker’s Ball,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” “‘Til Her Daddy Takes the T-Bird Away,” “Simon Says,” “All in the Neighborhood” (two-parter), “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” (two-parter), “Rain Forests Keep Falling on My Head,” Wrap Around the Clock” (two-parter), “Mr. Keaton Takes a Vacation” and “Alex Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” (two-parter).

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The color transfers are a bit lacking since the series was shot and cut on standard definition video. The audio is Dolby Digital stereo. You’ll clearly hear when Alex shuts the kitchen door for the final time. The episodes are subtitled.

No bonus features.

Family Ties: The Seventh and Final Season brings to an end the Keaton family’s adventures of surviving the ’80s. They learned to embrace the conservative Alex. They were a great family unit for the times.

CBS DVD present Family Ties: The Seventh and Final Season. Starring: Micheal J. Fox, Michael Gross, Meredith Baxter, Justine Bateman and Tina Yothers. Boxset Content: 24 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released: August 13, 2013.

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