The cast wanted to end the show with the entire Keaton family dying in a plane crash. They absolutely didn't want to do a reunion show in the future.
According to Michael J. Fox's last Spin City (1996) episode, Alex P. Keaton became a Junior Congressman from Ohio.
Michael J. Fox added the P. in Alex P. Keaton as an ad-lib in his audition, the writers loved it and kept it. Michael J. Fox almost didn't get the role of Alex, due to the fact that NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff didn't find it believable that Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross would have a son who was so short.
Tracy Pollan, who played Alex Keaton's girlfriend Ellen, later married Michael J. Fox in real life.
Michael Gross once stated in an interview that he didn't feel that Steven Keaton had much dimension or depth until the character of Nick was added. He cited this addition as a major reason for staying on the show.
Alex and Ellen's love theme was "At This Moment" by Billy Vera and The Beaters. The song was originally recorded and released in 1981, and went largely unnoticed. After being featured on the series, the single was re-released in the fall of 1986, and reached number one on the Billboard Top 100 Pop Chart in early 1987.
Michael J. Fox's first audition was deemed terrible by Gary Goldberg, because Fox came off too smart-aleck. Casting director Judith Wiener really liked Fox and begged Goldberg to see him a second time. Fox took a different approach, the audition went great, and Fox was offered the part.
Mallory's boyfriend Nick was only intended to be a "one shot" character. Scott Valentine made a strong impression on the show's audience and producers, resulting in Nick becoming a recurring character on the series. Nick proved to be so popular that the producers tried to spin him off into his own series, though the pilot never sold.
When Meredith Baxter became pregnant, during the hiatus between the second and third seasons, her pregnancy was written into the show. However, she still was written out of several episodes after giving birth to twins in real life.
The black Labrador that appeared after the closing credits with the voice-over, "Sit Ubu, sit", was Gary David Goldberg's dog, Ubu.
An episode set to air shortly before the 1988 Presidential election was to have featured a scene showing Alex's bedroom full of George Bush campaign posters and related items. The scene was dropped, as NBC felt it could be viewed as overtly political and potentially violated Equal Time laws. Instead, a scene was shown after the election, where Alex hung up and admired a poster of Bush in the living room to celebrate his victory.
In one of his autobiographies, Michael J. Fox said that for at least ten years after his marriage to Tracy Pollan, the two couldn't get on a dance floor anywhere in the country without someone starting to play the 1981 song "At This Moment" by Billy Vera and The Beaters because of its strong association with the romance storyline between Fox's and Pollan's characters Alex and Ellen.
The show was a long-time staple of NBC's "Must See TV" Thursday night line-up. After season five, the show moved from Thursday night following The Cosby Show (1984) to Sunday night. The show dropped from second place in the ratings to number seventeen due to the move. The ratings declined even further in season seven, and the show was cancelled.
On some days during the shoot of the first season, Fox would often hitchhike from Brentwood to Hollywood, because he had no car.
The series was intended to be a starring vehicle for Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross. As a result, the show's initial focus was more on the parents, with the kids more as background characters. The kids, Alex in particular, quickly came to gain a more equal, and eventually greater focus, as Michael J. Fox established himself as the series break-out star.
President Ronald Reagan's declaration of this being his favorite television show lead to rumors of talks for him to make a cameo, or perhaps guest starring role, on the series.
The show was modelled after producer Gary David Goldberg and wife Diane's real-life experiences as former "hippies" transitioning into suburban family life.
One year before playing Michael J. Fox's father in Back to the Future (1985), Crispin Glover played Alex P. Keaton's friend in the episode Family Ties: Birthday Boy (1984). Fox and Glover appeared in High School U.S.A. (1983) as well.
The political themes were heavily emphasized in early seasons of the series. However, as the show progressed and the focus moved on Alex and the children, the political themes were downplayed or used in a more light hearted manner in later seasons.
All of the stars of Stand by Me (1986) appeared on this show as friends or classmates of Jennifer Keaton, except Jerry O'Connell. River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, and Corey Feldman all made cameos on the program in Jennifer-centric episodes.
Michael J. Fox was approached during the second season about starring in Back to the Future (1985), but executive producer Gary David Goldberg would not allow Fox the time off to make the film. Because of delays in the film, Fox was approached again during the third season; this time, Goldberg and the film's producers worked out a schedule that would allow Fox to work on both projects simultaneously. Mondays to Thursdays, Fox would rehearse for the series during the day, and work on the film all night. On Friday nights, the series would tape their episodes. As soon taping finished, he would go to the film's set and work all weekend.
Alex attended Leland University, a play on Stanford University (sometimes referred to as the conservative Harvard or Harvard of the west coast), which was named for Leland Stanford.
According to the memoir "Lucky Man", shortly before Fox won the role of Alex P. Keaton, Fox's father had written him a letter and encouraged him to "pull the curtain" on his acting career in Los Angeles given his recent struggles. A few weeks later, he was taking a bus to work every day to shoot the show.
Alex's (Michael J. Fox's) hero is Richard Nixon. Skippy (Marc Price) (the perpetual Alex wanna-be) admired Gerald Ford.
In her memoir "Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame and Floundering", Meredith Baxter talks about tension on the set of this show. She talks about how she and Michael Gross were annoyed that Michael J. Fox was getting all the attention, and their characters were basically being ignored. At one point, in a sign of protest, they walked on the set with one leg bonded together (like they were running a three-legged race). They made a speech to everyone about how they were tied together because their characters were bland and interchangeable, one boring "uni-parent" creature. Series executive producer Gary David Goldberg ignored their protests.
U.S. President Ronald Reagan declared this his favorite television show during the 1980s.
Throughout the series' run, exterior establishment shots of the Keaton home were never used in any of the episodes, which is very unusual for a family sitcom. The vast majority of all scenes were played out in the kitchen.
Columbus, Ohio was selected as the setting of the series as that section of the country is viewed as being "middle America".
Meredith Baxter at times was rumored to have wanted to leave the series. This was said to be due over tensions between her and Michael J. Fox, as Fox had largely usurped the show's intended focus away from Baxter and Michael Gross. Baxter and Fox have indicated that there was nothing to the reports over any feuds or tension between them.
Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter share the same birthday: June 21, 1947. Gross was born in Chicago, Illinois, and Baxter was born in Los Angeles, California.
Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross, each born on June 21, 1947, are only fourteen years older than Michael J. Fox, born June 9, 1961.
Scott Valentine wore a long, shaggy wig for the role of Mallory's boyfriend Nick Moore. Valentine's real hair can be seen in the episode "Mr. Right," from season four, when Nick gives himself a clean -cut makeover to impress Mallory's parents.
At least two different pilots for a potential spin off series featuring Nick (Scott Valentine) were produced and aired, though neither was picked up by NBC.
The producers originally wanted Matthew Broderick to play Alex P. Keaton, but the actor had to decline the role when his father became terminally ill. Coincidentally, Broderick's father James Broderick played Meredith Baxter's father on the drama Family (1976).
The name "Mallory" translates to (depending on who you ask) as either "failure, unlucky, or ill-omened" which is fitting with the character.
The character "Steven Keaton" was ranked #12 in TV Guide's list of the "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time" (June 20, 2004 issue).
Michael Gross made a crossover appearance as Steven Keaton on the short lived NBC Sitcom Day by Day (1988), which like Family Ties was created and produced by Gary David Goldberg.
In March 2008, Gary David Goldberg wrote an essay for The New York Times speculating about what Alex Keaton's political beliefs would be now. Goldberg said that Keaton, as a "true Conservative Republican", would probably no longer feel comfortable in the Republican Party of the late 2000s, "a party whose legacy will include Terri Schiavo and Hurricane Katrina, (and) waging war against science." Goldberg said that Keaton would have supported McCain in 2000, but no obvious candidate in the 2008 race. He also said that he and Michael J. Fox have different ideas about Keaton's current career; Goldberg thinks Keaton is a pro bono lawyer for the Children's Defense Fund, while Fox believes Keaton is finishing a prison sentence.
In at least two episodes of season six, Jennifer appears as being much younger, and the toddler Andy is noticeably absent. These episodes were recycled from unused episodes of earlier seasons, and used as "fillers" in the production run for the sixth season.
The Goonies (1985) stars Martha Plimpton, Jeff Cohen, and Corey Feldman all made appearances on this show.
By the time she played Elise Keaton Meredith Baxter Birney had starred on two hit series; Bridget Loves Bernie; Family; and Family Ties was her third hit. One Day at A Time; also a big hit; was based on her life; and written by her mother, Whitney Mannings Blake; and was intended to star her; but it starred Bonnie Franklin and Mackenzie Phillips playing her role.
This show benefited from following The Cosby Show (1984) every Thursday night on NBC. However, prior to the 1987-1988 season, Bill Cosby requested that another show focusing on African-Americans follow his, due to the low number of them on television at the time. The result was A Different World (1987), a show that he helped create and produce, that focused on an African-American college. This show was moved to Sunday night, where it took a big dip in the ratings. The show was cancelled in 1989 as the ratings continued to decline.
Tina Yothers released a single when she was on this show, called "Baby I'm Back In Love Again". It's the song her band sings in the "Band on the Run" episode. Unfortunately, it never cracked the top 40.
The name of the public television station, for which Stephen worked, was WKS, a fictional station.
Throughout the series, no one other than the six Keatons was ever a series regular featured in the opening credits.
Alex, Mallory, and Skippy attended Harding High School. Jennifer went to Randolph elementary. Although there are two "Harding" high schools in Ohio, both named after the 29th President of the United States Warren G. Harding, there is no school by that name in the area in and around Columbus, Ohio. Which doesn't matter, since it's a fictional show.
Mallory (Justine Bateman) and Skippy (Marc Price) attended Grant Junior College, a fictional school.
Some critics and other media observers have come to see this show as a reverse parallel to All in the Family (1971). Both shows largely centered around political or philosophical generation gaps, with this show reversing All In The Family's dynamic of conservative parents and liberal kids. Gary David Goldberg has said that hadn't been his intention, calling the reverse similarities a happy accident.
The TV show "One Day At a Time" was written as a star vehicle for Whitney Blake and her daughter Meredith Baxter, about Blake's own real-life experiences raising her daughter. The idea was shopped around to all the networks back in the sixties, but stayed in development turnaround until Norman Lear bought it in 1974, when Blake and Meredith were too old to play the parts. Meredith Baxter said how hurt and betrayed she and her mom felt when the show, which was supposed to be their star vehicle, was bought by Norman Lear and cast with other actresses. Ironically, One Day at A Time and Family Ties were both on the TV schedule during the 1983 and 1984 seasons.
In the show, Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross play extreme liberal activists who show annoyance towards their son Alex's love of President Richard Nixon. However, in All the President's Men (1976), Baxter portrayed Debbie Sloan, the wife of Richard Nixon White House staffer and Watergate conspirator Hugh Sloan.
Justine Bateman (Mallory) later goes on to appear in her brother, Jason Bateman's, series Arrested Development (2003). The title of the episode is Arrested Development: Family Ties (2006).
Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross, each born on June 21, 1947, are only eleven years older than Scott Valentine, born on June 3, 1958.
Elyse and Steven were both born in the early 1940s and Alex was born in the late 1960s. (This is mentioned due to the fact that Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross were only 14 years older than their on-screen son, Michael J. Fox).
After creating The Patridge Family, which was a huge hit show for Screen Gems and ABC, Bernie Slade's next big project was big another big TV hit; Bridget Loves Bernie; a sitcom about a whirlwind relationship between Catholic schoolteacher Meredith Baxter and Jewish cab driver David Birney. The show was extremely popular; it ranked number 5 for the 1972-1973 season. But unlike the Patridge Family, which ran for many years, Bridget Loves Bernie was short-lived. It was very popular, airing in between Mary Tyler Moore Show and All in the Family, but also extremely controversial. Religious groups around the country picketed the interfaith show; so much so that CBS CEO William Paley personally decided to cancel it after bumping into many protesters on the street while on the way to work every morning.
The cast of the show have said clearly that any sort of reunion or reboot will not happen with any of the original cast, as they were so tired from the series they just wanted the characters to be left where they were.
Michael J Fox and Meredith Baxter Birney met on the set of the TV show Family. Fox made one of his earliest tv appearances in the 1980 episode "Such a Fine Line." He played a 14-year-old who fell in love with mom Kate, Sada Thompson's character. Meredith Baxter Birney played Sada Thompson's daughter Nancy Lawrence.
Meredith Baxter Birney and Michael J Fox met on the set of Aaron Spelling's Family which Meredith starred on and Michael appeared in one episode;l and became friends. Meredith would drive Michael J Fox to the set every morning during the first season.
Michael J Fox has said in interviews that he regrets other characters were overshadowed in the show in favor of highlighting him. In particular he knows that Meredith Baxter Birney was complaining about this during the production; and has addressed this in interviews.
In recent interviews Meredith Baxter Birney reveals that David Birney; the man she was married to when she was on Family Ties; was physically and mentally abusive to her during this period.
Matthew Broderick auditioned for the role of Alex P. Keaton hit 1980s sitcom 'Family Ties", and the producers very much wanted him to play the part. But when they offered it to him Broderick turned it down at the last minute. A lifelong New Yorker, Broderick didn't want to move to Los Angeles, where the show was filmed. Michael J Fox won the role instead, (even though the network did not want him at first). Fox went on to win 3 Emmies for portraying the lovable young Republican, and even met his future wife that he is still married to on set, who played his girlfriend, Ellen; Tracy Pollan. As many people have noted; the irony of this is that Meredith just came off of Four Seasons from the Aaron Spelling drama Family; where she played the daughter to Matthew Broderick's father, James Broderick. If Matthew Broderick had been cast (as he almost was); Birney would have gone from playing the daughter of one Broderick to the mother of another.
There were two Oscar winning actors with recurring roles on this program: Tom Hanks and Geena Davis.
One Day At A Time was originally titled "All About Us" and was just about a single divorced mother raising her daughter. It was written by Whitney Mannings Blake and was based on her own true life experiences raising her daughter Meredith Baxter Birney. She presented to all the networks back in the 60s but no one bought it. By the time CBS and Norman Lear optioned it she was too old; it was already 1975. Ironically; by the time One Day At a Time made it to the air, in the 1975-1976 season; Meredith Baxter Birney landed a role in another hit family TV show; the critically acclaimed Arron Spelling drama 'Family".
Meredith Baxter Birney had two hit TV shows before she starred on Family Ties. Bernie Slade's Bridget Loves Birney was a top ten hit in the 1972-1973 season; and Meredith starred in it. Aaron Spelling produced the critically acclaimed drama Family in 1976 which Meredith starred in as well. And Meredith was also one of the stars of Family Ties in 1982; which went up to #2 in the ratings and was a top ten hit for NBC for many years.