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Old 09-26-2010, 03:16 AM   #1
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Default The Agony Booth Recaps 'My Name is Alex'

http://www.agonybooth.com/tv/Family_...ex_S05E23.aspx

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It’s time once again to examine the sitcom that everyone loved while it was on the air, but completely stopped caring about the minute it was over: Family Ties! This recap concerns a Very Special Episode. Well, yeah, of course it does. It’s Family Ties, so that’s sort of a given.

But this time around, I’m talking about the Mother of All Very Special Episodes: “A, My Name is Alex”, which aired on the NBC television network on March 12, 1987.

I don’t think anyone under the age of 25 can fully appreciate how much hype and anticipation there was surrounding this episode when it originally aired. All indications were that “A, My Name is Alex” was going to deliver something never, ever seen before in the television medium.

“A, My Name is Alex” was going to break genre boundaries. “A, My Name is Alex” was going to smash the fourth wall. “A, My Name is Alex” was going to give us all totally new insights into the nature of existence itself. “A, My Name is Alex” would be all that, and oh yes, it would also be the bag of chips.

It was the long overdue Big Statement from Family Ties creator/producer/writer Gary David Goldberg, because you can surely imagine how we as Americans were desperately wanting, nay, demanding the kind of profound wisdom that can only be dispensed by a sitcom writer. As he later explained in his autobiography, Goldberg even talked NBC entertainment chief Brandon Tartikoff into airing this episode in one, unbroken, hour-long timeslot, with limited commercial interruption. Because this episode was just that important to our survival as a civilization!


The bold move paid off. Goldberg and co-writer Alan Uger picked up Emmys for writing, Michael J. Fox picked up his third consecutive Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, and we all came together as a country to witness a watershed moment in TV history. “A, My Name is Alex” was going to change the world!

Well, except for the part where it kind of... sucked ass?

I’ll grant you, it’s entirely possible the episode was some kind of revelation at the time. But it sure hasn’t aged well. The laughs are weak (even by Family Ties standards), the story gets stuck in a loop and repeats itself roughly twelve times, the profound truths are mostly just clichés, and it seems the writers completely forgot to have some sort of point to the whole thing.

So how did this episode become award-worthy and world-famous? How did “A, My Name is Alex” become the only episode of Family Ties that anybody remembers nowadays that doesn’t involve Tom Hanks drinking vanilla extract?

I’d say it’s mostly a sign of how dead in the water the sitcom format was at the time that a mediocre script like this could be hailed as a staggering work of genius. I mean, have you watched any late ‘80s sitcoms lately? Have you really sat down and watched, say, Charles in Charge or Full House or—god forbid—Webster lately? Compared to the greatest-ever episode of Punky Brewster, “A, My Name is Alex” is a sublime work of art.

But thankfully, a few years after this, the likes of Seinfeld and Friends and The Simpsons would come along to breathe new life into half hour comedies, as well as mercifully put a bullet between the eyes of the whole “Very Special Episode” concept. I’m actually pretty sure that when the Seinfeld writers came up with their “no hugging, no learning” mantra, they were thinking specifically of this episode. Because “A, My Name is Alex” contains more hugging and more learning than anyone had ever dreamt possible.
http://www.agonybooth.com/tv/Family_...3.aspx ?Page=5

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Yeah, that was... that. After a lot of filler and unfunny jokes, we found out in the final five minutes that the whole point of this episode was Alex proclaiming his belief in God. Which would have been just a bit more meaningful if we’d ever seen him questioning his belief in God before.

Oh, well. I guess I have to at least give the Family Ties writers some points for trying. I doubt any sitcoms today would ever dare to be this forthright about matters of faith and spirituality. Somehow, I can’t imagine an episode of Two and a Half Men devoted to Charlie’s quest for meaning in an uncaring universe. Though I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing.

For a brief time, it seemed as if “A, My Name is Alex” was going to inspire other shows to push the boundaries and break the fourth wall. Alas, nobody ever took up the gauntlet that “A, My Name is Alex” threw down. I honestly can’t recall any other sitcom going full VSE like this in the ensuing years. It’s almost like everyone saw that the Very Special Episode had been pushed to its limits, had gone its Very-est and its Special-iest, and there was really nowhere to go from there.

Maybe it was this episode, right here, that led to the sitcom renaissance of the 1990s. Of course, I’m not claiming the Very Special Episode died the next day; the world still had Blossom to look forward to, after all. But it does feel like the beginning of the end of an era.

So, despite not saying much and not being terribly funny, this episode really was a watershed moment in the American sitcom. Because nobody, but nobody ever wanted to make another sitcom episode as important! as “A, My Name is Alex”.
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Old 09-26-2010, 03:17 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TMC
It’s time once again to examine the sitcom that everyone loved while it was on the air, but completely stopped caring about the minute it was over: Family Ties! This recap concerns a Very Special Episode. Well, yeah, of course it does. It’s Family Ties, so that’s sort of a given.
I disagree. People still care about the show. Afterall, the first five seasons of the show are on dvd.

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Originally Posted by TMC
So how did this episode become award-worthy and world-famous? How did “A, My Name is Alex” become the only episode of Family Ties that anybody remembers nowadays that doesn’t involve Tom Hanks drinking vanilla extract?
I disagree. That's not the only episode people remember.

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Originally Posted by TMC
Have you really sat down and watched, say, Charles in Charge or Full House or—god forbid—Webster lately? Compared to the greatest-ever episode of Punky Brewster, “A, My Name is Alex” is a sublime work of art.
Yes, I have.
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Old 05-04-2013, 02:14 AM   #3
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http://www.avclub.com/articles/famil...is-alex,56598/

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“‘A’ My Name Is Alex” was heavily hyped before it aired, and well-received immediately afterward. The episode won two Emmys—one for the screenplay by Alan Uger and series creator Gary David Goldberg, and one for “Outstanding Technical Direction”—and Michael J. Fox won the second of his three consecutive Outstanding Lead Actor Emmys in 1987 for playing Alex P. Keaton. It’s one of the best-remembered episodes of Family Ties, and maybe one of the best-remembered hours of the television of the ’80s.

It’s also, today, one of the most-mocked. The website The Agony Booth did a vicious takedown last year of the silliness and pretension of “‘A’ My Name Is Alex,” and I’ve found that when I mention the episode to my peers, they reflexively roll their eyes. From the introduction of a “best friend” that had never been seen on the show before to the forced artiness of the Our Town-like set design, “‘A’ My Name Is Alex” seems the epitome of the “very special episode” gone awry: a frivolous little family sitcom taking itself way too seriously. So what’s changed over the past 20-plus years? How did a TV episode that was once held up as an example the medium at its finest become thick, juicy snark-bait? Did the times change, or did we?
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Old 05-04-2013, 09:29 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by irenearris1
Looks like this show isn't going anywhere!


You're right. I don't watch it and none of my family and friends don't watch it either. I'm afraid this will be one of those shows that don't do well in re-runs.
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Old 05-04-2013, 09:47 AM   #5
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One of the best episodes of all time hands down. It was a tour de force for Michael J. Fox.
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Old 05-07-2013, 12:40 PM   #6
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Default There was at least one other religion based episode on FT.....

One of the other episodes which took on the topic of religion in the Keaton household was "Auntie Up". I just watch "A, My name is Alex" the other night and found it quite weird considering the overall nature of the show.
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