The Year of the Beard Featurette
Family Ties flipped the typical sitcom dynamic on is head. Instead of conservative parents
butting heads with rebellious kids, the heart of the series is the generation gap between former
hippie parents and their square offspring. The second season highlights the culture gap between Steven
(Michael Gross) and Elyse Keaton (Meredith Baxter-Birney) and their three children: staunchly
Republican Alex (Michael J. Fox), fashion-mad Mallory (Justine Bateman) and precocious
Jennifer (Tina Yothers), as they tackle pre-marital sex, women's rights, and alcoholism.
Get reacquainted with the Keatons and their nurturing blend of politics and punchlines
in Family Ties: The Second Season.
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
Family Ties' second season premiered on September 28, 1983.
The show aired on Wednesday nights on NBC at 9:30-10:00PM ET/PT. In January 1984,
it was moved to Thursday at 8:30-9:00PM ET/PT. It finished out of the top 30 in the ratings.
Airing after "The Cosby Show," tt would shoot up to 5th place for the 1984-1985 (third) season. In 1984, the show was
nominated for "Outstanding Comedy Series." Director of Photography Mikel
Neiers was nominated for "Outstanding Lighting Direction (Electronic) for a Series" for the episode "Birthday Boy."
There were a number of memorable episodes this season. When peace-loving Elyse decks Alex's
obnoxious teacher on parents' night, Steven goes to apologize and ends up slugging
the guy too in "The Harder They Fall." In order to study all night for mid-terms,
Alex convinces Mallory to help get a hold of some pills and he ends up spinning
out of control on speed in "Speed Trap." Alex defies his mother when he goes to a bar in
West Virginia with his friends on his 18th birthday in "Birthday Boy."
Mallory ruins Alex's big interview at Princeton when she tags along to surprise Jeff...and Jeff
surprises her by having a new girlfriend in "Go Tigers." Uncle Ned is back, and this time
he's interviewing for a job at Steven's station in "Say Uncle." When he becomes
attracted to a young feminist, Alex passes himself off as a supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment...and
lands in jail in "Ladies' Man." Mallory's friends, family members, and especially the guy she
is dating, all have different opinions about the right time to start having sex in
"Ready or Not." When the girl of his dreams tells Alex she doesn't have a date for the
prom, he asks her to go, even though he already has a date with a nice girl who likes him
in "Double Date." On the eve of a tonsil operation, Jennifer lies awake in the hospital
and writes in her diary, recounting all the horrible things she did to each family
member in "Diary of a Young Girl."
Notable guest stars included the return of a fan favorite from the first season and
several other recognizable names. Talia Balsam appeared as Carrie Newman in
"Tender is the Night." John Dukakis played Jeff Wakefield in "The Homecoming" and "Go Tigers."
John McCook ("The Bold and the Beautiful") played the Tuxedo Man in "This Year's Model."
Judith Light ("Who's the Boss?") guest starred as Stacey Hughes in "Not An Affair to Remember."
Kaleena Kiff ("The New Leave it to Beaver") appeared as Young Mallory in "A Keaton Christmas
Carol." David Faustino ("Married with Children") played Keith Bailey in "To Catch a Thief."
John Putch guest starred guest starred as Neil and Crispin Glover (Michael J. Fox's co-star
in "Back to the Future") was Doug in "Birthday Boy." Priscilla Morrill appeared
as Elyse's mother, Kate Donnelly, in "'M' is for the Many Things." Tom Hanks returned
as Uncle Ned in "Say Uncle." Tracy Nelson played Deena Marx and Gail Strickland
was Ms. Dorothy Cannell in "Ladies' Man." Daphne Zuniga appeared as Rachel Miller and
Jami Gertz was Jocelyn Clark in "Double Date." Daphne Zuniga would return as Rachel
Miller in "The Graduate."
This 4-disc set contains all 22 episodes from the second (1983-84) season.
The packaging is largely the same as the first season release. It comes
in an Amaray movie-style case with clear outer edges. The cover art features a second season cast photo (with a bearded Michael Gross). The same photo
is and show logo used on the spine of the case. The Family Ties logo is in purple at the top. They've dropped
the word "Complete" from the packaging. This time it just says "The Second Season." Purple is
the predominant color used on the packaging. On the back of the case, there is a synopsis
of the set, cast listing, special features and DVD specs. There is another second season cast
photo, as well as three smaller photos (Steven and Elyse; Jennifer, Elyse and Mallory
in the kitchen; Alex) from scenes in the episodes. There are plastic holders on the both sides inside the case that hold the first
and fourth discs, as well as a middle white plastic holder that has discs 2 and 3 back-to-back.
They have the episode titles, original airdates and short summaries listed by disc in the backgrounds. With the embedded
plastic holders in the way, it is hard to read the information. Slim cases for each individual
disc would have been much nicer and easier to read the episode information.
The discs have a silver background. The Family Ties logo on them gives a hologram-type effect
when you turn them into the light. The titles of the episodes on each disc are listed. Photos of the cast on the discs would have looked better.
Disc 1 has episodes 23-28. Disc 2 has episodes 29-34. Disc 3 has episodes 35-40. Disc 4 rounds out the
set with episodes 41-44.
Menu Design and Navigation:
Some improvements have been made to the menus. The first season menus were king of plain looking.
These look a bit nicer, while remaining easy to navigate. When you first insert disc 1, you have the
option of playing some previews (2:27) for some other CBS DVD releases such as Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy.
All of the menus have a cork board background and various photos and related items (thumbtacks, scraps of paper, buttons)
on them. Here is who featured on each main menu: Disc 1 - Mallory/Alex - Jennifer - Steven and Elyse; Disc 2 - Alex and a nurse -
Jennifer; Disc 3 - Elyse and Steven - Jennifer - Alex and Mallory;
Disc 4 - Alex and a nurse - Jennifer - Mallory and Alex.
Family Ties - The Second season is written in blue at the top of the screen. At the bottom of
the screen in a white bar, there are options for "Play All Episodes," "Promos" and
"Episodes." The text is in dark blue. When you highlight an option, it is in dark red/magenta.
Selecting "Episodes," will take you to a sub-menu. These menus have various
photos of the cast. The episode titles are listed on a scrap of notebook paper. When you select
an episode, it takes you to another menu with additional photos where you have the option to play the episode by
itself or with the promo before it. You can also play the syndication promos together from the main menu on
each disc. Chapter stops are available within the episodes, but no separate scene
selection menus are offered.
Video and Audio Quality:
The video and audio quality looks about the same as the first season. There may be
some slight improvmenets. The show looks and sounds remarkably well. It's hard to believe that these episodes are from
nearly 25 years ago. I've watched the show a lot in syndication over the years and on the Columbia House VHS
tapes released several years ago, and the show has never looked better. Watching the episodes side-by-side, the difference
was amazing. The colors are very bright and the picture is quite sharp and clear. They are, of course, in their
original full frame 1.33:1 ratio. I like that the episodes are so well spread out on the four discs,
with no more than 6 episodes per disc. For the closing logo enthusiasts, they have the UBU Productions logo
and one for CBS Paramount Television. A bit of trivia: UBU Productions was named after Gary David Goldberg's dog in
college and the photo was taken in 1972. The dog died in 1984. Unfortunately, there are no original
Paramount blue mountain logos here.
Now on to a bit of bad news. Like the first season set, there is a disclaimer on the back of the packaging. It says in
very small text: "Some episodes may be edited from their original network versions. Music
has been changed for this home entertainment version." On the first season set, it simply said "Music
has been changed for this home entertainment version." There were, however, a few scenes
that were compltely edited out all together on that release. As far as the season two episodes,
they all run between 23 1/2 minutes to a little over 24 minutes in length.
Two episodes that potentially could have some edited music or scenes are "Sweet Lorraine" and
"Lady Sings the Blues." These run a bit shorter than the others at 23:37 and 23:41, respectively.
In "Sweet Lorraine," Alex works at a radio station. In "Lady Sings the Blues," Elyse performs
some songs on stage. Neither of these episodes were released on the Columbia House tapes, so I'll
have to check my syndication copies. Hopefully the edits or music substitutions are relatively
minor like the first season set. Nearly all of the episodes look to be completely unedited,
so there are no syndicated episodes here. These run about 2 minutes longer than what is shown
The audio is your standard early 80's Digital Mono track. I didn't notice any major problems, and the audio
is at a good level and the dialogue is easy to understand. No subtitles are offered. Closed captioning is
available on all of the episodes. The special features are not rated and some are not closed captioned.
I believe Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams recorded another version of the theme song, "Without Us,"
for the second season.
It should be noted that "The Gambler" was produced for the second season, but it didn't
air until September 20, 1984. "Here We Go Again" aired the following week on September 27, 1984.
"The Gambler" should be included as the first episode of the third season
release. The episodes on this set are presented in their original broadcast order.
Here is the episode breakdown by disc, including the running times:
23. Tender is the Knight (09/28/83) (23:59)
24. Homecoming (10/12/83) (24:07)
25. The Harder They Fall (10/19/83) (24:08)
26. This Year's Model (10/26/83) (24:09)
27. Not An Affair To Remember (11/02/83) (24:08)
28. Speed Trap (11/09/83) (24:09)
29. Sweet Lorraine (11/16/83) (23:37)
30. Batter Up (11/30/83) (24:08)
31. A Keaton Christmas Carol (12/14/83) (24:08)
32. To Snatch a Keith (12/21/83) (24:06)
33. Birthday Boy (01/05/84) (24:09)
34. Go Tigers (01/12/84) (24:08)
35. M is For the Many Things (01/19/84) (24:08)
36. Say Uncle (01/26/84) (24:09)
37. Ladies' Man (02/02/84) (24:08)
38. Ready or Not (02/09/84) (24:10)
39. Double Date (02/16/84) (24:10)
40. Lady Sings the Blues (02/23/84) (23:41)
41. Baby Boy Doe (03/08/84) (24:07)
42. The Graduate (03/15/84) (24:07)
43. Diary of a Young Girl (05/03/84) (24:10)
44. Working At It (05/10/84) (23:55)
Many fans were disappointed that the first season released contained no special features. It is
very rare to see no special features on an initial release and then have them included
on the second season. Fortunately, CBS DVD/Paramount has added a nice mix of extras on this set.
Creator/Executive Producer Gary David Goldberg, Michael J. Fox, Michael Gross, Tina Yothers and Marc Price participate
in the new interviews. The episodic/syndication promos are found on each disc. The three
featurettes are included on the fourth disc.
Episodic Promos - These aren't mentioned on the packaging, but they are included for every episode.
These are short, 30-second promos that were aired after episodes in syndication. You can play these
together on each disc or before the respective episode. The narrator
will say "Next time on Family Ties..." and then he details the next episode. These have
different background music used on them. I don't believe TBS or Nick at Nite ever aired these.
I do remember seeing them in local syndication in the late 1980's or early 1990's. These
were fun to see again. Hopefully they are included on all of the remaining seasons.
Michael J. Fox: Public Service Announcement (:32) - Michael J. Fox talks about Parkinson's
Disease research. Hopefully they will find a cure for this one day. Visit
more information and to donate or to join Team Fox.
The Making of Family Ties (20:54) - This is an interesting and entertaining look at the making of
the show. It includes new interviews with Creator/Executive Producer Gary David Goldberg,
Michael Gross, Michael J. Fox, Tina Yothers and Marc Price. Some of the topics they
cover include how Gary got the initial idea for the show, the casting of the Keatons (Michael J. Fox was
not the first choice), the story behind the stories, the taping of the show, the guest actors,
and why the show worked. Various clips from the episodes are shown in a TV box. There are a number
of promotional photos shown, as well as some behind the scenes footage and bloopers/outtakes sprinkled in
between the interviews. Unfortunately, Meredith Baxter and Justine Bateman are shown only briefly
in an archival interview on the set in 1983. There probably won't be a whole lot of new information
for die-hard fans of the show, but it does provide a nice general overview. I learned a few new
things about the casting. It would have been great to see more of the vintage interviews on the kitchen set
Michael J. Fox: The Best Gig In The World (8:37) - This featurette includes new interviews with Michael
J. Fox, Gary David Goldberg and Michael Gross. It also includes a few pieces of an interview
with Michael J. Fox from 1983. In the new interview, he talks about how he enjoyed every minute of it.
He discusses how he decided to move to the U.S. in 1979 on his 18th birthday. Gary David Goldberg
talks about how the character took off. Michael Gross comments on how Michael J. Fox handled his
fame. Michael J. Fox was lucky man to catch lightning in a bottle twice with Family Ties and
the Back to the Future trilogy series.
The Year of the Beard (2:47) - This featurette includes new interviews with Michael Gross, Marc Price
and Tina Yothers. Michael Gross talks about how he had no beard in first season. He details why he
grew the beard during the hiatus and how they decided whether or not to keep it. Personally,
I think the beard was one of the best decisions he could make. It gave him distinction. As to
whether or not he has the beard in the interview, watch this extra to find out!
After waiting for years for Family Ties to finally arrive on DVD in February, we only had to wait
around 8 months for the second season release. Hopefully this set sells well again, so we
will have more seasons in 2008. CBS DVD/Paramount did a decent job with the first season. There
were no special features and a few edited episodes/music substitutions. It seems like they
listened to comments and tried to create a better product this time around.
CBS DVD/Paramount has been done an improved job with this release. While I'm still not a fan
of the plastic holders in the single snap case, the menus on this set are more attractive. There are a
few minor edited scenes/music substitutions once again, but I would rather have it released
this way instead of not at all. With the show using relatively little music, I didn't think it
would have been too expensive to have every original song included, but sadly this trend continues on
many TV DVD sets these days. The video and audio quality of the episodes
is excellent. I enjoyed seeing the episodic/syndication promos for the first time in years. You rarely see those these days.
It was great to see the new interviews with the cast in the special features. Unfortunately,
the only interviews with Meredith Baxter and Justine Bateman were from 1983.
Hopefully we will see them newly interviewed in future seasons. It would be nice to see more
bloopers/outtakes and other vintage material as extras. There just seems to be plenty of available
material for other seasons. If you haven't picked up the first season set, you might want to pick that one up as well.
now offering that at only $11.99! That is $27 off the original list price.
Sit, Ubu, sit! Good dog! Woof!
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 2.5/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4/5
-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 10/04/07
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