TITLE: FAMILY TIES - THE SEVENTH AND FINAL SEASON
Release Date: August 13, 2013 (CBS DVD/Paramount)
Packaging: Clear plastic snapcase
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 24 (26 if you count the 2 1-hour episodes as 2)
Running Time: approx. 10 hours, 40 minutes (640 minutes)
Running Time of Features: N/A
Audio: English Stereo
Subtitles and Captioning: English SDH
Special Features: None
Family Ties - The Seventh and Final Season is the emotional conclusion to one of America's most beloved 1980s sitcoms. In this season, the Keatons' world is turned upside down when Steven (Michael Gross) suffers a heart attack and has to undergo open-heart surgery. Mom Elyse's (Meredith Baxter Birney) strength keeps her family rock steady, but she struggles with her children growing up and moving on. While Jennifer (Tina Yothers) learns to drive and rallies the troops to save the environment, Mallory (Justine Bateman) gets her big break in the world of fashion design and Andy (Brian Bonsall) creates a time capsule that sends the family down memory lane. Finally, the family and girlfriend Lauren (Courteney Cox) say goodbye to Alex (Emmy winner Michael J. Fox) as he moves to NYC to pursue a career on Wall Street. As this iconic TV series comes to a close in a 24-episdoe, 4-disc collection, families everywhere can relive their favorite heartwarming and laugh-filled moments with the one-and-only Keaton family.
The seventh and final season premiered on NBC on October 30, 1988. When Steven and Elyse organize a family camping trip, the older kids opt out in "It Happened One Night." Mallory's new fashion internship takes a sour turn when her mentor steals her designs and presents them as her own in "Designing Woman." When Nick's young nephew becomes Andy's new best friend, Alex feels left out in "Truckers." To improve their relationship, Lauren coerces Alex to attend a couples therapy group in "Beyond Therapy." The family pulls together after Steven has a heart attack and has to undergo heart surgery in "Heartstrings (Part 1)." While Steven is in heart surgery, the family holds vigil at the hospital in "Heartstrings (Part 2)." Steven returns home from the hospital and tries to adjust to new restrictions in his life in "Heartstrings (Part 3)."
After Career Day at Grant College, Skippy decides to join the army in "Basic Training." Jennifer has a crush on a boy whose older brother broke Mallory's heart in "Deja Vu." Nick is reunited with his childhood dog, while the Keatons prepare for Andy's seventh birthday in "Nick's Best Friend." Andy befriends two senior citizens, who give Steven the inspiration for his next documentary in "Get Me to The Living Room on Time." After Alex is offered a job at a big investment firm, he realizes that he was hired to replace an old friend of his...the sameone who recommended him for the position in "The Job Not Taken." Elyse takes on the city when they announce plans to tear down the first building she ever designed in "The Wrecker's Ball."
Lauren's attempt to help Skippy meet girls backfires when he falls for her in "My Best Friend's Girl." To prevent Mallory from taking a cross-country road trip with Nick, Steven refuses to co-sign for her car loan in "'Til Her Daddy Took Her T-Bird Away." For a school project, Jennifer works at a fast food resturant with a boy who has a crush on her in "Simon Says." When their African-American friends move into the neighborhood, the Keatons are shocked and saddened to learn that racism still exists among some of their neighbors in "All in the Neighborhood (Part 1)." After their new neighbors' home is vandalized, the Keatons continue to battle racism in their own backyard and rally to support their friends in "All in the Neighborhood (Part 2)." With Lauren away at a conference, Alex begins tutoring a young co-ed and starts to develop romantic feelings for her in "They Can't Take That Away From Me (Part 1)." On the brink of graduation, Alex must choose between Lauren and a pretty music student who has captured his attention in "They Can't Take That Away From Me (Part 2)."
After realizing the magnitude of the earth's environmental issues, Jennifer becomes obsessed with saving the planet in "Rain Forests Keep Fallin' on My Head." The Keatons reminisce about their favorite family memories as they help Andy build a time capsule for his school project in "Wrap Around the Clock (Parts 1 & 2)." While Nick's apartment is being painted, he stays with the Keatons...much to Steven's chagrin in "Mr. Keaton Takes a Vacation." Alex lands his dream job on Wall Street and plans a big move to New York. While family and friends say their goodbyes, Elyse comes to terms with her firstborn leaving the nest in "Alex Doesn't Live Here Anymore (Parts 1 & 2)."
Recurring cast members in the final season included Courteney Cox, Scott Valentine and Marc Price.
Notable guest stars in the final season included Hank Azaria, Stephen Baldwin, Philip Baker Hall, Christina Pickles, Liz Sheridan, Maura Tierney, Dan Hedaya and Jane Adams.
Most of the episodes have runtimes of over 24 minutes. Two episodes, "Wrap Around the Clock" and "Alex Doesn't Live Here Anymore," originally aired as one-hour episodes and are presented that way here. The series finale, "Alex Doesn't Live Here Anymore," runs over 61 minutes (it ran around 74 minutes with commercials originally). It includes the full curtain call by the cast and crew. The curtain call was only shown when the episode was originally shown and has never been shown in syndication and isn't in the online store or streaming versions. This was a great treat to see. They also included the closing credits where the cast and crew said goodbye. There is a disclaimer on the back of the packaging which reads: "Some episodes may be edited from their original network versions. Music has been changed for this home entertainment version." This is a standard disclaimer on CBS DVD/Paramount DVD releases, so it doesn't necessarily apply to every release. Hopefully there are only music substitutions and no actual scenes edited out. The only episodes that run less than 24 minutes are "It Happened One Night," "Heartstrings (Part 3)," and "Simon Says."
Here is the breakdown by disc, including the exact runtimes:
"It Happened One Night" (10/30/88) (23:57)
"Designing Woman" (11/6/88) (24:14)
"Truckers" (11/13/88) (24:11)
"Beyond Therapy" (11/27/88) (24:10)
"Heartstrings (Part 1)" (12/4/88) (24:12)
"Heartstrings (Part 2)" (12/11/88) (24:11)
"Heartstrings (Part 3)" (12/18/88) (23:41)
"Basic Training" (1/1/89) (24:10)
"Deja Vu" (1/8/89) (24:12)
"Nick's Best Friend" (1/15/89) (24:13)
"Get Me to the Living Room on Time" (1/29/89) (24:12)
"The Job Not Taken" (2/5/89) (24:12)
"The Wrecker's Ball" (2/12/89) (24:11)
"My Best Friend's Girl" (2/19/89) (24:12)
"'Til Her Daddy Took Her T-Bird Away" (2/26/89) (24:13)
"Simon Says" (3/5/89) (23:41)
"All in the Neighborhood (Part 1)" (3/12/89) (24:12)
"All in the Neighborhood (Part 2)" (3/19/89) (24:10)
"They Can't Take That Away From Me (Part 1)" (4/2/89) (24:12)
"They Can't Take That Away From Me (Part 2)" (4/9/89) (24:14)
"Rain Forests Keep Fallin' on My Head" (4/16/89) (24:06)
"Wrap Around the Clock (Parts 1 & 2)" (4/23/89) (48:18)
"Mr. Keaton Takes a Vacation" (5/7/89) (24:13)
"Alex Doesn't Live Here Anymore (Parts 1 & 2)" (5/14/89) (1:01:27)
The 4-disc set contains all 24 episodes from the seventh and final season (1988-89). The packaging is, once again, a clear plastic snapcase. It's nice all seasons have remained consistent. They look great when lined up on a shelf. The cover art is a drawing with the cast members head superimposed over it. I would have preferred to see a standard cast photo like the rest of the seasons. This drawing/photo would have been better on the back cover or on one of the main menus. It just seems out of place. The Family Ties logo is above the photo in red. This release is noted as The Seventh and Final Season. Red and light blue is the color scheme of the packaging. The real cast photo is used on the spine of the case. On the back of the case, there is a large photo of Michael J. Fox and three smaller screenshots of the other cast members. A synopsis of the set and the DVD specs are provided. Opening up the case, the episode titles, original airdates and short summaries are listed by disc number. A stitched light blue background is used, with the episode titles and airdates in white text and the episode summaries in black.
There are two flip holders in the center of the case that hold the four discs back-to-back. The discs have a plain silver background. The Family Ties logo on them gives a hologram-type effect when you turn them into the light. The episode titles are also listed. Disc 1 contains 7 episodes. Disc 2 has 6 episodes. Disc 3 includes 7 episodes. Disc 4 wraps up the series with the final 4 episodes - 2 of which were one-hour episodes.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus have a similar look to the sixth season. The main menu features six headshots of the cast members in boxes. There is a sepia-toned photo of the kitchen in the background. The show logo is above the photos in reddish orange. Options for Play All, Episodes and Subtitles are available in a reddish orange bar at the boottom of the screen. The disc number is noted in a red, white and blue button. The option you highlight is in blue and flashes upon your selection. When you select Episodes, it takes you to a sub-menu where there are three episode snapshots (different on each disc) on the right side of the screen. The episode titles are listed vertically in white text on the left side of the screen. A cast photo is used on the Subtitles menu. Chapter stops are available within the episodes at the appropriate places, but no separate scene selection menus are offered.
Video and Audio Quality:
This season appears to offer the best video and audio quality of all the seasons. These episodes are now nearly around 25-years-old, but they still look very good. Since the show was shot on videotape, there is probably not much they can do to remaster them. The colors are bright and vivid. The picture is quite sharp and clear. Episodes are presented in their original broadcast order and in full frame 4x3 (1.33:1) ratio. For the closing logo enthusiasts, they have the UBU Productions logo and one for CBS Television Distribution. A little 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 included.
All of the episodes are in English Stereo. I didn't notice any major problems with the audio. The audio is at a good volume level. The dialogue is easy to understand. Engish subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing are available for all of the episodes.
Unfortunately, there are no special features included for the last two seasons. Although it's not really a special feature, they did include the curtain call in the series finale. That is unique to this DVD release and hasn't been shown in syndication and isn't available in digital stores or streaming sites.
Seasons two-five included some special features like cast interviews, gag reels and episodic promos. It would have been nice to see a series retrospective. There will reportedly be a bonus disc of special features included on The Complete Series boxed set, which will be released on November 5. It will be interesting to see what they will include. It would be great to see "The Art of Being Nick" spin-off attempts and the 1988 PBS behind-the-scenes special "Inside Family Ties." A tribute to the late Gary David Goldberg would also be nice to see.
All 7 seasons and 168 episodes (180 half-hour episodes) are now available on DVD. The First Season was released back on February 20, 2007. Seasons Two-Five were then released from 2007-2009. It was then a four-year long break for Season Six until April 9, 2013. Thankfully the wait for the final season wasn't too long. This is another pretty basic release with only the episodes. I would have preferred if they used a standard cast photo for the cover art to match the other seasons instead of a drawing/photo, but that is a minor issue. Although there are no special features, they did include the full curtain call by the cast. This was only shown when the finale was aired in 1989. It has never been shown in syndication and isn't available from any online stores or streaming sites, so it's a wonderful treat for fans to see here. I was 15-years-old when I saw the finale over 24 years ago. Time sure flies. It's a bit emotional to see creator Gary David Goldberg hugging the cast. We lost him to brain cancer on June 22. He's greatly missed.
The final season was a good one. They had moved out of the top 25 in the ratings in the final season, but they probably could have gone on for another season or two. It was a solid seven season run for them in the 1980s. Memorable episodes in the final season included "It Happened One Night," the three-part "Heartstrings," "My Best Friend's Girl," the two-part "All in the Neighborhood," and the series finale "Alex Doesn't Live Here Anymore."
This isn't the end of the road for Family Ties on DVD. CBS DVD/Paramount has announced the Family Ties - The Complete Series Photo-Album Gift Set for a November 5 release date. The collectible gift set will reportedly include an exclusive bonus disc not available on the season sets. Some things that would be interesting to see are "The Art of Being Nick" spin-off attempts with Scott Valentine and the 1988 PBS behind-the-scenes special "Inside Family Ties." A tribute to the late Gary David Goldberg would also be a nice gesture. A series retrospective with new cast interviews would be a great bonus. Let's hope that they also offer the bonus disc for sale separately for the people who have already purchased all seven seasons individually.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 0/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4/5
-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller
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