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Family Ties - The Complete First Season



DVD Release Date: February 20, 2007 (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Video)
Color / 1982-83
MSRP: $38.99
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 22
Running time: Approx. 8 Hours, 48 Minutes
Audio Tracks: Dolby Digital Mono
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English; No Subtitles; Closed Captioned
Special Features: None


Loving parents Steven (Michael Gross) and Elyse Keaton (Meredith Baxter-Birney) raise their kids with open hearts and open minds. Growing up in the 1960s, Mom and Dad share a liberal point of view, and guide their family with the ideals and convictions of flower power at its best. Their offspring, however, have different ideas. Eldest son Alex P. Keaton is an over-achieving, hard-core Republican, and clashes with his parents at every turn. Mallory is a fashion-loving, boy-crazy teen stuggling through high school, while little sister Jennifer is the precocious tomboy who always speaks her mind. Together, they share the moments that make them laugh, make them cry...and make them family.

Show History / Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

Family Ties began as a product at CBS - originally planned as an one-hour show. CBS passed on it. NBC wanted it as a half-hour and taped live before a studio audience. Meredith Baxter-Birney was the first person to be cast for the show. Matthew Broderick was creator Gary David Goldberg's first choice for the role of Alex. Reportedly, Broderick didn't want to commit to a long term project and leave New York. Michael J. Fox had auditioned for the role of Flip Phillips in 1982 (a part that actually went to Billy Warlock) on Happy Days, but then got Family Ties on his second audition for it. The series was originally designed around the parents, who just happened to have children. Michael J. Fox's talent and popularity soon made them shift the focus.

Family Ties premiered on NBC on September 22, 1982. It aired on Wednesday nights at 9:30PM ET for most of the first season before moving to Wednesdays at 8:30PM in March 1983. Family Ties delighted audiences of all ages, genders and political leanings for seven seasons with its fun-loving portrayal of former flower children turned liberal parents trying to raise a traditional suburban family, including their ultra-conservative oldest son. At the height of its popularity and airing on NBC's Must See Thursday night lineup between The Cosby Show and Cheers, the series was #2 in the yearly Nielsen ratings for two straight seasons (1985-86 and 1986-87). A total of 180 (half-hour) episodes were produced from 1982-1989. Michael J. Fox won 3 Emmy Awards from 1986-1988 for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.

While I don't think the first season was one of the stronger seasons of the show, there were a number of memorable episodes. On his first day as a delivery boy, Alex meets a sophisticated older woman who offers him tips on more than just the groceries in "Summer of '82." When the Keatons are robbed, peace-loving Steven and Elyse get a gun to protect the family in "Have Gun, Will Unravel." At Christmas, a snowstorm strands the Keatons at home and they flash back to each of the kids' births in "A Christmas Story." Elyse's brother Ned (Tom Hanks), a successful Fortune 500 executive, visits in "The Fugitive (Part 1)." To save hundreds of jobs, Elyse's kid brother (Tom Hanks) stole millions from his company in "The Fugitive (Part 2)." Mallory has a crush on her shy French tutor, but the timid boy starts taking lessons in l'amour from a not-so-reliable instructor...Alex in "French Lessons." When Mallory pawns off her babysitting duties to Alex, he takes Jennifer along to a poker game...where she goes missing in "The Fifth Wheel." When one of his teammates drops out of the high school quiz-off, Alex recruits a reluctant replacement...Mallory in "Stage Fright."

Notable guest appearances included John Randolph as Steven's father, Jake Keaton, in "I Never Killed for My Father." Phillip Sterling played Mr. Winkler in "Big Brother Is Watching." "No Nukes Is Good Nukes" guest appearances included Priscilla Morrill as Elyse's mother - Kate Donnelly, Dick Sargent as Charlie Douglas, Larry Hankin as Walter, and Nancy Lenehan as Roberta. Marc Price made his first appearance as Irwin "Skippy" Handelman in "Death of a Grocer." Jack Riley played Earl in "Have Gun, Will Unravel." Tom Hanks appeared as Elyse's brother, Ned Donnelly, in "The Fugitive (Parts 1 and 2)." Phillip Charles MacKenzie was Don Matthews in "Margin of Error." George Lopez's Belita Moreno played Bernice in "Elyse D'Arc."


This 4-disc set contains all 22 episodes from the first (1982-83) season. The packaging is a bit different from some other recent CBS DVD/Paramount releases. Many times they have used a cardboard box with slim cases. For this set, they have an Amaray movie-style case with clear outer edges. The cover art features a first season cast photo (with a beardless Michael Gross). The Family Ties logo is in blue at the top. A much smaller version of the cast photo and show logo is on the spine of the case. On the back of the case, there is a synopsis of the set, cast listing and the DVD specs. There are four small photos: one of the cast sitting at the kitchen table, Alex in a robe with a pipe, Jennifer and Elyse talking in Jennifer's bed, and Alex and Mallory talking. 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 plastic holders and a black sticker bar thing 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 1-6, Disc has episodes 7-12, Disc 3 has episodes 13-17 and Disc 4 rounds out the set with episodes 18-22.

Menu Design and Navigation:

The menus are very basic looking and easy to navigate. I really think they could have jazzed up the packaging, menus and overall presentation to make this a nicer looking set in appearance. Each disc features the Family Ties logo in blue and "The First Season" at the top of the screen and a different photo that has a cloud-like effect around it and color scheme at the bottom. The episode titles are listed vertically in two rows at the bottom. A "Play All" button is available. Disc 1 has a screenshot from the opening credits of the cast sitting on the couch and a blue bar at the bottom. Disc 2 has a screenshot of the family sitting at the kitchen table and a purple bar. Disc 3 has a screenshot of Alex and Mallory talking and a maroon bar. Disc 4 has a screenshot from the opening credits of the cast looking through pictures and a green bar. Chapter stops are available within the episodes, but no separate scene selection menus are offered. There are 4:46 of previews for some other CBS DVD/Paramount TV DVD releases like Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy when you first play disc 1.

Video and Audio Quality:

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. On the back of the case, it says in very small text: Music has been changed for this home entertainment version. That is partially correct. I saw a few scenes where the original music had been replaced with either instrumental music or another song. I did notice at least 2 scenes that were omitted entirely on the DVD. I checked my Columbia House VHS tapes for comparison. They had released 40 episodes on 10 tapes, including 9 episodes from the first season. In the "Pilot" episode, there is a 30 second scene (accounting for the 23:31 running time on the DVD vs. 24:01 on the tape) that was cut entirely. The scene has Steven and Elyse relaxing in the family room, and Alex comes in and says the ambience is all wrong and he turns off the stereo, which was playing the folk song "Days of Decision" by Phil Ochs. It seems like they could have just replaced this song instead of editing the scene entirely out. In the third episode, "I Know Jennifer's Boyfriend," there is one scene that was entirely cut out and at least 3 songs that were replaced. A 30 second scene of Steven and Elyse singing "Eddie, My Love" by The Teen Queens was cut out entirely. If they couldn't get the music licensing rights for this song, I could understand why it had to be cut. Three songs at the 1950s themed party were replaced. There were tiny clips of "Wake Up Little Susie" by The Everly Brothers and "Earth Angel" by Chuck Berry that were replaced. Elvis Presley's "The Twelth of Never" was originally used for the closing dance scene, but it was replaced on the DVD with some modern sounding song that really didn't fit the 1950s party theme or the scene nearly as well. One other non-music related edit that I noticed was on "The Fugitive (Part 2)" episode. It is missing the "Last week on Family Ties" recap. This is pretty common for many DVD releases, but this isn't a major loss. There may be some other music that had to be replaced or scenes that were cut entirely, but I haven't had a chance to watch all of the episodes yet. I will update the review accordingly with anything else I find or read about. All of the episodes (with the exceptions of 4 episodes that are around 23 1/2 minutes) run about 24 minutes in length. There are no syndicated episodes here. Even if there are some music changes, the majority of these episodes appear otherwise unedited... so you are seeing about 2 more minutes that aren't shown in syndication. Music wasn't really that integral to the show, so hopefully the music subsitutions are minimal.

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. Closed captioning is available on all of the episodes. Some people might not know or even remember, but there were 2 versions of the theme song used during the first season. "Us" was sung by Mindy Sterling and Dennis Tufano for the first ten episodes. A Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams version, "Without Us," was used for the rest of the first season. I believe they recorded another version that was used for seasons 2-7, and that version is the most recognized. Both season one themes are present on the DVDs.

Here is the episode breakdown by disc, including the running times:

Disc 1
1. Pilot (09/22/82) (23:31)
2. Not With My Sister You Don't (09/29/82) (24:10)
3. I Know Jennifer's Boyfriend (10/06/82) (23:29)
4. Summer of '82 (10/27/82) (24:11)
5. I Never Killed for My Father (11/03/82) (24:09)
6. Give Your Uncle Arthur a Kiss (11/10/82) (24:09)

Disc 2
7. Big Brother Is Watching (11/17/82) (24:03)
8. No Nukes Is Good Nukes (11/24/82) (23:44)
9. Death of a Grocer (12/01/82) (24:10)
10. Have Gun, Will Unravel (12/08/82) (24:09)
11. A Christmas Story (12/15/82) (24:08)
12. Oops! (12/22/82) (24:03)

Disc 3
13. Sherry Baby (01/12/83) (24:10)
14. The Fugitive Part 1 (01/19/83) (24:10)
15. The Fugitive Part 2 (01/26/83) (23:26)
16. Margin of Error (02/09/83) (24:11)
17. French Lessons (02/16/83) (24:08)

Disc 4
18. I Gotta Be Ming (02/23/83) (24:10)
19. Suzanne Takes You Down (03/16/83) (24:09)
20. The Fifth Wheel (03/28/83 (24:10)
21. Stage Fright (04/04/83) (24:12)
22. Elyse D'Arc (04/11/83) (24:08)

Special Features:

Paramount sometimes includes them on the first season releases (like The Brady Bunch), but there is nothing here. It would have been nice to hear some audio commentaries, watch some new interviews with the cast, and see some bloopers or other promotional material. Oh well... the episodes are the most important thing here anyway.

Final Comments:

Family Ties has finally arrived on DVD! It has been a long wait for one of my most favorite sitcoms of the 1980's (and all-time). It was first rumored to be coming out in the early part of 2005. While the first season may not have been the greatest and the show really didn't hit its stride until the second or third season, the show is just immensely watchable. It still holds up very well, and the episodes are heartwarming and hilarious.

As a huge fan of the show, I'm excited about its release despite a few issues. The music replacement is disapppointing, but I guess it is unavoidable in certain cases. I wonder if music licensing rights had anything to do with the long wait? I'd like to have the show on DVD with some minor music edits rather than not having it available at all. Many people probably won't even notice or care much about it. I hope that they can acquire the rights for more original songs for future seasons and just improve the overall presentation of the set with better packaging, nicer looking menus and maybe a special feature or two. Family Ties hasn't historically had great ratings on cable, so hopefully things are different for it on DVD. I'm hoping this will be a big seller and we'll see the other seasons released at a good rate. It is important to show your support and purchase this first season release if you want to see additional seasons. Too many shows are being abandoned due to low first season sales. Celebrate the 25th anniversary of this 1980's classic by picking up this highly-anticipated first season DVD release.

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
Overall: 4/5

-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 02/05/07

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