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Family Ties - The Fifth Season



DVD Release Date: March 10, 2009 (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Video)
Color / 1986-87
MSRP: $39.98
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 30 (half-hour episodes)
Running time: Approx. 12 Hours, 1 Minutes
Audio Tracks: Dolby Digital English Stereo/Mono
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English; No Subtitles; Closed Captioned
Special Features: Gag Reel


In Family Ties: The Fifth Season, Steven (Michael Gross) and Elyse Keaton (Meredith Baxter Birney) still embody the spirit of the 1960s, while supporting their kids - Alex (Emmy winner Michael J. Fox), Mallory (Justine Bateman), Jennifer (Tina Yothers) and young son Andrew (Brian Bonsall) - in the more conservative 1980s. This season, the Keaton parents have learned to accept their older children, but find it hard to accept the fact that they are practically grown up, with lives of their own: Alex is a junior in college and has a bank job; Jennifer fronts an all-girl rock band; and Mallory has left the mall behind for college, where she studies - what else? - fashion! But whatever era they suppport, the Keatons will always support each other - on Family Ties!

Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

Family Ties' fifth season premiered on September 25, 1986 with "Be True To Your Preschool." The show continued to air on Thursday nights after "The Cosby Show" at 8:30-9:00PM on a night of "Must See TV." Once again, it finished in second place overall in the ratings with a 32.7 rating - their highest rating in the 7 seasons. Brian Bonsall was added to the cast as Andrew 'Andy' Keaton magically became four years old this season. They won three Emmy Awards this season. Michael J. Fox won his second Emmy for "Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series." Gary David Goldberg and Alan Uger won for "Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series." They won for "Outstanding Technical Direction/Electronic Camerawork/Video Control for a Series" for the episode "A, My Name Is Alex." Four other Emmy nominations were received this season, including "Outstanding Comedy Series," "Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series," "Outstanding Editing for a Series - Multi-Camera Production" and Justine Bateman for "Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series."

Memorable episodes included "Be True to Your Preschool," in which as Alex, Mallory, and Jennifer head back to school, little Andy starts preschool. Now that his girlfriend Ellen has moved to Paris, Alex wanders around distraught in "Starting Over." Mallory is overwhelmed with all her obligations at school and at home, so she decides the best way to get out of them is to marry her boyfriend Nick in "Mrs. Wrong (Part 1)." Nick and Mallory set out to elope, but not without waking up the entire household in "Mrs. Wrong (Part 2)." Alex gets Skippy an interview with his fraternity, but then finds out his frat brothers only want to humiliate Skippy during Hell Week in "My Brother's Keeper." When his young friend Greg is killed, Alex behaves erratically after the funeral in "A, My Name Is Alex (Part 1)." Now in therapy to deal with Greg's death, Alex talks about many episodes from his childhood - and his true feelings about his family in "A, My Name Is Alex (Part 2)." The Keatons spend five long days with Elyse's sister, her obnoxious, cigar-smoking husband, their two bratty kids, and their huge St. Bernard dog in "The Visit." It's Jennifer's birthday, so she decides to invite the trendiest girls in school to her party in "It's My Party (Part 1)." Now part of the trendiest clique in school, Jennifer spends all her time at the mall in "It's My Party (Part 2)."

Notable guest stars included John Putch as Neil, Michael Zorek as Flaum and Haviland Morris as Sharon in "Starting Over." Timothy Busfield appeared as Young Matt in "My Back Pages." Melinda Culea guest starred as Rebecca Ryan in "Beauty and the Bank" and "A Tale of Two Cities (Parts 1 and 2)." Terry Farrell played Liz Obeck in "The Big Fix." Mason Adams appeared as Professor Rhodes in "Paper Lion." Julie Cobb guest starred as Maureen Keaton in "Oh, Brother (Parts 1 and 2)." Penelope Ann Miller played Joyce in "Higher Love." Ben Piazza appeared as Mr. Wertz in "Architect's Apprentice" and "Keaton vs. Keaton." Rain Phoenix guest starred as Ashley Berkhart and Christina Applegate was Kitten in "Band on the Run." David Wohl was the voice of the Psychiatrist in "A, My Name Is Alex (Parts 1 and 2)." Ken Lerner played Mr. Feinman and Wil Wheaton was Timothy Higgins in "'D' Is For Date." Stuart Pankin guest starred as Marv and Jeff Cohen was Marv Jr. in "The Visit."


This 4-disc set contains all 30 half-hour episodes that were aired (although not necessarily produced) for the the fifth (1986-87) season. The packaging is the same as what they've used for the four previous seasons. It comes in an Amaray movie-style case with clear outer edges. The cover art features a fifth season cast photo with the new addition to the cast, Brian Bonsall. I think the arrangement of this photo was altered a bit from the original I've seen. Some of the clothing items are in a different color in the original, also. The Family Ties logo in green at the top. The word "complete" is once again missing from The Fifth Season. A tiny cast photo with a green background is on the spine of the case. Green is the predominant color used on the packaging. On the back of the case, there is a synopsis of the set, cast lising, special features and DVD specs. There are three different photos on the back: Jennifer/Elyse/Steven, Steven/Elyse/Jennifer and Mallory and Alex. There are 2 plastic holders that you flip like a book that hold discs 1-2 and 3-4 back-to back. They have the episode titles, original airdates and short summaries listed in green text by disc in the backgrounds. I'm not sure why there are some circular impressions inside the cases. They obscure the information a little bit and make it difficult to read. I think this is a better set up than the previous seasons which had embedded holders. With the embedded plastic holders in the way, it is a little difficult to read some of the 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. Photos of the cast on the discs would have looked much nicer. Each disc has 7-8 episodes.

Menu Design and Navigation:

The menus are a bit different than what they used for Seasons 2-4. Those season menus had a cork board background with various photos and related items (thumbtacks, scraps of paper, buttons) on them. This time a series of framed photos of the 6 main cast members are shown across the screen. A sepia colored photo of the kitchen can been seen in the background. The Fifth Season is in white and the Family Ties logo is in green at the top of the screen. There is a pink and aqua peace sign and red, white and blue button that has the disc number below the photos. At the bottom of the screen, there are options for "Play All" and "Episodes" in white text with the highlighted option in blue. A "Gag Reel" option is available on Disc 4. When you select Episodes, it takes you to a sub-menu where there are 3 different photos on each disc. The peace sign and button are on these as well. The episode titles are listed vertically in white text on the left side of the screen. A "Previews" option is available when you first insert Disc 1. There is about 3 minutes of previews or you can go directly to the main menu. Chapter stops are available within the episodes at the appropriate places, but no separate scene selection menus are offered.

Video and Audio Quality:

The video and audio quality continues to improve a bit from season to season. These episodes are now over 20 years old, but they still look and sound remarkably well. I've watched the show for years in syndication and on the Columbia House VHS tapes that were released a number of years ago. The show has never looked better on DVD. 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. There are 7-8 episodes per disc, so they really aren't spread out as much as I would like. 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 here.

The audio is your standard mid-80's English Stereo/Mono track. The packaging indicates Mono, although I think that may be only for the episodes "Matchmaker" that was produced for the third season in 1985 but didn't air until the fifth season and for "The Big Fix" and "It's My Party (Parts 1 and 2)," which were produced for the fourth season. All of the rest likely are in Stereo. I didn't notice any major problems. The audio is at a good level and the dialogue is easy to understand. No subitles are offered. Closed captioning is available on all of the episodes. The special features are not rated and may not be closed captioned.

Like the previous four seasons, there is a small disclaimer on the back of the packaging which says "Some episodes may be edited from their original network versions. Music has been changed for this home entertainment version." Most of the episodes appear to be unedited, with running times of around 24 minutes. A few that are a bit shorter include Mrs. Wrong (Part 2) (23:46), The Big Fix (23:46), My Brother's Keeper (23:49), The Visit (23:30) and It's My Party (Part 1) (22:07). The first part of "It's My Party" would seem to be from a syndication print, since it is so much shorter than the rest. Two episodes originally aired as one-hour episodes but are presented on the DVD as two episodes. "Battle of the Sexes" aired on 02/19/87 and "A, My Name Is Alex" on 03/12/87. The second half of "A, My Name Is Alex" aired commercial free, so that would account why the second episode runs the longest on the set at 26:45.

The episodes are presented in their original broadcast order. There are a few interesting notes about this season. The first thing that I noticed is that they have the original airdate for "The Freshman and the Senior" as 03/26/87. Online episode guides list this episode as having aired on 10/09/86. That would have made it the third episode of the season. "The Big Fix" was actually produced for the fourth season but didn't air until the fifth season. You'll notice the season four credits with baby Andrew. "Matchmaker" was produced way back for the third season, but didn't air until 07/23/87. That's why everybody looks so much younger in this episode. "It's My Party (Parts 1 and 2)" was produced for the fourth season but didn't air until 08/06/97 and 08/13/87.

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

Disc 1
Be True To Your Preschool (09/25/86) (23:59)
Starting Over (10/02/86) (24:00)
My Back Pages (10/16/86) (24:00)
Beauty and the Bank (10/30/86) (23:57)
Mrs. Wrong (Part 1) (11/06/86) (23:57)
Mrs. Wrong (Part 2) (11/13/86) (23:46)
The Big Fix (11/17/86) (23:46) *
My Brother's Keeper (11/20/86) (23:49)

* This episode was originally produced for the fourth season, but didn't air until the fifth season.

Disc 2
High School Confidential (12/04/86) (24:01)
Paper Lion (12/11/86) (23:59)
My Mother, My Friend (12/18/86) (23:58)
Oh, Brother (Part 1) (01/08/87) (24:00)
Oh, Brother (Part 2) (01/15/87) (23:59)
Higher Love (01/22/87) (24:00)
Architect's Apprentice (01/29/87) (24:01)

Disc 3
A Tale of Two Cities (Part 1) (02/05/87) (23:58)
A Tale of Two Cities (Part 2) (02/12/87) (23:59)
Battle of the Sexes (Part 1) (02/19/87) (25:13)
Battle of the Sexes (Part 2) (02/19/87) (25:30)
Band on the Run (02/26/87) (23:58)
Keaton vs. Keaton (03/05/87) (24:00)
"A", My Name Is Alex (Part 1) (03/12/87) (24:22)
"A", My Name Is Alex (Part 2) (03/12/87) (26:45)

Disc 4
"D" Is For Date (03/20/87) (23:58)
The Freshman and the Senior (03/26/87) (23:59) **
Love Me Do (04/30/87) (24:00)
The Visit (05/07/87) (23:30)
Matchmaker (07/23/87) (23:59) ***
It's My Party (Part 1) (08/06/87) (22:07) ****
It's My Party (Part 2) (08/13/87) (23:34) ****

** Various online episode guides list the original airdate for this episode as 10/09/86, so it would have been the third episode to air this season.
*** This episode was originally produced for the the third season. It has a 1985 copyright date. It didnt' air until the summer of 1987.
**** These episodes were originally produced for the fourth season, but didn't air until the summer of 1987.

Special Features:

Unfortunately, there is only one special feature on this set. There is only a gag reel on the fourth disc. Previous releases have included some interviews, featurettes and episodic promos. I was surprised that there were no promos, since they had been included for Seasons 2-4. It would have been great to have more interviews and season specific special features on this set.

Gag Reel (Disc 4 - 4:36) - The video quality of these bloopers/outtakes varies. Some appear to be from a videotape source. Some have the time counter or some other graphic covered up with a different background. There are some funny clips here that I had never seen before on any blooper specials. The last minute is a montage of various behind-the-scenes shots of the cast with the theme song played in the background.

Final Comments:

The fifth season was notable for a number of reasons. They won three Emmy Awards this season. Michael J. Fox won an Emmy for the second time. Series Creator and Writer Gary David Goldberg and Writer Alan Uger won for the classic "A, My Name Is Alex" episode. This was really a groundbreaking episode that really doesn't look like your standard sitcom episode. The second half of the episode was shot on a stage with a black background like a play. The second half aired commercial free originally. This was really one of the highlights of the series. Michael J. Fox really shined in this episode. This season was also notable for the amount of two part and one-hour episodes. Six of them aired. This was the highest rated season of the series. There was the addition of Brian Bonsall to the cast who had some great exchanges with Michael J. Fox. I don't know if this season was quite as strong overall as Seasons Three or Four, but there were many memorable moments.

This season really has some good value for the amount and quality of the episodes. There may be some confusion on the number of episodes included on this set. There are 30 half-hour episodes. Two episodes that originally aired as one-hour episodes are split up as two episodes for some reason. There is also an episode that was produced for the third season but didn't air until the summer of 1987. There were two episodes which were produced for the fourth season but didn't air until this season. It remains a mystery why NBC held them back for so long. It couldn't have been because of the content of the episodes. They weren't controversial. Maybe NBC only wanted to air a certain number of new episodes each season, and these episodes were simply leftovers. There are only two seasons left to go to complete the series. It seems like there is a chance we could have both seasons 6 and 7 by the end of the year. Sha-la-la-la.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 1/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 03/07/09

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