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Family Ties - The Sixth Season



Release Date: April 9, 2013 (CBS DVD/Paramount)
MSRP: $45.98
Packaging: Clear plastic snapcase
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 28
Running Time: approx. 11 hours, 1 minutes (661 minutes)
Running Time of Features: N/A
Audio: English Stereo (2 episodes in English Mono)
Subtitles and Captioning: English SDH
Special Features: None


Steven (Michael Gross) and Elyse Keaton (Meredith Baxter Birney) keep the love rolling and the laughs coming in Family Ties: The Sixth Season. Still under one roof are ultra-conservative son Alex (Michael J. Fox), shopaholic daughter Mallory (Justine Bateman), strong-willed Jennifer (Tina Yothers) and young Alex-in-training Andrew (Brian Bonsall). The family is in transition as Alex starts a new relationship, Mallory starts an internship at Steven's station, and Jennifer takes a stand reminiscent of her parents' 1960s humanitarian spirit. The Keaton family may be part liberal and part conservative, but at the end of the day...they all share it together.


The sixth season premiered on NBC on September 13, 1987, with an one-hour episode. In "Last of the Red Hot Psychologists (Parts 1 & 2)," Alex agrees to participate in a psychology student's (Courteney Cox) research study that examines overachievers. Mallory takes a position as an advice columnist at a local paper and ges a little carried away with her new responsibilites in "Dear Mallory." When Alex starts spending more time with Lauren (Courteney Cox), little brother Andy gets jealous in "The Other Woman." Jennifer agrees to go to a dance with a geeky sophomore who has a crush on her - but only so she can get closer to the popular boy she really wants to date in "Dream Date." When Elyse takes on a huge new architecture account that demands her full attention, she has to find a way to balance work and family time in "Super Mom." Mallory is less than thrilled when Steven insists she accept an internship at his station in "Walking on Air."

Alex feels threatened when Lauren's successful, handsome ex-boyfriend (Campbell Scott) comes to visit in "Invasion of the Psychologist Snatcher." Elyse's beloved Aunt Rosemary visits and it soon becomes apparent that she's suffering from the onset of Alzheimer's in "The Way We Were." Nick gets hired as the janitor at Mallory's sorority, but becomes a little too involved with the sisterhood in "Mister Sister." When Mallory decides to run for student body president of the school, Alex becomes her campaign manager in "Citizen Keaton." Steven's newly-divorced brother Rob comes to visit with his son and troubled daughter, who is rebelling against her dad in "Father Time (Part 1)." Steven's rebellious niece defies her father, and has the Keatons examining the meanings of marriage, divorce and parenthood in "Father Time (Part 2)." Lauren interviews the Keatons for her term paper on the typical American family, prompting a night of flashbacks in "The American Family (Parts 1 & 2)."

At odds over how to celebrate their 20th anniversary, Steven and Elyse argue nonstop and question whether they'll make it to the 21st in "Anniversary Waltz." Playing Santa at the mall, Alex encounters a little girl who doesn't believe in Santa Claus...and as a result, gets a visit from the one person who can restore his faith in Christmas in "Miracle in Columbus." The community playhouse produces a play Steven has written about he and Elyse met and fell in love in "The Play's the Thing." When Nick unexpectedly sells a piece of art, Alex sees a lucrative opportunity and tries to commercialize and exploit Nick's talent in "The Spirit of Columbus." As a DJ for his college radio show, Alex meets a legendary blues musician and tries to help him revive his career in "The Blues, Brother." Defying the rules, Jennifer writes her book report on a banned book in "Read it and Weep (Part 1)." Jennifer's punishment for reading a banned book escalates into legal action in "Read it and Weep (Part 2)."

Overwhelmed by work on her thesis, Lauren ponders quitting school altogether in "Quittin' Time." The mother of Mallory's childhood best friend visits...and is still reeling from her daughter's suicide in "Spring Reminds Me." An old friend (Robert Klein) of Elyse's has gone from high school nerd to millionaire, and wants to recapture a special moment with Elyse at their high school reunion in "The Boys Next Door." Andy is chosen to be "Buddy for the Day" to a new student, who happens to be deaf in "A Sign of the Times." When a Keaton cousin returns from abroad, she hopes to share her travel stories with the family...but the end up dominating the conversation in "Return of the Native." In order for Nick to maintain a children's art class that he's been teaching, he must turn to his estranged father for a loan in "Father, Can You Spare a Dime?"

Most of the episodes have runtimes of over 24 minutes. Two episodes, "Last of the Red Hot Psychologists" and "The American Family," originally aired as one-hour episodes and are presented that way here. Two episodes, "Anniversary Waltz" and "Return of the Native," were produced for the second and fourth seasons and run a bit shorter. There is a disclaimer on the back of the packaging which reads: "Some episodes may be edited from their original network versions. Music has een 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 half-hour episode runtimes are pretty consistent at around 24 minutes, 40 seconds. The only episodes which are shorter are "The Play's the Thing," "The Blues, Brother," and the first part of "Read It and Weep." UPDATE: The part at the very beginning where Alex plays the record "Stardust" and talks about it has been cut in "The Blues, Brother." (thanks to Skywalker on the message board for the information).

Here is the breakdown by disc, including the exact runtimes:

Disc 1
"Last of the Red Hot Psychologists (Parts 1 & 2)" (09/13/87) (48:23)
"Dear Mallory" (09/20/87) (24:42)
"The Other Woman" (09/27/87) (24:41)
"Dream Date" (10/04/87) (24:40)
"Super Mom" (10/18/87) (24:40)
"Walking on Air" (10/25/87) (24:41)

Disc 2
"Invasion of the Psychologist Snatcher" (11/01/87) (24:41)
"The Way We Were" (11/08/87) (24:42)
"Mister Sister" (11/15/87) (24:41)
"Citizen Keaton" (11/22/87) (24:42)
"Father Time (Part 1)" (11/29/87) (24:42)
"Father Time (Part 2)" (12/06/87) (24:40)
"The American Family" (Parts 1 & 2) (12/13/87) (48:20)

Disc 3
"Anniversary Waltz" (12/16/87) (23:57) *
"Miracle in Columbus" (12/20/87) (24:42)
"The Play's the Thing" (01/10/88) (24:12)
"The Spirit of Columbus" (01/17/88) (24:43)
"The Blues, Brother" (01/24/88) (24:24)
"Read It and Weep (Part 1)" (02/07/88) (23:53)
"Read It and Weep (Part 2)" (02/14/88) (24:41)
* "Anniversary Waltz" was produced for the second season, includes the second season opening credits

Disc 4
"Quittin' Time" (02/21/88) (24:41)
"Spring Reminds Me" (02/28/88) (24:40)
"The Boys Next Door" (03/06/88) (24:43)
"A Sign of the Times" (03/13/88) (24:41)
"Return of the Native" (03/20/88) (24:01) *
"Father, Can You Spare a Dime? (05/01/88)(24:41)
* "Return of the Native" was produced for the fourth season, includes the fourth season opening credits


The 4-disc set contains all 28 episodes that were aired (although not necessarily produced) in the sixth season (1987-88). The packaging is, once again, a clear plastic snapcase. It's great they have remained consistent with all of the releases. They look nice when lined up on a shelf. There is a photo of the six main cast members on the cover. The photo may look a little photoshopped, but I think this is an original publicity still. The Family Ties logo is above the photo in purple. Purple is the predominant color used for the packaging. A tiny cast photo with a purple background is on the spine of the case. On the back of the case, there is a screenshot of Brian Bonsall, Tina Yothers and Michael J. Fox at the kithcen table. Three more episode screenshots are below it. A synopsis of the season and the DVD specs are provided. Opening up the case, there are episode titles, original airdates and summaries by disc number. The disc number and episode titles and airdates are in purple text, while the summaries are in black text. There are two flip holders in the center of the case that hold the four discs back-to-back. I think the circular impressions in the front and back interior of the case are a bit unnecessary because they obscure the episode information somewhat. 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 8 episodes. Disc 3 includes 7 episodes. Disc 4 wraps up the set with 6 episodes.

Menu Design and Navigation:

The menus are colorful and easy to navigate. The main menu features headshots of the cast members in six different boxes. There is a sepia-toned photo of the kitchen in the background. The show logo is above the photos in purple. Options for Play All, Episodes and Subtitles are available in a purple bar at the bottom of the screen. There is a yellow and orange peace button above the Play All option. The disc number is noted in a red, white and blue button. The option you highlight is in yellow and turns orange 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 different 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:

Every season seems to have a slight improvement in video and audio quality over the previous season. It's hard to believe that these episodes are now around 25-years-old. They still look very good and the same as when they originally aired. 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.

The episodes are in English Stereo, except for two episodes. The packaging indicates that "Anniversary Waltz" and "Return of the Native" are in English Mono. These episodes were produced for the second and fourth seasons, which originally only had mono tracks. They have the original season two and four opening credits. 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.

Special Features:

Unfortunately, there are no special features included for this release. Seasons 2-5 included some special features like cast interviews, gag reels and episodic promos. I'm surprised we didn't get at least a gag reel or the episodic promos for this season. It would have been great to have the 1988 PBS behind-the-scenes special "Inside Family Ties." The one-hour special was hosted by Henry Winkler and detailed the making of the seventh season premiere episode, "Last of the Red Hot Psychologists."

Final Comments:

After a four-year hiatus, the sixth season has finally arrived on DVD. Season five was released back in March 2009. It looked like we were going to get the final two seasons that year, but it never happened. Music licensing costs and issues seemed to be the reason for the delay. All seven seasons been available on iTunes, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Hulu for the last year or two, so it was only a matter of time before it came to DVD.

NBC moved the show to Sunday nights for the final two seasons. They went from being the 2nd ranked show to 17th place, which was still very respectable. Michael J. Fox received his third consecutive Emmy Award for Outstandng Lead Actor in a Comedy series for this season. Season six saw the addition of psychology student Lauren Miller (Courteney Cox) as Alex's new love interest. I thought she did a good job, but Cox and Fox lacked the chemistry that he had with his future wife, Tracy Pollan (Ellen). Scott Valentine and Marc Price continued to make appearances as Nick and Skippy. Notable guest stars this season included Jay Thomas, Suzie Plakson, John Hancock, Campbell Scott, Barbara Barrie, Robert Costanzo, Tammy Lauren, David Wohl, Bibi Besch, Christian Clemenson, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Robert Klein, Dan Hedaya, Kevin Dunn and a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Dougie, a kindergarten friend of Andy and a Nick Moore wannabe, in two episodes. My favorite episodes of the season were "Last of the Red Hot Psychologists," "Dear Mallory," "Invasion of the Psychologist Snatcher," "Citizen Keaton," "Miracle in Columbus," and "Read It and Weep." Some topics they covered this season included Alzheimer's, book banning, suicide and Andy dealing with a deaf child. Overall, it was another pretty strong season. The release is a pretty basic one, but at least it is available for those prefer to have hard copies on DVD. It would have been nice to have the gag reel like they had included for the previous three seasons. Hopefully they will release the seventh and final season sometime this year to complete the series, which is one of the best of the 1980s and in my top five of all-time.

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 04/04/13

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