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Family Ties found its comedy through a suburban family made up of free-spirited liberal parents, their ultra-conservative son and other kids clashing in the Reagan era. Remember that simpler time when we could laugh about the differences between the left and the right without it turning into a nasty polarizing fight? The show ran from 1982 to 1989 and won multiple awards, including three consecutive Emmy’s for Michael J. Fox, who played the suit-wearing Alex P. Keaton to perfection. Here are some things you might not have known about NBC’s powerhouse Thursday night sitcom.

1. Matthew Broderick was actually the first choice to play Alex

Matthew Broderick was first offered the role of Alex but turned the part down because he didn’t want to move to Los Angeles. Gary David Goldberg was not initially interested in Michael J. Fox for the role but was convinced to see him read again. “So, [Weiner] calls him in, and I say, ‘Anything you want me to tell you?’ He goes, ‘No, just do it better, huh?’ And he gives me this little smile, and I’m thinking, ‘Matthew who?’ It was like ‘boom.’ He nailed it. He just played who he was, he played another side. He was Mike. And as soon as he left, I turned to Judith and I said, ‘This kid’s great. Why didn’t you tell me about him?’”

family ties

2. But then they almost fired Fox

After the pilot aired, Brandon Tartikoff (the president of NBC) wanted to fire Michael because he didn’t have the sort of face that you would see on a lunchbox. Michael has said: “So years later, when Back to the Future hit and Family Ties was the number two show on TV, I made Brandon a lunchbox with my picture on it, and I wrote, ‘This is for you to put your crow in. Love, me.’ Brandon turned out to be a good friend and a great guy. He kept that on his desk until the day he died.”

Alex Keaton

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