Let’s first clear up all misconception. Before he was on ‘Spin City’ or ‘The Good Wife’, before he gave voice to that lovable, little mouse Stuart, and even before he was an agent for little guys in Life With Mikey, Michael J. Fox was the conservative, tie-wearing, briefcase toting, African born (bet you didn’t know that!) Alex P. (whose middle initial still remains a television mystery) Keaton, the oldest child of Steven and Elyse Keaton, on NBCs long-running family sitcom Family Ties.
More than just a physical embodiment of the nations switch from cultural liberalism to full-on conservatism and capitalism, Alex P. Keaton was a celluloid sophist, an oxford-clad philosopher, and a charming magi. He helped America understand Reaganomics, made a household name of William F. Buckley, and taught scads of anxious young men to score with college economics majors. More than that, he was an educator bringing life lessons to the small screen week after week. Perhaps ten of his finest are included as follows:
10. BLOOD RUNS THICKER THAN….
With Stephen and Elyse away for the weekend in Season 1, Episode 2, Alex hosts a wild party and worries over Mallory going off with one of his womanizing friends. He lays it all on the line at the risk of being over-protective. But that night Alex taught us all that if the guy is our friend he is definitely NOT the kind of guy we want our sister(s) with.
9. DELIVERING MORE THAN JUST A BAG OF CANNED GOODS
In Season 1, Episode 4, Alex learns a lesson we all must learn sooner or later. Sexual relations with girls who refer to us as delivery boy do not a future relationship make, as Alex loses his heart–and a lot more–to a fast college girl who he met while making – ironically enough – grocery deliveries.
8. MONEY ISN’T EVERYTHING
Alex comes to regret his decision to leave his job at a small-time grocer in Season 1, Episode 9, for a better paying job at a larger store. He has to face the owner of the grocery Mr. Adler and talks about the “great opportunity” at the Shop-A-Lot that he is starting next week. What Alex ends up doing is bringing truth to the adage that the grass is not always greener.
7. SPEND ANYONE’S MONEY BUT YOUR OWN
Alex buys and sells stock on paper for a school project in Season 1, Episode 16. He does so well, he decides to buy and sell for real, using his parent’s blue-chip stock account. Things go well, until they don’t. This episode almost didn’t end in a family hug.
6. FULL SPEED AHEAD SHOULD BE JUST ONE OF SEVERAL GEARS
Even television networks know that wholesome doesn’t always sell. In Season 2, Episode 6 (air date: Nov. 9, 1983 during the early days of Nancy Reagan’s ‘Just Say No’ campaign) Alex turns to amphetamines to get through a particularly stressful period of exams and scholarship applications. The twist is that the pills were given to him by sister Mallory (they were diet pills with speed-like qualities) after he pressured her into it. The episode ends with Alex realizing that no circumstances (“I was out of control. It was like it wasn’t even me! Very scary Mallory.”) are worth abusing substances and treating the ones that love you with complete disregard. He apologizes to the family, denounces personality-altering drugs, and hugs it out with Mallory.
5. STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF NO MATTER WHAT SHE LOOKS LIKE
In Season 2, Episode 5, Alex pretends to be a feminist to impress a girl he likes when his attraction to a classmate leads him to join the ERA movement. Upon his confession both to the girl and to the ERA group is both awkward and poignant. Alex taught us that night in 1983 that in honesty you can find truth and common ground.
4. THERE ARE GREATER CAUSES THAN OUR OWN
Forced to take a humanities course at college in Season 3, Episode 7, Alex is doubly disappointed and frustrated when – after signing up to man the student helpline – he is doing so with James, an old enemy. When the duo get stuck at the station with their teacher, they are told they can lock up. Alex soon realizes though that he’s bitten off a little more than he can chew when a troubled teen calls in with thoughts of suicide and he and James have to put aside differences to provide support.
3. YOU AIN’T THE BABY DADDY
With each season the subject matter got even more hard to handle for audiences at Family Ties took on some of the most controversial topics. In Season 3, Episode 14, Elyse and Steven host a Lamaze class at their home for pregnant, single, college coeds, where Alex plays a stand-in role. One woman who attends is not married and Alex becomes involved in helping her at the classes, even going so far as envisioning a relationship with her and her unborn child, and leading it into marriage and a family. It takes Elyse to set him straight, and even alert him to the possibility that Donna may not want to keep the baby. This was a hard episode to watch but one that ultimately taught young men that it takes more than wishful thinking to be a father.
2. SUCCESS KNOWS NO GENDER
Alex takes a job as a bank intern in Season 5, Episode 5, and finds out his boss is not what he expected. She is a she! A sitcom arrangement of “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)” Alex takes special joy in going…er, ‘tit for tat’ with his new superior. Special Note: A game of chess has never had so many double entendres.
1. REAL MEN CRY
In what has become known as one of the show’s greatest episodes Season 5, Episode 23 (titled “A, My Name Is Alex”) deals with death and grief. Alex’s friend dies in an accident and as the family grieves, Alex tries to mask his grief. But he can’t hide his grief and other emotions forever. One of the first television shows to break the 4th wall and directly address the audience, Michael J. Fox is exceptional showing vulnerability and strength and forever securing his role in the eyes of many as a cultural icon!