On This Day: ‘Family Ties’ Airs Its Final Episode in 1989

by Evan Reier

A young Michael J. Fox and the rest of the Family Ties cast said their goodbyes to audiences across the country on this day in 1989.

It marked the end of one of the 1980s most popular and long-running sit-coms. The escapades of the Keatons and the interesting dynamic between kids and parents made for a smash hit. However, after seven seasons and countless iconic episodes, the show called it quits.

The episode was titled “Alex Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” and it was the conclusion of the buildup that led to the show’s end. Alex Keaton, the eldest child of Steven and Elyse Keaton, headed off to college. As a show focused around the dynamic of the family, it marked a proper end as a key component was leaving the home.

The Family Ties finale featured goodbyes from the Keaton family as well as some of the reoccurring friends and cast. It marked the end of Alex and his parents’ political spats, as well as his “teaching” of his youngest sibling, Andy.

The show had seen a bit of a downturn in ratings as the show came to its conclusion, as is pretty much always the case. Part of that was due to the nature of television, but part of it was the nearing end of the Michael J. Fox zeitgeist.

Family Ties Star Michael J. Fox’s Incredible Run

While Family Ties was running, Michael J. Fox began to take on film roles. Anybody who hasn’t been under a rock the past five decades knows where this is going.

Back to the Future. The gargantuanly successful movie featured Fox as Marty McFly, an everyday 17-year-old who comes across a plutonium-holding Doc Brown. As they get attacked by Libyan terrorists, McFly is sent back to 1955 where he has to avoid paradoxes and maintain time so he can return back.

The film produced two successful sequels, and made Michael J. Fox a household name, along with help from Family Ties. When I say a Fox zeitgeist happened, just check the ratings for Family Ties in 1986 and 1987, shortly after Back to the Future first released. The show finished second in all ratings for its fourth and fifth seasons.

On top of that, Fox was also in movies like the adolescent classic, Teen Wolf. He also starred in The Secrets to My Success.

Unfortunately, Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1991 at the brutally young age of 30. He spent the next three decades continuing to work, and also became one of the biggest pushers for Parkinson’s research and progress after announcing his diagnosis in 1998.

Due to declining health, Fox retired from acting in 2020.