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Liz Tells Frank What Happened In the “Family Ties” episode “A, My Name Is Alex”

Dear Frank,

Let’s establish something right up front — I never watched Family Ties as a kid and have no real knowledge of the show aside from the bare-bones premise (hippie parents have an ultra-conservative son!). But it’s a family sitcom from the 1980s; I feel comfortable about my ability to wade through it. And you’ve mentioned a couple of times that you wanted to know what happened in this one fifth season episode, which has always struck me as strange, so here we go!

“My Name is Alex” is a two-parter (that you can watch on YouTube), and starts off with a pretty funny scene between this kid Andy and his babysitter, who’s explaining that Michael J. Fox (it is IMPOSSIBLE for me to think of him otherwise) and his parents are at a funeral for MJF’s friend Greg, which leads to her having to explain death to a toddler. (It’s funnier than it sounds, Frank, I promise.)

Then the rest of the family gets home, and start talking about the funeral (this is all pretty en media res — nice stuff). MJF is dealing with the fact that he should have been in the car that killed Greg by going totally upbeat and manic; it’s actually kind of an incredible performance, because you can tell how close he is to breaking apart and aren’t I supposed to be watching a sitcom from the 1980s? Jesus. Read the rest of this entry

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