Saturday, August 02, 2008

"What would we do, baby, without us?"

Out on DVD Tuesday is Season 4 of Family Ties, the show's best season, in my opinion. As popular as Michael J. Fox's Alex already was, the character was truly tested and fleshed out by the introduction of dancer/artist Ellen Reed (Tracy Pollan).

In the season premiere, "The Real Thing", Alex matches himself with Tricia Armstrong based on her picture in the Leland College freshman directory, but when he goes to Tricia's dorm room, her roommate Ellen answers and proceeds to peg Alex's every reason for being there. At the same time, Alex's pragmatism challenges Ellen's self-image. And yet the audience knows almost right away that they've opened up to each other. If Ellen thought Alex was just like the rest of Tricia's suitors, why let him in the door and engage him in conversation?

As palpable as their unspoken chemistry is, they continue to challenge each other to verbalize their feelings, even after Alex skips an important faculty-student mixer, driving 350 miles to try and stop Ellen from marrying her boyfriend Dennis. As a result, their profession of love is warranted, perfectly timed, and authentic.

Ellen was written off the show at the start of Season 5, but I was glad to hear Fox and Pollan married. They are still together, Fox praising Pollan's strength for helping him overcome the initial shock of his Parkinson's diagnosis.

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