Rewatching Family Ties has not only been nostalgic, but hilarious. Alex P. Keaton's devotion to the Republican party in contrast to his parents' liberal views was lost on me during first watch, but his unabashed disdain for women's studies and big government influence are actually quite sublime.
No doubt Alex was the standout star of the show, and Justine Bateman's delightfully airheaded Mallory and her equally-stupid boyfriend Nick were also popular with fans. (I only recently learned that Nick (played by the aptly-named Scott Valentine) had a short-lived spinoff. Seriously!) But what of the youngest Keaton, Jennifer (yes, I know Andy existed, but he added nothing to the show)? She rarely had any solo storylines. Her contributions consisted of commenting on her elder siblings and being congratulated on a great baseball game. We get it, alright? Jennifer is a tomboy.
And let's face it, Tina Yothers went through some tough times as a young actress. By age twelve, she looked about thirty two, towered over her siblings (although we know Michael J Fox's stature didn't help things) and had hair like a straw factory exploded. I'm not one to be negative about a young woman's looks, but it IS hard to deal with puberty on national television.
Which is why in Season Five, one of the Jennifer-centric episodes is worth revisiting. "It's My Party" was a two-part story arc. As a youngster, I was fascinated with any episode show that included (1) a makeover (2) someone getting to be in the popular crowd and (3) awesome outfits. Let's face it, I was a shallow kid. And a very insecure one.
Let's get into this sordid tale. Have a seat: it's a two-parter!
It's Jennifer's thirteenth birthday party, and dorky old Dad is excited to perform his puppet show! Wait, is puppet show a euphemism? Ever notice how much Stephen and Elyse get it on? Jennifer feels like it's a babyish idea. Her friend suggests they invite the popular kids, and they get excited about possibly hanging out with the crew. Back then, the excitement was around sitting at the cool table in the cafeteria. These days, being in the popular group includes running trains in the back of the TGIF. Ah, the eighties.
Jennifer and friend awkwardly invite Stacey and her group to the party. Now here's the part where we admire this amazing late-eighties fashion. It is what I would call "Miami retirement home chic." Lots of tight perms or teased hair, gaudy crystal jewelry (but only one earring!), and oversized silk button downs. Amazing. You bet your buppie I owned a variation of this.
Something else about the popular girls: they also talk like Valley Girls. Lots of "like...okay?" which is as annoying to hear as it sounds. Stacey's gang arrives at the party and declares it like, lame, okay? and Jennifer leaves to go to Stacey's house, abandoning her nerdy, bookish friend Beth.
Mallory, who is supposedly an expert on popularity, but is styled like a lesbian dog-walker, gives Jennifer tips on how to walk with swinging hips and to talk like a moron. It's a very My Fair Lady moment that warmed my heart. Alex, the college student, for some reason is also hanging out at this party, but it's okay because he is an excellent snarker.
Stephen and Elyse come home to find Jennifer has left, but luckily she has left a note, which leads to one of my all-time Family Ties moments: Stephen tries to read the note, but it's littered with "like...okay?" so Alex suggests reading every third word, which results in a string of "like...okay...for sure..."
Jennifer is an overnight sensation. He bushy hair becomes an asset and she buys stock in leggings and flowing shirts. She gets so many calls from boys she has no time to do her work or be nice to her parents. In other words, she is acting like a bratty thirteen year old. Her parents have had enough.
|I'm having an eighties fashion orgasm.|
Jennifer is grounded for acting like a bratty little shit, and the family leaves her at home while they go to a baseball game. Her popular crew comes over, invites boys (whose testicles have barely descended), and have some beer. Jennifer, with her wholesome and perfect Keaton upbringing, wants to send them away but knows she will be out of the gang if she protests. One of the boys suggests they go to Jennifer's room, and that's where she draws the line. She is woman, hear her roar! She kicks everyone out and the mean girls promise that Jennifer will be ruined.
|Do you know how many brushes I broke trying to get my hair to look like this?|
That's okay, because she still has the love of her amazing, perfect family! She apologizes for her brattiness and the fam goes out for ice cream or whatever it is they do when they solve their problem of the week. Oh, to be a Keaton.
Just indulge me by examining one more outfit. This one is called PTA-president chic:
The biggest tragedy of all is that Scott Valentine's IMDb page is pretty bare. Not even a headshot? C'MON!