If you were a rising actor in the 1980s, you couldn’t have done much better than to add your name to the roll of Family Ties guest stars who made their mark on the hit NBC sitcom.
Sure, you already know about some of the familiar faces with long story arcs alongside Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox) and his kin — think Tom Hanks and Courteney Cox.
But there were plenty of more obscure (at the time) Family Ties guest stars who eventually forged big careers of their own.
Here are eleven of them.
River Phoenix (1985)
What? APK needed a tudor? And it was a 13-year-old kid?
Yeah, Alex brought in young River Phoenix to help him bring up is geometry grade, but the kid only had eyes for Jennifer.
Crispin Glover (1984)
So, in a bit of foreshadowing anachronism, the dude who would go on to play Mart McFly’s father in the Back to the Future films checks in here as one of Alex’s friends at his 18th birthday party.
Evidently, Crispin Glover knows how to work his connections.
Maura Tierney (1989)
Just a few years before she pulled on the scrubs in the limelight of E.R., Maura Tierney took on the role of Darlene, a potential Skippy love interest who couldn’t hold a candle to matchmaker Lauren (Cox).
Jeff Cohen (1984, 1987)
Yep, you read that right … and you saw it right.
Chunk from The Goonies made a couple of appearances on Family Ties — one before his breakout role, and one after.
Corey Feldman (1986)
In the fourth season, Feldman appeared as one of the brainiacs tormenting Jennifer as she tried to win an award, with Alex’s overbearing help.
Feldman, of course, is another The Goonies alum, having starred as Mouth.
Geena Davis (1984)
Davis crashed the Family Ties party when she answered an ad for help wanted … as a housekeeper.
Turned out, she was pretty bad at the job, and hilarity ensued as the Keatons tried to let her go gracefully.
Wil Wheaton (1987)
Wheaton was sort of the inverse of Phoenix, as Jennifer developed a crush on his Timothy Higgins character.
She ended up with neither one of them, though she did form a band. So there’s that.
Judith Light (1983)
What sort of woman could woo Steven Keaton away from wife Elyse?
But Judith Light got about as close as anyone could have, coaxing a kiss from the Family Ties patriarch as a lustful co-worker.
Christina Applegate (1987)
And speaking of Jennifer’s band, as I was up there a couple of entries ago, Applegate was one of backups managed by Alex.
Then, well, it was off to Married with Children.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (1988)
Elaine from Seinfeld made her mark as an attorney helping the Keatons through some school trouble, and then landed a role on the very short-lived spin-off, Art of Being Nick.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (1988)
The future Third Rock from the Sun star showed up on Family Ties as the series was trying to hang on with that age-old shark-jumping technique — a new kid.
Gordon-Levitt played baby brother Andy’s classmate in kindergarten.
Lots of star power there, huh?
The one big, obvious miss?
Gotta be Fox’s Back to the Future co-star Christopher Lloyd.
I mean, how could producers *not* push for a Doc Brown cameo??