Family Ties “A, My Name is Alex” (part 2 of 5)

Now that he’s been wisely left alone again, Alex starts to hallucinate once more that Greg is in the kitchen. This time, the two of them proceed to reenact the last time Alex saw Greg, including that whole thing about moving a piano that Alex just described twenty seconds ago. I mean, really. Who owns a piano in this day and age, much less makes their friends help move it? God, that’s annoying. I kind of wish he was dead.

Caption contributed by Albert

“I swear this’ll be the last time, Alex! I know I said that after we moved the calliope, but this time I really mean it!”

And not that it really matters all that much, but I’m obligated to mention that Greg is played by Brian McNamara, who was Lindsay Lohan’s dad in I Know Who Killed Me. Not the dad played by Neal McDonough. The other dad we only saw in the one scene with Paula Marshall. You know, he hates Hobbitses. He wasn’t Lindsay’s psycho dad. And by psycho dad, I mean Michael Lohan.

So there’s lots of fast-paced banter between Alex and the Ghost of Greggers Past. Alex says he can’t help move the piano because he’d rather go meet up with some girls, but Greg knows he hasn’t had a date in three months. Finally, Greg tells Alex “suit yourself” and leaves, and after a moment, Alex is all No! No! Gregger don’t goooo!! He stares out the back door of the house, and… commercial. Well, that was quite a… thing. Cliffhanger. Whatever.

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Back from break, we’re in a medium shot of Alex, wearing yet another of his fashionable APK monogrammed sweaters. He’s on the couch in the Keaton living room (the only other Family Ties set), talking to an unseen someone, describing how he’s been thinking a lot lately about the meaning of life, and the manner in which he wants to “pass through this existence”. The camera slowly pulls out as he says he’s always admired people with strong religious beliefs.

Finally, we pull all the way back to reveal… a monk. I mean, an actual guy in full monk robes. It’s hilarious! I know this because the audience laughs loudly.

Caption contributed by Albert

“So, when can you introduce me to the rest of the Merry Men?”

Wait… why would the studio audience be laughing at this? Presumably, they were all sitting there when the actor walked out dressed like a monk. It’s not like one of those things where they had Suzanne Pleshette hiding under a blanket or something. They had to have known what was coming. Unless… you don’t think the laughter was added after the fact, do you? Perish the thought.

It appears Alex has turned to “Brother Timothy” for spiritual guidance in his time of need. Alex says he feels lost, and his mind is full of questions like “Why am I here? Why are you here?” Brother Timothy explains he’s here because Alex “called” him, har har. Should we wonder how and when Alex had the opportunity to get the phone number of a monk? Or how a monk even has a telephone? No, I think we should not.

Interestingly enough, Brother Timothy is played by Richard McGonagle, and the name is probably not familiar to you, but he’s the voiceover artist who did the overbearing narration in (500) Days of Summer. And I’m sure there’s a great many of you who still have no idea who I’m talking about.

Regardless, let’s have a laugh at Alex’s wackiness, as he suddenly declares his new goal in life. He wants to become a monk.

Alex: There is, however, one question I must ask.
Brother Timothy: No girls.
Alex: That was it.

Which was mildly funny, I guess. Less funny is how Alex continues to harp on the “no girls” rule, asking if that also applies to “weekends”, and doing four other variations on the “no girls” joke, eventually telling the brother that he’s “giving up a tremendous thing with these girls here!” Because it’s always fun to see someone’s faith get repeatedly mocked.

Just then, there’s a knock at the door, and Skippy has arrived to break up the monotony. He sees the monk and asks, “Who’s the monk?” It’s a pretty understandable query, all things considered.

Timothy explains he was just telling Alex about his sacred vows of “obedience, poverty, and chastity”. Which Skippy rephrases as “do what you’re told, always be broke, and never have a date!” My spidey sense is tingling—a punch line must be rapidly approaching!

Skippy says he might already be a monk and not know it. Buh dum bum! But really, that depends. Are monks allowed to masturbate six times a day?

Caption contributed by Albert

“No, I really do think the robes would have a slimming effect on me!”

Alex hears his parents’ car in the driveway, and figures they probably wouldn’t understand, you know, all this talking to a monk and everything. He quickly tries to shuffle Timothy out faster than a kid pulling a porno tape out of the family VCR. But too late, the folks and Mallory are already at the front door, and Alex is forced to make introductions. The ‘rents are confused, and gently amused in that Keaton-esque way, and Steven asks Brother Timothy if that’s his “donkey” parked out front.

And then Skippy shoots off his stupid mouth, saying Alex is thinking about becoming a monk, but Timothy assures them Alex isn’t the type who could endure the rigors of life in a monastery. He then goes into lengthy detail on those rigors, which include “getting up every morning at dawn and scrubbing floors all day dressed in sandals and a robe”, after which Mallory pipes up that maybe Alex should give it a shot. Ah, that sibling antagonism, it’s the comedy gift that keeps on giving.

Finally, the monk leaves, and that’s about it for Alex wanting to become a monk. All in all, sort of a pointless scene.

Cut to Alex studying for a final, and he accidentally spills a glass of orange juice on himself. He looks up, pleading with God, telling him that his best friend just died, and a lap full of OJ is somehow making things worse. Seriously, that’s pretty much how he puts it.

But wait! Who’s that off-screen voice calling out to Alex? Is it? Yes! The creepy ghost of Greggers is back! They have another intense hug, because lots of intense hugs means it’s a Very Special Episode. There will also be lots of intense learning later.

Caption contributed by Albert

Nobody could burp Alex quite like Greg.

Alex says his parents are starting to think he’s crazy, so he wants to bring them down to have a look at Zombie Greg. Instead, Greg goes into a whole spiel about how rude Alex is, because a dead guy’s in his house and he doesn’t even offer him anything to eat. Geez, the dead are a lot more high maintenance than I thought. Alex says he doesn’t know the “etiquette”, given that Greg is “the only guy I know who’s dead and comes to visit me!” Alex hates Grandpa Donnelly! He never comes around since he died!

Alex goes to the fridge and pulls out big armfuls of cold cuts and condiment jars, while Greg looks over Alex’s books. Zombie Greg sarcastically points out he has a “fabulous excuse” for missing the economics final. So I guess Greg is really bitter when he’s dead.

Family Ties "A, My Name is Alex" (part 2 of 5)

Greg thinks he should leave Alex alone to study, and starts to leave. What? After Alex got out the Miracle Whip and everything, he’s just going to take off? Now who’s rude? No wonder the dead have an image problem.

But to Alex, all this studying is “meaningless”, and he shoves the books aside. He says he’s realized he’s doing all this planning for the future, and he may not even have a future. But Greggers tells him he’s “gotta keep living!”

Alex starts to apologize profusely for not going with him on that fateful day to move the piano, and even the figment of Alex’s imagination thinks this is stupid. After all, Zombie Greg says, if Alex had gone along, he’d be dead too. But Alex doesn’t care, and he yells at Greg to listen to him, and let him finish, let him finish!

Naturally, that’s when Mallory walks in, apparently to… get a pencil from the desk in the kitchen. Greg has disappeared again, of course. Mallory asks Alex if he was talking to himself, but Alex says he was actually talking to Greg. Mallory sarcastically pegs this as “much better”, which gets more awkward, forced laughter from the studio audience and/or laugh track.

I gotta ask, why did they even need a studio audience for this one? Couldn’t they have left the laughter out, just this one time? I mean, you didn’t hear constant laughter when Hawkeye was floating in a lake of severed arms, or suffocating chickens that turned out to be babies. Though some of that shit was pretty hilarious.

Alex grabs Mallory, yelling that he was supposed to be in that car. And then Michael J. Fox puts on his serious big-time actor pants, going off about how he’s still alive “because I was lazy! Because I was small!” He’s yelling and carrying on about how his life was saved by his “smallness” and his “lack of generosity for a friend”. Or, you know, by the fact that moving a piano is a fucking pain in the ass.

Family Ties "A, My Name is Alex" (part 2 of 5)

All the hollering and yelling alerts the parents, who enter just in time for Alex to have an Emmy-worthy nervous breakdown, tossing around various papers and screaming, “Why am I alive? Why am I alive? Why am I alive?!?” I’m no trained psychologist or anything, but I’m guessing that Alex has just a touch of survivor’s guilt.

Thankfully, Steven and Elyse are here to comfort Alex. They surround him and promise to get him the help he needs. I mean, they still have the number for Alcoholics Anonymous, right? What do you mean, Alex isn’t an alcoholic? Close enough. And with that, we go to commercial break.

Family Ties "A, My Name is Alex" (part 2 of 5)

Actually, it turns out we are now in our final commercial break. And the episode isn’t even halfway over yet. Thanks to Brandon Tartikoff, there shall be no further interruptions from here on out, because it’s time for the really important shit to begin. So if you need to go pee, now would be the time to do it. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Multi-Part Article: Family Ties "A, My Name is Alex"

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  • Strelnikov

    I would catch this clunker every so often as a rerun, and it was obvious that this incredibly lightweight show, Family Ties, went off the rails trying to be Our Town with a laugh-track. The two episodes with Tom Hanks as the alkie uncle (pre-12 steps and post) fit the emotional level of the show far better than Michael J. Fox attempting serious acting for thirty minutes.