In Stereo Where Available

Two more things I remembered while watching the season 5 DVD of Family Ties:

1. The early seasons were in mono, but this season (it may have started the year before, I don’t know) is in very wide-spread stereo, with the “Sha La La La!” in the theme song coming at you from opposite speakers. It just reminded me that NBC was the first network to aggressively promote stereo TV broadcasting, getting most of their shows to record and mix in stereo and sticking a “NBC stereo” caption at the beginning of every show. Stereo in the ’80s was like colour TV in the ’60s or HD in the ’00s: everybody knew it was coming, but some networks or production companies made a point of embracing it even before they had to. (The famous “in stereo where available” caption was created by the then-new Fox network.)

2. I had forgotten that this season had the episode where, in an attempt to find something for Tina Yothers to do, Jennifer starts an all-girl pop band called “The Permanent Waves,” with Christina Applegate on keyboard and Rainbow Phoenix (sister of Joaquin, River and many others) pretending to play some other instrument. Of course Alex takes over the band and goes too far, turning them into ’40s retro singing group called “The Swinging Corporate Raiders.” (Note: “Alex takes over [] and goes too far” is a description of 50% of all Family Ties episodes.) This was part of a coordinated push to spin off a pop record, as she sang an original ’80s bubblegum teen-pop song, released a tie-in single, and performed it on Solid Gold. The song didn’t go anywhere, but in the Disney Channel era, the whole thing seems almost prophetic.