On march 12, 1987, NBC aired a distinct one-hour episode of its struggle Thursday-night comedy Family Ties, with restricted commercial interruption. The an initial third the “‘A’ My surname Is Alex” follows the Keaton household of Columbus, Ohio, in the days after the funeral because that Greg, earliest son Alex’s finest friend, that has passed away in an vehicle accident. Everyone appears down about it except for Alex, who strangely upbeat—even manic. That’s due to the fact that he’s hiding the deep spiritual situation that Greg’s death has touch off. Alex was an alleged to be in the auto with Greg once he crashed. Is it pure coincidence the Alex blew off his plans that day? walk God have actually some bigger purpose because that sparing Alex and also taking Greg? The last, commercial-free half-hour of the illustration takes place on a mostly bare stage, together Alex talks v an off-screen therapist around all this—about his life, his family, and his expectations.

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“‘A’ My surname Is Alex” was heavily hyped prior to it aired, and well-received immediately afterward. The episode won two Emmys—one for the screenplay through Alan Uger and collection creator Gary David Goldberg, and one for “Outstanding technological Direction”—and Michael J. Fox won the second of his three consecutive exceptional Lead actor Emmys in 1987 for play Alex P. Keaton. It’s among the best-remembered episodes of Family Ties, and also maybe one of the best-remembered hours of the tv of the ’80s.

It’s also, today, one of the most-mocked. The website The Agony Booth go a vicious takedown last year that the silliness and also pretension the “‘A’ My name Is Alex,” and also I’ve uncovered that once I cite the episode to mine peers, castle reflexively roll their eyes. Native the introduction of a “best friend” that had never been checked out on the show before to the required artiness of the Our Town-like set design, “‘A’ My surname Is Alex” seems the summary of the “very distinct episode” unable to do awry: a frivolous tiny family sitcom taking itself method too seriously. So what’s changed over the past 20-plus years? exactly how did a TV episode that to be once hosted up as an instance the medium at the finest come to be thick, juicy snark-bait? did the times change, or walk we?

I remember the town hall “‘A’ My name Is Alex” as soon as it aired, and also I psychic liking it. I would’ve to be 16 in ~ the time, nearing the finish of my Family Ties-watching years.

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I ended up being a senior in high college that fall, and also was also busy come watch much TV of any type of kind (outside of Cheers, Moonlighting, Letterman, Saturday Night Live, and also late-night repeats of WKRP and also Barney Miller, which all continued to be staples). However prior come that, I’d to be a faithful viewer that NBC’s Thursday-night block, including Family Ties, which to be the one show in the bunch most relevant to mine actual life, provided that it had to execute with school, relationships, politics, and also the varying definitions of “success” in the go-go ’80s.