What's different about the landline is what the shared status of the phone makes possible. People are waiting to make a call and threatening their little sisters if they hog the phone:
Or fighting over who should have answered the phone when it rang and rang earlier. (It's not clear to me if the Keatons have an answering machine). Then you get to reconcile when the phone rings again, this time fighting to see who can answer it first:
Which leads to make up kissing, courtesy of AT & T:
|Who called? Who cares?|
And of course it never seems to occur to anyone that the phone can be left unanswered - even if you're in the middle of, say, gluing a broken plate back together with two other people - which allows for physical comedy too:
And while we're on the subject of old tech, let me close with a little love for the newspaper. I've written before about my love for newsprint, so I'll just say that you can imagine my joy at images like this one, from the opening credits of season one:
The newspaper is also pretty ubiquitous on Family Ties, but it's more of a prop and less of a plot-advancer (with a few exceptions, like the episode where the calling hours for Aunt Trudy coincide with the family's yard sale because Alex forgot to pull the ad in time).
I might write more at another time about other examples of great old tech - tape cassettes and rolls of film come to mind - but for now I'm going to take a break from that subject and from the show itself. I realized that not only do most of four seasons remain for me to watch, but also from the episode guides on Netflix it looks like I haven't even reached the halfway point for the series. So I'm going to gather more data and will probably write again when I'm done. In the meantime, I might write about The Grapes of Wrath, which I have finally started and which looks to be amazing, obviously a different kind of portrait of the U.S. from Family Ties but one that, from the 2014 vantage point, shares its compelling mix of the gone and enduring.