It is worth noting that, as originally conceived, the parents were supposed to be the main characters in Family Ties. In fact, the "high concept" used to sell the series was "hip parents, square kids."

Meredith Baxter in particular was supposed to be the star, but this went quickly off the rails. During the taping of an early episode, in which Alex lost his virginity to a woman who shared his passion for Milton Friedman, the audience laughed so hard that taping ran an hour longer than scheduled. It was apparent to everybody involved that Michael J. Fox would be the star of the series from then on. Supposedly, one of the producers approached Baxter before the end of the day and offered "If you want to get out, we understand."

She decided to stay, and the changed balance of power in the show's premise probably hurt her and Michael Gross less than it hurt Tina Yothers and Justine Bateman, who played his sisters. Remarkably, given how well he did with the part, Michael J. Fox was not the producers' original choice for the role; they had written the part for Matthew Broderick.

Significant guest stars included Tom Hanks and Courteney Cox. Tom Hanks's turn as Elyse's alcoholic brother was shown in 2000 at the Museum of Television and Radio to illustrate the actor's strength in an early small-screen role.