FRESH YARN presents:

Family F'ing Ties!
By Robin Shorr

I was raised by a television. It would destroy my parents if they knew I felt that way. But since my sister Diana insisted that I was adopted, that statement technically shouldn't destroy them at all since they're not my real parents. When I would ask my sister detailed questions about my adoption, she would tell me to shut up and turn on What's Happenin'. I prayed that someday I would discover that Rog and Dee were my biological siblings. The more I asked about my adoption, the more Diana got frustrated and turned on the TV. While some people's older sisters gave them a stack of amazing rock albums or an appreciation of classic film, my sister gave me a false sense of identity and a love of Shirley Hemphill.

My favorite shows were the shows that no one cared about. Remember the early '80s sitcom We Got It Maid? I do. It was about two dudes and their hot maid. The stories of the hot maid being terrible at house cleaning must've really pulled at this "adopted" kid's heartstrings, as I recently found a diary entry of mine marked April 10th, 1983. It reads: "We got it maid…maid me cry." I watched every show I could, memorized the dialogue, and then recorded it on Diana's cassette recorder. How else would I remember that amazing joke that perky twin said to the other perky twin on Double Trouble? And everyone loves to reminisce about how amazing Jason Bateman was when he started on Silver Spoons, but I loved him most on a show called It's Your Move. Who couldn't adore this sitcom about a sneaky teenager being adorable and…sneaky? Bateman's dimples and calculator watch made the show sing. I'm just a little sad I never wrote in my diary that "It's Your Move…Moved Me."

I was crazy envious of those chosen people who sat inside the television and supplied the laughter for these shows. Who were these magical gigglers? And how did they get that job? When I asked Diana these questions, she said that, "anyone can go to a taping of a TV show. Anyone who isn't ADOPTED." But she conceded a little, saying "..and whatever, we're in Woodland Hills. Those tapings happen like right around the corner." I told her I couldn't take any more lies. "Duh, Robin!" she said. "Why else would that guy say The Facts of Life was recorded in front of a live studio audience? Oh and also? You have a huge butt. And you're only ten. Stop eating so much bread."

When Diana's youth group went to a taping of Super Password, I tagged along. Soon, the musty soundstages of Burbank became my second home. Throughout the years I eagerly supplied some serious chuckles for the following shows: My Two Dads (did we ever find out who her real dad was? Was it that Judge lady?), Full House (Candace Cameron's older sister was her stand-in as DJ Tanner!), Charles in Charge (hey, why is Nicole Eggert stomping offstage after every scene she does with Scott Baio?), The Munsters Today (it's not as funny as the original, but the make-up is dead on!), and countless pilots starring Leah Remini. If only I discovered my obsession a little earlier, I might have seen the beautiful Ann Jillian in person. But alas, ABC had already cancelled It's a Living, a decision I know they're still regretting.

Nothing, however, came close to the time in 5th grade when my dad hit the motherlode of TV taping tickets. Family Ties. Sha la la la, anyone? It was easily the biggest sitcom on television at the time, so in terms of prestige, there was a huge chasm between a taping of Perfect Strangers and this one. Every other taping was Mount McKinley. Family Ties was Mount Everest. Getting our paws on these tickets was like being given the keys to the castle, but not just any castle. It was a floating castle with rainbows and marshmallow clouds, where Michael J. Fox was King and I, an adopted girl with a prematurely large ass, his Queen. So, let me make sure you understand the enormity of the situation. Family fucking Ties. By this time, Michael J. Fox was not only a television and movie icon, he was my future husband. Have you seen his car? It's a Delorean. And it travels through time! No one in town got tickets to this show. So let me reiterate…Family Fucking Ties.

I made an announcement to my class about Friday night's taping. I sent a note to the principal to make sure she knew, forgetting that she already hated me for making loud fart noises during the Honor Roll ceremony. I just had to make sure everyone was aware that Robin Shorr and Family Ties had been together for a million years and by the end of the week, we'd be together for a million more.

Tape night arrived. I put on my Benneton rugby shirt and matching Pop Swatch. My whole family piled into the car. "We just have to stop off at Alan's house to get the tickets," my dad said, pulling up to his old friend's house. Alan was our one link to Hollywood. A lawyer for a major studio, he would often shower us with movie posters of upcoming releases. We never cared that the posters were always in a foreign language. Show me one kid who wouldn't want a poster of Chevy Chase's Funny Farm in Italian.

I foolishly thought Alan had already given my dad the golden taping tickets. This unplanned stop was only going to leave us an hour and thirty minutes to get to Paramount Studios in Hollywood. My dad ran into the house leaving me and my sister and mom in the car. There wasn't much to say, so we let my mom's Pointer Sisters tape do all the talking. Tonight's the night we're gonna make it happen. Tonight we'll put all other things aside. I'm so excited! And I just can't hide it! I'm about to lose control and I think I like it.

My dad came back outside to say that Alan was having trouble finding the tickets and maybe we should all come in for a second instead of sitting in the car. Again, not in the plan. I checked my Swatch. I could allow a quick trip inside, but it was still an aberration. We were losing precious time with each step that Mom, Diana, and I made down Alan's entryway. Within seconds, the front door flung open and fifty people inside yelled "SURPRISE!" Oh. Right. I forgot to mention -- it was my mom's 40th birthday that day. But that was irrelevant because, in case you forgot, we had tickets to see a taping of Family fucking Ties.

Greeting each party guest deducted crucial minutes from our time. My dad had severely overbooked us. This big party he'd planned for my mom was beginning to put a real crimp in my pre-taping rituals. We'd have to take the picture standing in the line outside the studio, we had to vie for the best seats, we had to harshly judge the warm up comedian guy, and we had to wait breathlessly for the cast introductions. This party was great but we needed to leave for Hollywood, like, now.

I tried to approach my dad, but I was swiftly interrupted by more unwanted full boob hugs from a gaggle of my parents' suffocating friends.

I remained laser focused on my mission. This was going to be the taping that would change our lives. The taping that would stop the cycle of my parents lavishing each other with expensive gifts (and now, parties) and then getting into door-slamming fights. The taping where my sister would admit that I hadn't really been adopted. That I was her flesh and blood, just like Alex and Mallory. The taping where Michael J. Fox would pick me out of the crowd and take me for a spin in his Dolorean that traveled through time. We had to go and we had to go LIKE NOW.

I tapped my dad's shoulder and told him as much, to which he replied with a few casual words that set an instant fire in my soul. "Oh, Robin, Bubalah, there's no actual taping of Family Ties tonight. I just picked the name off the top of my head to distract you so that you wouldn't spill the beans about your mother's surprise party."

What? I walked away in horror and looked back in anger. I muttered, "But did Diana know?" My dad said, "Of course she did. She's older. She's already learned how to be a human being and keep her mouth shut."

The room spun as my dad's words punched me in the stomach. Planets began falling out of the sky. The Topanga Mall came crashing down. The kingdom made of rainbows and marshmallow clouds exploded. And perched on one of those clouds was my school principal and the entire fifth grade, laughing uproariously. If we didn't go to this taping, the gifts would get more expensive. The doors would slam harder. My Pop Swatch would stop ticking time. Who were these cruel people with their adoption tales and lies and full boob hugs? My biological family would never have done this to me. I began to think someone was taping this. And they were having quite a laugh. Sure, this was going to be that final moment of any given Family Ties episode where my disappointment was patched up with a heartfelt hug from Michael Gross around the kitchen island. But alas, Alan's house didn't have a kitchen island and clearly my disappointment remains completely un-patched to this day.

An elaborate rum cake was wheeled out for my mother. My father's arm was wrapped lovingly around my mom's waist, with no indication that he'd let her go just five years later. As the grating tune of "Happy Birthday to Margie" grew louder and louder and Family Ties became more and more of a distant unreachable star, I ran for cover into Alan's den and did the only thing I was good at. I sat my fat ass down and turned on the TV.


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