The year was 1984. The fifth highest ranked show on television was the sitcom, “Family Ties.” Meredith Baxter-Birney was still in the closet. Michael Gross was known as more than just Ted Mosby’s Dad. Tina Yothers was known, and Justine Bateman was actually the more popular Bateman sibling, at least for a few years (Jason Bateman’s “Silver Spoons” would be cancelled that year).
A young Michael J. Fox was on the verge of superstardom, one year away from Back to the Future and already the biggest draw on the family sitcom. Enter Tom Hanks, himself on the verge of superstardom. He was two years removed from the cross-dressing sitcom, “Bosom Buddies,” and only a few months away from his first break in feature films, Splash.
In the episode, “Say Uncle,” Hanks plays Ned, Elyse’s brother, a whiz kid on Wall Street and Alex’s idol. Ned is also a drunk. In this episode, the Keatons confront Ned about his alcohol problem, and after denying it, Ned lashes out. When Alex attempts to approach him (at the 2:50 mark), Ned turns quickly around and pimp slaps his nephew (or more accurately, pimp slaps the air two feet in front of his nephew). Ned breaks down. He apologizes. It would be Ned’s rock bottom, the moment that would finally convince Ned to seek help.
Michael J. Fox received his first Emmy nomination the following year. In the intervening years since, Michael J. Fox and Tom Hanks have never worked together again.
Tom Hanks appears in Cloud Atlas out today. Michael J. Fox will reappear January in The Good Wife, and will return next fall with his own sitcom.