Meredith Baxter Birney
Revered by anyone who grew up in the 1980s as the matriarch of the Keaton clan on television's Family Ties, actress Meredith Baxter-Birney has since gone on to become a mainstay of the made-for-television dramas that defined her early career. Though her post-Family Ties roles may not have offered the wide-scale exposure of the fondly remembered sitcom, the variety of parts she has since played have nevertheless exposed dramatic capabilities in her that are generally unexplored in the half-hour television comedy format. A South Pasadena native and graduate of Hollywood High School, the up-and-coming actress got her start with bit roles in such television shows as The Partridge Family before making her feature debut in the 1972 film Stand Up and Be Counted. Though many believe Family Ties to be her first stint in sitcom land, Baxter-Birney actually starred as a rich Catholic married to a Jewish cab driver in the short-lived 1972 series Bridget Loves Bernie. Following a small role in the popular 1972 rodent horror film Ben, Baxter-Birney appeared in a slew of small-screen dramas before once again venturing into sitcom territory with Family in 1976. Baxter-Birney remained with the show for its entire four-year run, alternating between that and the television dramas on which she was building her onscreen reputation. If the old adage "third time's a charm" has any true merit, it certainly applies to Meredith Baxter-Birney and her success on Family Ties. Though she had twice tested the sitcom waters to varying success, it was Family Ties that ultimately found her achieving household-name recognition. Though some may have been content to simply sit back and enjoy the success that came from Family Ties, the tireless Baxter-Birney again spent all of her spare time appearing in numerous made-for-television movies that addressed a variety of pressing women's issues. By the time Family Ties drew to a close in 1989, Baxter-Birney was ready to dive headlong into a series of television dramas dealing with such issues as alcoholism, breast cancer, suicide, divorce, family dysfunction, drug addition, abuse, and the loss of children, averaging about three films a year. Of course, one can't live on melodrama alone, so Baxter-Birney sought to balance this out every few years by appearing in such efforts as the Hercule Poirot mystery Murder on the Orient Express. In 2003, the veteran actress could be spotted alongside Kip Pardue and Tara Reid in the dramatic thriller Devil's Pond.