[WATCH] Michael Gross dishes short-form comedy ‘Carbon Dating’ and working with Michael J. Fox on ‘Family Ties’

“This was new and interesting. The idea that people in the second half of their life or even the last third of their life trying to find love and attachment,” says actor-turned-producer Michael Gross about the new online program “Carbon Dating.” In our recent webchat (watch above), he asks, “How do they go about it after divorce, disillusion, death? How do you reenter that game in a youth-oriented culture?”

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For the first time this year, Emmy Awards voters will be nominating short-form comedy and drama series in new categories. With a large following on YouTube and their own self-titled website, “Carbon Dating” is about baby boomers Madelyn (Marcie Barkin) and Amelia (Amanda Serra) trying to evolve and stay relevant in a youth-oriented society.

The concept of these 5-8 minute episodes attracted Gross, who has been a familiar face on television with his long-running role on the 1980s NBC comedy “Family Ties” and many guest appearances as well as his character of Burt in the film “Tremors” and its sequels. He wanted to act in some of the episodes, but it would be his debut as a producer.

Regarding the show he refers to as “The Golden Girls’ of this century,” he adds, “There’s a whole new world out there; a world that did not exist in 1982 when I began ‘Family Ties.’ Remember there was no such thing as the internet and there were only three channels on television: ABC, CBS and NBC. Now there are hundreds of places to put content but as usual, 95% of it is not worth watching. Actors are always chasing interesting new material, and to this day I probably turn down more than I accept.”

Gross still loves talking about his most popular role of Steven Keaton on “Family Ties.” He reminds that the show didn’t take off in its first two seasons and got moved around on the schedule several times. It finally landed on NBC’s first “must see” Thursday lineup with “The Cosby Show,” “Cheers,” and “Night Court,” and the ratings skyrocketed.

Of the early days of the program, he recalls, “They were beginning to find Michael J. Fox. That’s when we know we were cooking with something because even before the ‘Back to the Future’ days, there was something very affable about him that was appealing to pre-teens. I knew something was going on when the bags of mail were for all of us but truckloads for Michael. There were pre-teens out there who found him extraordinary.”

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