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Brian Bonsall and the Family Ties That Bind

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Childhood fame doesn't guarantee a hellish adulthood; Jodie Foster seems to have turned out okay. But the odds are heavily skewed in favor of... let's call it difficulty. And when such problems end in arrest, we as journalists are required by law to juxtapose a mug shot with an image of the scofflaw when he or she was an adorable show-biz tot -- like, for instance, the pics of Brian Bonsall upon being booked for assault in 2007 and as he looked while playing Alex Keaton's little brother on the popular '80s sitcom Family Ties.

Hey -- I don't make the rules!

At this writing, Bonsall is a fugitive, having skipped out on a July 16 court appearance in Boulder related to the assault (the victim was his girlfriend, Lindsey Dunavan) and apparently split town. But no matter where he goes, he won't be able to escape the burden of his quasi-stardom, which was spurred by a plot twist that Jumped the Shark every bit as much as Fonzie on his water skis a few years earlier.

Kids are beloved by TV audiences, but they present a serious problem: They grow. Lost has been dealing with the consequences of this inevitability with the character of Walt, played by Malcolm David Kelly. He was supposed to be about ten at the time the series began, but because only a few months were supposed to have passed during the next couple of seasons, he had to be hustled out of the narrative simply to maintain some semblance of continuity.

In most cases, though, the biggest drawback to maturation is a sudden descrease in cuteness -- and when that happens to cast regulars, producers tend to compensate by adding a new kid whose main duty is to supplement the lovableness factor. On rare occasions, it works, as with The Cosby Show's introduction of Olivia, played by Raven-Symoné, whose precocity was at such a high level that she managed to buck the odds. More often, though, the new characters are irritating distractions who either waste space and time or disrupt the chemistry of a program that was working perfectly well without them -- like, for instance, Andy Keaton, the moppet Bonsall portrayed from 1986-1989.

Does anyone remember Andy fondly? Does anyone remember him at all? These are good questions -- ones Bonsall has probably spent untold hours mulling over. To have one's notoriety based entirely on being one of the least interesting elements of a successful program can't be much fun. No wonder he's on the run. -- Michael Roberts

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Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


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