Family Ties (1982–1989): Season 3, Episode 3 - Little Man on Campus - full transcript

It's a new academic year for the three Keaton kids. The girls are flippant about it, as every year. High school star Alex makes his entry at prestigious Leland University, overconfident so he puts his foot in his mouth answering professor Ephraim Bronski's rhetorical question whether free speech is an absolute constitutional right. Alex trusts his elaborate paper will more then make up, only to find his plain mate Doug gets the A he expected, he his first-ever, ineffable F: traumatic enough to consider dropping out of college, or at least out of constitutional law. However Bronski had a more inspiring view on Alex's failure...

♪ I bet we've been together
for a million years ♪

♪ and I'll bet we'll be together
for a million more ♪

♪ oh, it's like
I started breathing ♪

♪ on the night we kissed

♪ and I can't remember
what I ever did before ♪

♪ what would we do, baby

♪ without us?

♪ what would we do, baby

♪ without us?

♪ and there ain't no nothin' ♪

♪ we can't love
each other through ♪

♪ ooh-hoo

♪ what would we do, baby

♪ without us?

♪ sha-la-la-la

Hey, hey, hey, hey,
hey, hey.

You mind?

I can't find any of my
new school supplies, Alex.

Did you
take my scissors?

Your scissors?

Jennifer, as of today
I am a freshman in college.

In college, we deal in
the realm of ideas,

of theories. Of... Of...
Of abstract concepts.

We work not
with our hands

but with our minds.

I can assure you:

I have absolutely
no use for your scissors.

Okay, then
give me back my paste.

I need that.

Mallory, please!

I've got to be at work
in a half an hour.

It's enough.

Come on, Mom.
This is very important.

It's my first day
of school.

I wanna get it off
to a good start.

I'm in my
junior year now.

A lot more is
expected of me.

Okay, Mallory.
What is it you wanna know?

Which outfit
do you like best:

The one I have on
now, okay?

Or one of the first six
I tried on?

Do not change clothes.

The outfit you have on right now
is clearly the best one.

Are you sure, Mom?

I promise you.

Morning, kids. Hi. Hey, Dad.

Say, Mallory,
what happened

to that red outfit
you had on before?

That looked great.


Steven, what a
terrible thing to say!

I... Tell Mallory
you didn't mean it.

Uh, Mallory, I didn't mean it.

I must have lost my head.

Isn't that sweet?
All three of our children

getting ready for another
first day at school.

Uh, Mom,

I wish you
would respect the fact

that I am in college now.

I mean, I-I'd appreciate it
if you wouldn't

lump me together
with these two bambinos.

You think you're so hot
just because you're in college.

Jennifer, Jennifer.
I am not just

"in college. "

I am at Leland University.

One of the finest
institutions of higher learning

in this country.

And I'm not just "at Leland,"

I am the winner of
the McKinley Scholarship

at Leland.

And I'm not just...
Alex, will you...?

Whoa, whoa. That's Doug.

That's my ride.


I'm off to college.


Yeah, good luck, son.
Thank you.



I'm so proud of you,

Thank you, Mom. Bye-bye.

Listen, you take care
of yourselves while I'm gone.

We'll, uh, try to manage
without you till supper.

You know,
while it's true that Leland

is only a mere 30 miles away,

as I leave here today

I feel as though
I'm pulling up anchor.

You know, casting off.
Setting sail into a vast sea

of knowledge and wisdom.

One man.
The captain of his own ship.

Don't forget your lunch.

Extra cookies?

Aye-aye, captain.

Welcome to
Leland College.

I am Efrem Bronski.

This is a freshman seminar
in American government.

If you are not enrolled
in this course,

and here by mistake,

well, then,
I suggest you leave now

before you become
too engrossed.

I'm going to begin our studies
with an examination

of the Free Speech Clause
of the First Amendment.

It reads, and I quote:

"Congress shall make no law

the freedom of speech. "

No law.

Did you hear that,

No law.

Don't look at me.
I'm not gonna make one.

The wording is
quite unambiguous.

And yet Congress has passed
many laws over the years

which restrict the individual's
right to express himself.

Is there
an inconsistency here?


Uh, yes, sir.
It would, uh...

It would appear that there is
an inconsistency here, sir.

What is your name,
young man?

Uh, Alex P. Keaton, sir.

Uh, Mr. Keaton, I was merely
posing a rhetorical question.

I did not
expect a response.

Nor did I want one.

Oh, I'm...
Uh, I didn't mean to respond.

I w...
I was just up.

And as long as I'm up,

can I get you something?

Uh, no. I'm fine,

But let's pursue this.

You said you felt
there was an inconsistency

between what's written
in the Constitution

and the fact that
Congress has passed laws

limiting free speech.

why do you feel that way?

Is this
a rhetorical question?

No, this is
a regular question.

Well, uh, if...

If the constitution
states that...

That freedom of speech
is an absolute right,

then, uh... Then congress
shouldn't be allowed to...

To restrict it
at all.

It's as simple as that.

You would, uh, legalize
libel, slander?

Well, no.
No, certainly not.

But you just said
that you felt

that free speech
was an absolute right.

Is it or isn't it?

Uh, well, y...
Uh, yeah, it is.

Uh, except for those things.

What about incitement to riot?

Uh, that too.

What about
censorship of newspapers,

book banning, treason?

Uh, those are good.

So there is no free speech,
is there, Mr. Keaton?

No, sir.
Not as far as I can tell.

Do you feel you've wasted
enough of the class's time yet?

Yep, I think so.

I hope you were all paying, uh,
close attention

to the comments of Mr. Keaton

because they represent
exactly the kind

of narrow-minded,

and simplistic approach
to American government

that, with any luck,

this class will
help you to overcome.

Nice work.

Uh, Mom?


Oh. I'm sorry, honey.

Knitting a sweater
for the baby.

I know it's a little cliché,

but not as much
as knitting booties.

Uh, Mom.

I'm... I'm sorry, honey.

Go ahead.
Get your work done.

No, I'm sorry, Mom.

I didn't mean to
cut you off like that.

It's just that,

I really got a lot
of work to do, you know?

Your first day?

Yeah, well I'm
a little overanxious.

Gee, I really got off
on the wrong foot

with Professor Bronski

I ju... I spoke too quickly,
you know?

Without thinking.
I came on too strong.

I seemed too pushy.


Anyway, that's why I wanna
do a great job

on this paper he assigned.

You know, really show him
what I can do.

No, after this he'll know
that I am not

the babbling idiot
he saw in his class today.

I think, uh, he's gonna wanna
take me under his wing.

You know,
become my mentor.

Maybe ask me to collaborate
on a book with him.

Maybe ask me to the prom.

Alex, get back to work.

Right, right, right.

Can I help you?

I'm just bored.

What are you working on?

A paper.
You happy?

What's it about?

Eugene V. Debs.
You happy now?

Who's Eugene V. Debs?

Well, Jennifer,
if you must know,

Eugene V. Debs was a socialist
who was arrested in 1917

for making a speech
opposing American involvement

in World War I.

See, he claimed
he was just exercising

his right to free speech.

But the Supreme Court,

in a decision by
Oliver Wendell Holmes,


They said that his speech

was a clear and present
danger to the country.

Are you happy now?

Now I'm happy.

I was generally pleased

with the quality
of these first essays.

Most of them
were quite satisfactory.

I don't give As
very often but, uh...

But there was one
very exceptional paper

in the bunch.

To that individual, I say,
"A job well done. "

Class dismissed.

Excellent paper, young man.
A splendid piece of work.

Well, thank you sir.

Ah. It was an honor
to write it for you.

I found the experience
both educational

and rewarding.

I was talking to him.

Uh, thank you, sir.

It was an honor
to write it for you.

I found the experience
both educational

and rewarding.

I got an A, Alex.

W- What did you get, a...

A B?

A C?

A D?

Well, there's only one grade
I haven't mentioned yet.

That's the one.

Mallory, I am surprised at you.

After that big
talk we had

about how hard you were
gonna work in school,

you got two C minuses
on your first three tests.

I'm sorry, Mom.

I've just had a lot of things
on my mind lately.

I mean,

what, with the baby
coming and everything.

How long do you plan on
using that as an excuse?

Just till it's through
its teething stage.

After the dishes,
I want you both to go upstairs

and get busy
on your homework.

I don't have
any homework, Mom.

We had a substitute today
and we convinced her

that Mrs. Dovler doesn't
give homework on Thursdays.

I'm not real happy with
either of your attitudes here.

Now, I'm... I'm not trying
to compare you to Alex,

but I think you can both
learn a lesson from him

in attitude
toward school.

I have an announcement
to make:

I'm dropping out of school.

What are you talking about?

What do you mean,
you're dropping out of school?


today was the worst
day of my life.

Mom, Dad.

Alex seems pretty upset,

so maybe Jen and I
should leave

so you can talk to him.

Thank you, honey.
That's very thoughtful.

But it's our turn
to wash the dishes.


Right. What happened?

Well, uh, Professor Bronski

handed back our papers today.

And, uh, I got an...


An F.

An F?
An F?

How is that possible?

I mean, you worked
so hard on this paper.

"While abundant... "

"In data and facts,
this essay is long-winded

and totally lacking in
any meaningful insight. "

I was a star in high school,

but I just don't
have what it takes

to make it in college.

I'm a failure.

I'm... I'm like
Orlando Del Rio.

You are nothing like
Orlando Del Rio.

Uh, who's, uh, Orlando Del Rio?

Come on, Dad.
Orlando Del Rio.

He led the minor leagues
in hitting for three years.

Then when he joins
the Cincinnati Reds,

he goes 0 for 167.

I think he runs
a shoe store in Dayton.

Maybe I could call him
for a job.

Honey, you got one F.

Look, you said so yourself.

You're not in high school
anymore, you're in college.

And it's a very difficult

Mom, Mom, Just forget it, okay?
Forget it.

It's over.

It is not over.

You're still learning
what's expected of you.

You're bound to
do better next time.

Take Willie Mays.

He... He started out badly
in the majors,

and look what happened to him.

What does this have to do
with baseball, Dad?

you suffered a setback.

I mean, I know
how badly you feel.

But try and keep it
in perspective.

All right. All right.
You're right, Mom. You're right.

I'm gonna keep it
in perspective.

I'm, uh... I'm not gonna
drop out of college.

But I am gonna drop that course.

Well, Efrem Bronski is a genius
and he deserves better

than to have his class
cluttered up by...

By a dolt like me.


this one grade
has really changed you.

What happened to that...
That grandiose, self-important,

pompous kid
we knew and loved?

That happy-go-lucky guy
is gone, Dad.

Uh, uh, I'm studying!

But, uh, you can come on in.

I t...
I thought it was Mom or Dad.

No. No.
It's just me.

You can go back to doing
whatever you were doing.

Ah, it's just as well.

I guess I should
be studying.

What are you doing here?

What do you mean,
what am I doing here?

Mallory, I'm, uh...
I'm your brother.

You're my sister.

I just came up
to see how you're doing.

Well, I spent
all my allowance money

and you're not pawning
any of my jewelry.

No, really, I just
came up here to, uh...

To visit you.

What, uh...
What do you got there?

Uh, chemistry.


I remember chemistry.
Got an A in it.

I remember As.

You don't look so good, Alex.

I don't feel so good,

You know, I got my, uh,
first college paper back today.

The, uh... The professor
said it was long-winded

and totally lacking
in any meaningful insight.

He, uh, gave me an, uh...



An F.


An F?

That's right.

An F!

That's great, Alex!

Mallory, take it easy,
will you?

This is supposed to be
bad news, not good news.

Oh, it is bad news, Alex.

I'm really sorry about it.

Do you mind if
I make a few phone calls?

You know, uh,

I've never gotten an

F before.

You know,
for that matter,

I've never even gotten
a C or... Or a D.

I got a B once
in health.

Because I, uh, boycotted
the sex-education films.

You missed some great stuff.

You know, Mallory,

my days as an academic star
are, uh...

Are over.

From now on at school,

I'm just gonna
be one of the pack.

A nobody.

Just another slug

fighting to keep
my head above water.

How do you handle it?

Thanks a lot, Alex.

No, no, Mallory.
Come on, I...

I didn't mean it like that.
It's just...

Well, you've got...
You've got to admit,

you have a little more
experience in this area

than I do.

I gotta know,
h- how does it feel to...?

To not do well
in school?

Well, it's kind of hard
to describe.

Well, for instance, when, uh...
When you're taking a test,

do you, uh...? Do you
just not know the answer, or...?

Or is it that you
knew the answer once

and just have difficulty
in retrieving it?

Or do you just not understand
the questions?

No, see,
when I'm taking the test,

I really do try to
understand the question.

But then I get
this strange feeling.

What, like a headache?

No, no, no.
Not a headache exactly.

Everything just goes
kind of gray, you know?

And then my mind
starts wandering.

Well, uh, what
do you think about?


Well, let's hope
it's different for me.

Hey, you're really gonna
drop the course, huh?

Yeah. Yeah.

You want me
to wait in the car?

No, uh,

go home, Doug.


Uh, Mr. Bronski?

Yes, Mr. Keaton.

Uh, I just wanted to say

how much I've enjoyed
your course.

Uh, but I'm dropping it.

Scheduling conflict?

No. No, I, uh...

I just don't think
I'm capable of handling it.

I mean, I got an F

on my paper and all.

I just think that I
should stick to subjects

where I'm on surer ground,
you know?

Where I know what I'm...
I'm doing.

Anyway, it...
It, uh...

It has been an honor
to meet you, sir.


Mr. Keaton.

Yes, sir?

I'm just curious, um,

do you think he should
have gone to prison?


Eugene Debs,

for making
that anti-war speech

in 1917.

Uh, well, Oliver Wendell Holmes
thought so.

He said that, uh, Debs' speech

posed a clear and present
danger to the country.

Um, goodbye.

But do you think so?


Yes, you.

Well, I don't know.
I mean, uh,

it's just my opinion.

But from what I read,

it didn't seem that one
anti-war speech

could have hurt the country.

Uh, goodbye.

Mr. Keaton.

This is not
an easy room to leave.

What if word of that speech
had spread

and, uh, draftees
by the millions,

swayed by Debs' words

had decided
to resist the draft?

What if Debs had aroused
the entire nation

against the war?

Yeah, but that didn't happen.

I'm asking you
to suppose it had.

All right. Okay.
Uh, suppose it had.

If the majority of the people
hold a certain opinion, then...

Then the government
has an obligation

to listen to them, right?

Am I to believe

that you feel Debs
had a right

to make that
anti-war speech?

Yeah. Yeah, I do.

I mean, the guy was not
blowing up factories.

He made a speech.

You know, he...
He was presenting ideas.

Ideas incite people.

Of course
ideas incite people.

Ideas are supposed
to incite people.

Isn't that the whole reason
we have the First Amendment?

So that people can be
exposed to different ideas

and then act on the ones
they agree with?

In other words,
you feel that Debs' case

was decided wrongly.

You disagree with
Oliver Wendell Holmes,

one of the most brilliant
legal minds in history.


Yes, you do!
You just said so!

You disagree with him!

All right!
I disagree with him.

What do you want
from me?

What I want from you,
Mr. Keaton,

is for you to put some
of that kind of analysis,

some of that kind
of meaningful insight

into your essays.

I want you to stand up for
what you believe to be true,

even if it conflicts
with Oliver Wendell Holmes

or with the
Framers of the Constitution,

or even with me.

You have every right to drop
this class, Mr. Keaton,

stick to those subjects
where you're more comfortable

and on surer ground.

Although, I must say,
that's a rather dull way

for such an
intelligent young man

to live his life.

He called me
an intelligent young man.

Of course,
he also called me dull.

But he did call me

Efrem Bronski called me
an intelligent young man.

Hey, uh, professor.

Professor Bronski.
Yeah, it's, uh... It's...

It's me, uh, Alex Keaton.
The intelligent young man.

Listen, professor...

Uh, prof... Professor, could you
stop for a minute, please?

Uh... Uh, profes...

I- I-I never got an F before

and... And...
And it kind of threw me.

But I am not a quitter

And I think I understand now
what you want from me.

Uh... Uh, ma'am?

Uh, ma'am, could you
go around the corner there

and... And tell that guy
that I am staying in his class?

No, no. Not him.
Not him, the other guy.

The other guy.

Forget it. Forget it.

I think he heard me.

I love college.