Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross are again wedded by a role

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LOS ANGELES — Meredith Baxter recalls that when she met Michael Gross 30 years ago at the first table read for the award-winning NBC sitcom, “Family Ties,” she gave the lanky actor cast as her husband a good once-over.

“I am thinking my first words to him were, ‘You need a tan!,’” she said. “He is a New Yorker and I am born and raised in Los Angeles.”

Three decades after that first encounter, they are playing husband and wife once again in the Hallmark Channel holiday film, “Naughty or Nice,” which premieres Saturday on the cable network. The two play Carol and Walter Kringle, a pleasant couple who love the holidays so much they named their daughter Krissy (Hilarie Burton). After Krissy loses her job in an advertising company, Carol gets her a job wrapping Christmas presents at the mall.

For fans, the roles will bring back fond memories of the Keatons, the couple played by Baxter and Gross in “Family Ties.” Baxter and Keaton played former hippies Elyse and Steve Keaton, still expounding liberal values in the world of Reaganomics.

The series made a star out of Michael J. Fox, who played their conservative Republican son Alex. Justine Bateman played teenage daughter Mallory and Tina Yothers was youngest daughter Jennifer.

Baxter and Gross were the second most popular TV parents in the 1980s after Bill Cosby and Phylicia Rashad of NBC’s “The Cosby Show.” And both families were united, so to speak, when “Family Ties” followed “The Cosby Show” on NBC’s popular Thursday night lineup from 1984 to ‘87.

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