The Michael J. Fox Show could be a real coup for both NBC and Michael J. Fox, and probably not for the reason you think. There are a lot of reasons actually, but the main one is simply that Fox has the opportunity to become one of the longest-lived “deliverers” in TV history, and NBC is not only giving him the chance, but is doing so while poking fun at itself. That’s already something worth watching.
The show is so self-referential that it’s hard to know where the show begins and our “based on” begins. That’s also an interesting move, and you probably had to be Michael J. Fox to pull it off.
Mike Henry (Fox) was one of New York’s favorite news anchors, and he’s still a guy that everyone on the street recognizes. He stepped away from the camera five years ago, because his Parkinson’s was making things too hard, and perhaps partially because his ego got in the way a bit. Now, with the kids a bit older, Mike not knowing exactly what to do with himself, and with a lot more experience existing as a person with Parkinson’s, the timing might be right for a return to the news game that he loves so much.
His old boss, Harris Green (Wendell Pierce), never wanted Mike to leave in the first place, and jumps at the chance to have him back. He assures Mike that NBC isn’t going to try to capitalize on the Parkinson’s, and that the chair, now with brakes, is right where Mike left it.
Despite the fact that his family can’t wait for Mike to go back to work, Mike isn’t so sure. There’s a lot at stake, a lot going on, and even if he is a lot more comfortable now, life is still pretty tricky, and there are a lot of ways to fall on your face.
The long and short of the show is that Michael J. Fox has still got it. Not only does he have an undeniable charm that forces you to not only watch, but enjoy him, but the show is put together almost as an honorific celebrating the style, comedy, and family of ’80s sitcoms. Things are updated, but in a way that seems to truly be trying to capture the sense of those shows, remind us why people loved them and their characters, while still being today’s look at life.
As we know from countless new efforts (including those on TV Land, and the popularity of TV Land in the first place), shows that aim at returning that indescribable something that existed in sit-coms thirty years ago are doing quite well for themselves, and who better to bring that back to prime time than the man himself?
Now, the tricky part here is that the show isn’t hilarious. It isn’t that sort of comedy. It was never the aim of shows like The Cosby Show, Family Ties, or countless other giants of the era to make you laugh uncontrollably, or run the best lines over and over with your friends the next day. But, that’s what comedy has come to mean, to a much greater extent anyway, today. It’s funny, but it’s that family-friendly, comfortable funny that shows up when the show ends, and you say, “Ahhh. That was funny,” as opposed to by way of catching yourself laughing out loud.
The show’s power can probably be summed up by one quick moment that you may have seen in the trailers. We’re sitting around the table, and there’s Mike, spoon in hand, trying to hold still enough to serve some food. His wife snatches the spoon away, and says, “Can you not have a personal victory right now. We are starving.” It isn’t just that it’s sort of funny, but that it injects so much honesty into the show. You don’t dance around the problems, whatever they are, when it’s your own husband. It’s also just one example of Michael J. Fox, and Mike Henry, coming to terms with who they are, and what that means. It’s clever, and it pulls you into the show.
Put that together with a Today show blunder, and a few quick jabs Mike makes at himself (the bumpy ride in the van is smooth for him), and there is a certain quality of being laid open that makes the show supremely watchable. This is not a show, a character, or an actor that wants to splash giant letters in front of your eyes that say, “This is the Best New Comedy of the Year!” It isn’t playing for sympathy, or declaring itself hilarious. It’s the embodiment of Michael J. Fox saying, “Look, I’m just a guy. I think you’ll like watching this.”
I think you will too.
The Michael J. Fox Show Trailer
Imitating Life Preview Clip