IN TWEET: MICHAEL J. FOX RETURNS TO HIS TV ROOTS IN A CHARMING NBC SERIES. IT’S ONE OF THE FEW NEW FALL COMEDIES THAT WORKS.
Full disclosure: my dad has Parkinson’s so it’s a subject matter that hits pretty close to home. He also has a killer sense of humor and would be the first person to tell you to leave your pity and platitudes at the door. It’s a mindset I find both refreshing and inspirational. That’s why it’s especially nice to see a major television network give a vote of confidence to a series that could help destigmatize the disease.
If you’re avoiding THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW (Thursdays at 9:30PM E/P on NBC with next day streaming on Hulu) because you think it’s going to be a Parkinson’s pity party, you can rest easy. It’s anything but. If, however, you have yet to tune in solely because you’re worried about being uncomfortable watching Fox, that’s a real shame. This charming series is one of the few new sit-coms that generates any real laughs.
Fox plays Mike Henry, a popular New York news anchor who retired after his condition became too much of a distraction on air. He wasn’t forced into mothballs. It was a decision he made following an embarrassing “rolling chair” incident during a live broadcast.
Now a stay-at-home dad, Fox is driving his family up a wall. What he sees as innocent attempts to encourage his wife and kids to eat a meal together or enjoy some quality bonding time, end up going over like lead balloons. They love him but prefer a “less is more” approach to familial togetherness.
After some backdoor maneuvering by his wife Annie (Betsy Brandt) and Harris Green, his hilarious lothario of a former boss (Wendell Pierce), Mike reluctantly heads back to his old TV stomping ground. Brandt and Pierce do uniformly excellent work here. Neither overplays it and both create endearing characters. It’s especially fun to watch Pierce cut loose in a major departure from his signature roles in THE WIRE and TREME.
It’s also a nice touch that the key players look and dress like real people. Sure, they’re a well off family living in New York City but their environs feel authentic and appropriately lived in. For a show with three younger actors in lead roles (the Henry children), there is admirable restraint in the "precocious kid" department. This isn’t FULL HOUSE with Parkinson’s. Thank goodness for small screen favors.
The “talking to camera” structure will feel familiar to MODERN FAMILY viewers but things are much more grounded here and less self-conscious. The creators aren’t taking a screwball approach to the proceedings. Production values are exceptional for a single camera comedy with nice use of outdoor city locations and real NBC studio space.
THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW feels like a warm down comforter with some added loft via a front and center depiction of day to day life with Parkinson’s. This is a show that earns its frequent laughs and feels like it has long term potential if it can find an audience. It definitely deserves one.
RONTHINK GRADE: B+