TV Review - The Michael J. Fox Show

I, like many others of a certain age, watched and loved Family Ties (1982). It was a great sitcom that was led by Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter, but it certainly introduced much of America to the young, amazing, comedic talent that is Michael J. Fox. I've pretty much enjoyed a lot of his movies, including Teen Wolf (1985), Back to the Future (1985), Doc Hollywood (1991) and The American President (1995) where he had a more supporting role. The TV series Spin City (1996) was his return to television after a near decade-long absence. I don't think I paid much attention to that show until Heather Locklear joined the cast in 1999. It was with shock that Fox announced he was leaving the series in 2000 due to his illness. Fox revealed to the world in that moment that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

Parkinson's disease is a disorder that gradually destroys nerve or brain cells. The cause of the disorder is unknown. Symptoms include trembling hands or other body parts, rigid muscles, and problems with balance. It's a general loss of control over one's movement. The disorder may cause a person to shuffle as he walks or not be able to write clearly. The most common treatment is through drugs that aim to replace or maintain the brain's normal level of dopamine, the chemical that nerve cells produce.

I'm sure that Fox was taking the drugs and undergoing treatment, but the disease was afflicting him such that he couldn't continue starring in a weekly TV show where the physical demands were rigorous. In the interim, he wrote three books about his life, career and experience dealing with the disease. He even guest starred on a few TV shows, including Scrubs, Boston Legal, Rescue Me, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Good Wife. The latter two shows were very accommodating and even wrote his condition into the story lines, each time yielding great results. Fox was nominated for and even won a couple of Emmys for it.

Doing these guest stars must have proven to him that he had enough control over his disease to go back to work full-time. Therefore, he got writers Will Gluck and Sam Laybourne to craft this semi-autobiographical series about a man who works on TV who leaves due to Parkinson's disease but then returns after basically his family becomes sick of him being around the house all the time. The character's name is Mike Henry and instead of comedic acting, his job in TV is that of a news reporter in New York.

Fox of course fits into this role like a hand in glove. What's great is that the episodes are well-written. There are great and at times hilarious jokes. All of which are executed by a fantastic cast. Wendell Pierce (The Wire) plays Harris Green, Mike's best friend and News Director. Betsy Brandt (Breaking Bad) plays his wife Annie who supports him but always keeps him in line. Conor Romero plays the eldest son Ian. Juliette Goglia plays Eve, the teenage daughter and middle child, and Jack Gore plays Graham, the youngest son. Katie Finneran plays Mike's sister Leigh.

It perhaps takes from Modern Family too much with the asides where Mike and his family sit and speak directly to the camera, as if they're being interviewed by a documentary crew. It doesn't have the same shooting style as Modern Family, The Office or Parks and Recreation where it looks like it's being filmed handheld. The cinematography here is steady and beautiful. Mike trembles, so it's good the camerawork doesn't as well.

Other than that, this is a funny show done simply by funny people very well. I found myself laughing a lot. Episode 2 was great because of the mistaken sexual attractions theme. Episode 3 was great, if for nothing else than the "Dad's Piccolo" joke. Michael J. Fox is simply brilliant. He's an absolute treasure and I'm glad he's back regularly on TV.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-PG.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Thursdays at 9:30PM on NBC.


Popular Posts