'The Michael J. Fox Show' Wants to Make You Laugh at Parkinson's
The Michael J. Fox Show's main character, Mike Henry, is a beloved NBC news anchor who left his job after contracting Parkinson's. Its lead actor, Michael J. Fox, is a beloved film and TV star who left his job after contracting Parkinson's. See what they did there?
The criminally likable Betsy Brandt plays Mike's wife, Annie. It's genuinely a relief to see Marie Schrader in a happy, murder-free marriage, though no word yet on whether Annie can properly differentiate between rocks and minerals. Annie has conspired with Mike's amiably scheming former boss (Wendell Pierce—that is, BUNK FROM THE WIRE, you guys) to get him back on camera.
The NBC show's satirical take on the over-the-top reception its own network would give a reporter in Henry's situation is hilarious. Before he finalizes his decision to return, Mike discovers that the producers are already airing an overwrought promo for his comeback set to Enrique Iglesias' "Hero."
Fox no longer has the manic timing of Marty McFly or even Deputy Mayor Mike Flaherty, but he's still a great performer—and more than willing to lampoon his illness, as we saw in his amazing appearance on Curb Your Enthusiasm not too long ago. I laughed out loud at a flashback to Mike's final news broadcast before his hiatus, when his chair repeatedly rolled out of frame because his reduced muscle control prevented him from keeping it in place. Later, in the back of a nauseatingly bouncy news van, Henry holds his palms up parallel to the ground. He quips to coworker, "For me, this is perfectly still."
As refreshing as some of the jokes might be, The Michael J. Fox Show isn't without its dullness. The show's shot in a Modern Family-ish documentary style, and the talking-head interviews with Mike's family members err on the side of saccharine. The second episode is centered around a ready-made, mass-produced storyline—Mike develops an innocent crush on a neighbor, but stubbornly refuses to admit it to Annie—that you've seen on at least three other sitcoms. (That said: the neighbor is played by Tracy Pollan, Fox's real-life wife, which is objectively adorable.)
Nevertheless, the show has charm and potential. And with a full-season order from NBC, it should have plenty of time to blossom.
Image via NBC