Fall TV Preview

Michael J. Fox Show to Find the Funny in Parkinson's: 'There's Nothing Horrifying About It'

The Michael J Fox Show SpoilersNBC’s new fall comedy The Michael J. Fox Show is first and foremost “a family show,” executive producer Will Gluck noted Saturday at the Television Critics Assoc. summer press tour in Beverly Hills. The sitcom, however, won’t shy away from Michael J. Fox‘s real-life struggle with Parkinson’s Disease. In fact, they’ll tackle it early on with humor and heart.

“One of the things the show deals with when it deals with Parkinson’s is about perception,” Fox explained. “A lot of times when you have a disability, one of the things you deal with is projection and what [people] think something is. But Parkinson’s itself, there’s nothing horrifying about it to me. There’s nothing horrifying about someone with shaky hands… That’s just our reality; we have no control.”

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Beyond the series’ pilot (airing Sept. 26 at 9:30/8:30c), Gluck revealed that The Michael J. Fox Show ” will mine Fox’s unique perspective about A) being the father of three kids and a husband, and B) dealing with [Parkinson’s]. It’s always going to be there, but it’s not going to be the spotlight.”

Noting that the comedy is “a reflection of my experience,” Fox added: “It’s the way I look at life, the way I look at the reality of Parkinson’s. Sometimes it’s frustrating, sometimes it’s funny. Beyond that, [all of the characters] will get [their] own Parkinson’s; we all get our own things [to deal with].”

Other takeaways from the panel:

• Betsy Brandt, who plays Mike’s wife, gushed about her post-Breaking Bad stroke of good luck. “I would say this is pretty effing awesome,” she laughed. “It’s good to be Betsy Brandt right now. I was hoping to get a comedy [after Breaking Bad], but this is beyond what I had in my mind.”

• Executive producer Sam Laybourne noted that this series was “always imagined” as a family comedy, which means that Mike’s work pal Harris (played by Wendell Pierce) is “part of that family. There are ways that Wendell comes into the home space, and when Mike is at work, we have ways to get the family in there, too. (Minor spoiler alert: His daughter gets an internship at Mike’s local NBC new station.)

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• Fox’s real-life wife Tracy Pollan will appear in an episode early in the season. “She had a lot of scenes with Wendell,” the actor revealed. Anne Heche, as previously reported, joins as a nemesis for Mike. “There’s a disputed incident that happened in Orlando in the Everglades in which [her character] may or may not have used Mike to advance her career,” Laybourne shared. “They’re going to butt heads.”

• New Jersey Governor Chris Christie also cameos in a Season 1 installment in which, per Laybourne, “Mike’s been kept up for a couple days and about three minutes into [his interview with Christie], he dozes off.”

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. The best new comedy of the season in my opinion.

    • rowan77 says:

      Mine too, although at addition of Anne Heche made me a bit bummed. I’m not a fan of hers. She overacts like crazy and I never am able to connect with any of her characters.

  2. Badpenny says:

    Diseases, along with other ailments, tend to be difficult to find funny. I hope it works for MJF but I have a belief that people are going to feel uncomfortable with the humor directed at the disease.
    I remember when Lucille Ball tried to make her comeback in “Life with Lucy” and there was a scene with her bouncing around on a vibrating chair. The scene lasted so long that all I could think about while watching was that I hope the old lady didn’t get hurt bouncing for so long. It was hard to find humor in an old lady uncomfortably bouncing.

    • rowan77 says:

      So you don’t think people with disabilities, infirmities or over the age of, let’s say 65, should be seen in a comedy. Well that’s not only close-minded, it’s discriminatory. Becker has a character that was blind. The show was funny and not even remotely derogatory toward the blind character. Darrell “Chill” Mitchell was on a comedy a few years back. He’s a paraplegic. He was the best thing about that comedy. The bit in Michael J Fox’s pilot where he’s trying to serve dinner and it’s taking so long his wife grabs the spoon and says, “Can you not have a personal victory right now? We’re starving,” and the family agrees is funny, a button on an anticipatory moments and real. Those are the moments that people end up remembering and enjoying when they watch a comedy.

      Stop being overly PC about things. When done well, a joke concerning someone’s age/disability/illness can lift people’s spirits.

      • Badpenny says:

        Leave it to strangers to always over-react and then make personal attacks at someone they don’t know. Thank god we have the internet. How did we ever deal with all this anger at strangers for Millennia without it? :)

        • rowan77 says:

          I’m not angry at anyone. The fact that you find anyone with logical reasoning and can give examples (and who disagrees with you) an angry person shows so much about you. Pointing out facts doesn’t make someone angry. Perhaps you need to look at yourself and find out why you think people are angry with you?

    • Brooke says:

      As someone with a physical disability, I’ve definitely made able-bodied people uncomfortable with my own humor about my disability. And do you know what? I don’t care. It’s not my job to make them feel comfortable about difficulties I deal with every single day. That is their personal issue to get over.

      • Badpenny says:

        My point is that if people feel uncomfortable they don’t watch. If they don’t watch, there’s no ratings and the show gets cancelled. I think it will be very difficult for the show to get past the instinct in people to feel uncomfortable watching someone disabled get made fun of.

        • Betsy says:

          have you SEEN some of the things that are ratings bonanzas? you’re ascribing ethical concerns to members of the public who wouldn’t even be able to IDENTIFY an ethical concern if it hit them in the face and gave them a fancy name card.

        • frankie707 says:

          You seem to assume the humor will come from making fun of the person with the disability. I have a hard time believing MJF would have anything to do with a show that was making fun of him. There’s a difference between laughing at the circumstances and situations than there is laughing at or making fun of a person.

          It is a very fine line to walk and I very rarely watch sitcoms because to me the humor often comes from making fun of or humiliating the characters, which I do not find funny regardless of if the character has a disability or not. I think with this show I’ll have to wait and see if they are successful in walking that line and make it funny without making fun of the character.

  3. Kevan says:

    I’m sure everyone involved with this thinks it’s great, and I will say that it’s nice to actually have a show featuring a character with a disability that actually HAS the disability. And if MJF is comfortable with the humor, then I guess he’s sure that it’s been handled right. But I have to believe that the majority of viewers will find it uncomfortable to watch. That’s just the way things are in our society.

    • S. says:

      It’s that way because it’s not comfortable or easy to laugh at people with debilitating diseases or handicaps. It makes one (or just me) feel like a horrible guilty jerk. I know what Fox is trying to do, but it won’t work, not in the long run. Because people are going to watch, they’re going to laugh and then feel guilty for laughing because they are essentially laughing at a man with Parkinson’s. I don’t care if Fox is in on the joke and encouraging it, it’s laughing at man with Parkinson’s.

      • KSM says:

        Why would you feel like a jerk? I mean, let’s be honest, life is screwed up, and sometimes screwed up life is funny. Michael J. Fox would not agree to this if he wasn’t comfortable with it. Everyone should calm the freak down.

        • S. says:

          I would feel like a jerk because I would end personalizing up it. I don’t have a disability, but I do have bad feet that make it hard to walk sometimes, so I walk funny. I was made fun of for it, for something that was out of my control. I never saw the humor in it, never saw why people who I’d barely even knew would laugh at me for it. I just saw a bunch of jerk faces making fun of the kid with the funny walk. And if I watch, if I laugh at the funny guy who shakes and drops things and can’t stand or sit still I end being just like those stupid jerk faces.

          And as someone who has seen real screwed up lives and the pain those screwed lives inflict on everyone, I have never found screwed up people funny. Once you’ve lived through it stops being funny.

  4. Cory says:

    I have to say that I am of the belief that the world would be better if people could find at least some irony and humor when it comes to any and all painful subjects, and if MJF wants to focus on what humor there is to find with this subject, I applaud him for it. I just hope no advocacy groups go up against it, as a gay man who just had to deal with drama for using the “derogatory” f word for gay at work I particularly find people who can get offended over stupid things unbearable and gross.

  5. Betsy says:

    by the way, everyone going, ‘oh no, this is terrible, I’m uncomfortable and guilty about this concept because laughing at it would make me ableist’ is actually being more ableist by opposing the show and desiring to silence fox’s voice as a disabled man. nice job!

  6. liz says:

    Most people won’t be laughing AT him, they should be laughing WITH him. MJF is an incredibly talented comedian and the humour will be constructed so that it won’t be offensive. It’ll be a show that people with Parkinsons (and other disabilities) will be able to laugh with because its what they live with. And non disabled people can be allies and through the humour learn respect and empathize.

    • Michelle Williams says:

      I have many different disabilities and most of them are visible. When I’m in public and stumble or drop anything and see the shocked look on peoples faces, not knowing what to do or say, I just tell them that it’s ok, it’s my first day with my new legs or hands and I just have to get them broken in. Most people will laugh and start joking back and you can see them relax right away. I think the show will have people looking up Parkinsons to fully understand it and feel better about it in the end. It’s the not knowing about an illness that scares people more than the illness itself. Just my opinion.

  7. jaded says:

    The fact that he’s doing it should signal that he’s not being exploited, he’s sharing his experiences. I’m disabled and live in disabled housing and you know what? We look at our disabilities and laugh at how it impacts our lives. Sometimes it’s just funny. And it’s a way to share our experiences and maybe someone will understand us better. By being holier than thou about it, you’re either uncomfortable with disabilities and the disabled or you feel sorry for us. We’re making the joke. We’re not the joke. Get it?

  8. Luvmygreys says:

    Oh my goodness get over it people. Every comedy pokes fun, stereotypes, and stretches people’s viewpoints. In the best shows they encourage us to look beyond our comfort ranges and in the end educate us. Think All In the Family, MASH, Murphy Brown, Will and Grace, and in I Love Lucy they had the first interracial couple (Cuban and white) and showed a woman pregnant. They were great comedies. I can’t wait for MJF’s new show. He is one talented and funny person.

  9. Hope says:

    As someone with a disability,I’m looking forward to this. Having a disability can suck sometimes but it can also be funny. Sometimes you just gotta laugh.

  10. Newo says:

    I’m surprised nobody has mentioned that during MJF’s time on The Good Wife, they used his Parkinson’s as a comedic device and i haven’t seen it said anywhere that it was uncomfortable, in fact his guest appearances are usually looked forward to.

  11. Caro says:

    I’m very much looking forward to it! It sounds as really funny!

  12. StevieRaveOn says:

    I am the proud posesser of one of the most bent-headed senses of humor ever. Ask anyone who knows me…

    That said, from the first time I saw the commercial for MJF’s new show, I was horrified by his wife’s unsupportive, cruel remark as she snatches the serving spoon from his hand, “Can you not have a personal victory right now? We’re starving”.

    Bullies, school yard as well as adult, often think they’re funny.
    Doesn’t mean they actually are and… that wasn’t.
    At all.