Michael J. Fox Show to Find the Funny in Parkinson's: 'There's Nothing Horrifying About It'
NBC’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.”
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.)
• 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.”