The Michael J. Fox Show: Does He Still Have It?

The Michael J Fox Show SpoilersThere’s a point in Thursday’s premiere of The Michael J. Fox Show (9/8c) where Fox, as former local news anchor Mike Henry, contemplates a return to the medium he left after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease years before.

“What if I’m not the guy they remember?” he uncertainly asks wife Annie (played beautifully by Breaking Bad‘s Betsy Brandt), the line an obvious nod to Fox’s own sitcom comeback.

It’s a valid concern. Fox was beloved as Family Ties‘ Alex P. Keaton and Spin City‘s Mike Flaherty… but hasn’t carried a series since City wrapped more than a decade ago. Can a half-hour comedy – in which Fox/Henry’s debilitating illness is a joke hit lovingly but often – match up to his previous successes?

You’ll let us know your thoughts on that in a moment; first, a short recap of the double-episode premiere.

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At the start of the pilot, Fox’s character is a stay-at-home dad whose micromanaging drives his family nuts. He finally agrees to go back to work at New York’s NBC affiliate but wants to avoid the anchor-overcoming-adversity angle. That proves tough, especially when his boss Harris (Treme) commissions a slow-mo, welcome-back promo set to Enrique Iglesias’ “Hero.”

But it’s not like Mike’s family is any less exploitative; teen daughter Eve (Juliette Goglia, Good Luck Charlie) unsuccessfully tries to pass off a lazy iPhone video about her dad’s “struggle” as an English project – thus setting up the characters-speaking-directly-to-the-camera interview device that continues into the second episode. Meanwhile, college-age son Ian (Conor Romero, Person of Interest) is back home after dropping out of Cornell, and youngest child Graham (newcomer Jack Gore) competes with his aunt Leigh (Katie Finneran, Wonderfalls) for who’s the less mature.

By the end of the first half-hour, Mike is back on the air with a piece that gets him booked on – and then bumped from – NBC’s Today. (Let’s hope the “Matt Lauer is a jerk” thing turns into a running gag.) But the slight setback doesn’t matter much when all of the Henrys sit down for a family meal, something Mike’s desired for a while.

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The next ep finds Mike entranced by the Henrys’ new upstairs neighbor (played by Fox’s real-life wife and former Family Ties co-star Tracy Pollan). He likes that she makes him feel desirable, which comes across as a little bit disingenuous, given the fun, sexy married relationship Brandt and Fox establish in the pilot.

Mike and Annie invite neighbor Kelly to dinner with Harris; when the pair hit it off, Mike is displeased. The evening ends with the anchor apologizing to his perfectly lovely, very understanding spouse at an arcade adjacent to Times Square – the location comes about thanks to some secondary plots involving the kids. Plus, how else could the installment end with ball-pit funtimes?

At the end of the full hour, you come away with the sense that Fox’s comedic timing and presence are undiminished; he and Brandt, in particular, play off each other in a way that serves the series well.

That’s what we thought, but how about you? Grade the episodes via the poll below, then hit the comments to back up your choice!

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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53 Comments
  1. Michele says:

    Does he still have it? He never lost it!!!

  2. Greg Eckes says:

    I have two things to say about this after I watched the second episode:

    1. This is no offense to the actress playing his wife, but I wish they got Tracy Pollan (who played the neighbor) to play his wife. I just think they would bounce better off each other. Plus even in that short snippet, I saw the chemistry between them.

    2. The moment when he drops the roll intentionally on his friend (Wendell Pierce, who was great in the show) and then goes “Oops. Parkinson’s” made me laugh out loud. I hope there are more moments like that. Instead of having Parkinsons’s act as a disability, he turns it into a kind of weapon or special defense to actions. I like that.

    • Regal says:

      Well I would hope he has good chemistry with Pollan seeing as how she’s his real life wife.

      • Greg Eckes says:

        Well yea, but I think that even if they were trying to tone it down and make it seem like it wasn’t there, it was still there. They a bit playful with each other in a way. I didn’t get that real sense between him and his wife in the show.

        Now what is said above is that his wife in the show (Betsy Brandt) and him have good chemistry in the pilot. If that’s the case, then it’s not good for the show to have that inconsistency.

        • wordsmith says:

          There was an interview published earlier today on this site about how they considered casting Tracy Pollan as his TV wife, but they decided that that kind of 24/7 togetherness was a bad idea for personal reasons.
          It may be our loss, but it’s hard to fault them for making that call.

    • cjeffery7 says:

      that “oops, parkinson’s!” line got me good too LOL. though i was underwhelmed by the main plot line of that second episode (husband thinks the neighbor is hot, wife is annoyed that her husband wont just admit it, husband tries to compensate by acting a doofus… booorrriiiinnnggg), i still enjoyed it very much.

    • Lisa says:

      I completely agree! I found it hilarious that he used it in that way. I mean, if you already have to deal with this ailment, might as well make the best of it!

  3. Chablis says:

    So many shows to watch OnDemand.

  4. With 30 Rock and The Office already gone, NBC should have a breakout sitcom in The Michael J. Fox Show and it does have potential and the supporting cast are great including Betsy Brandt aka Marie from Breaking Bad and Wendell Pierce who was amazing on HBO’s The Wire. I give The Michael J. Fox Show an outstanding grade of A (same grade I did with Crazy Ones).

  5. jwb says:

    The show wasn’t bad but it felt generic. It was nice to see a family who didn’t have dysfunction. The self- deprecating humor wasn’t bad. Maybe the show will get better as it progresses. Always liked MJF and his positive attitude is admirable.

  6. Patricia says:

    Love the show, Michael J. Fox was awesomeness personified. How to watch it and recorded Glee. Way to go Michael your a wonderful actor.

  7. Oliver says:

    I liked the first episode but thought the second episode was pretty bad. So many tired predictable sitcom plots.

    Good cast, pretty funny, well-paced, but I hope future episodes are much more original.

  8. liz says:

    I loved the pilot, but I thought the second episode wasn’t a great one to air second. It made you dislike him a bit and the ‘hot neighbour’ is a pretty tired trope. Maybe if it aired midway through the season it would be fine, but as a second episode where you’re still trying to get people to watch……risky. That said, I’ll be tuning in for the season.

  9. Eric says:

    I loved it. I’ll watch Michael J. Fox in anything, but given my fondness for single-cam sitcoms, especially those set around families or that have a lot of heart, I’m so glad he chose this as his major return to TV. I hope NBC has a hit in this one. I’m in it for as long as the Peacock chooses to air it.

  10. baddog says:

    Sheer boredom…couldn’t even get past 15 minutes of it….

    • Candy Boudreau says:

      Agree. We really tried to watch the whole thing, but at the 10 minute mark, I was ready to turn it off. We lasted for 30 minutes but that was all we could take. As much as we love Michael J, Fox, we did not find one thing funny and just detested the rest of the cast. Where did they find these people? The Parkinsons jokes were not funny and the whole concept was overplayed and made me very uncomfortable. He has Parkinsons. We get it!! We will not watch again, that’s for sure.

    • shopqvc says:

      I totally agree. In a one full hour I think I chuckled once or twice. Just not funny. At the other show “Crazy” something with Robin Williams was another boring 1/2 hr. New show called Moms and The Goldbergs was really funny, but these 2…not so much.

  11. Babybop says:

    I think it’ll get even better when it has time to develop. I could have done without the token crazy sister character, she reminded me too much of the sister from Still Standing. Laughed out loud quite a bit in the second episode. Loved the “Oops, Parkinsons” thing!

  12. Bob Timms says:

    I honestly thought this show was painfully boring and unfunny. God awful writing. I didn’t laugh once. I like Michael J Fox too which is why I watched it, but yikes was this bad… i also found the Parkinson jokes more offensive then funny which obviously is not what they were going for.

  13. James D says:

    i liked it a lot, not the funniest show although it had it’s moments, it has a lot of heart to it, MJF most definitely still has it, i’m not sure about the office, modern family, parks and rec thing of talking to the camera, too many shows are doing that these days.

  14. liked the pilot first episode better than 2nd episode

  15. Britta Unfiltered says:

    It’s all right. I graded it a B. I like it, but I think they’re hitting the Parkinson’s jokes a bit too hard. I also was very disappointed to see they’re following the incredibly overused fake documentary format. I hope they ditch that, and fast. But I think it could be a great comedy.

  16. Joey says:

    I like it, it was good. Great to see Michael back on TV. and the rest of the cast did good.

  17. Jordan says:

    what was the song at the end of the second episode. I need to know please.

  18. Eli says:

    absolutely loved it, my favorite new comedy of the season.

  19. Bob says:

    It usually takes a few shows to get the characters established, the writers sharpened, etc.

  20. tara17 says:

    Great job at balancing humor/inspiration/reality. For example, those recurring “everybody loves you” could’ve gone either way, but they totally worked.

  21. Susan says:

    Michael J. Fox, and the woman who plays his wife, did a good job. We couldn’t stand the rest of the cast -no original characters there.

  22. Tom says:

    I like the guy, but can’t say I was impressed with his show. It seemed like a cookie-cutter sitcom to me. Predictable jokes and script. There seems to be a really low success rate among sitcoms built around one celebrity lead. You need a strong ensemble cast to make the show a success (e.g., The Mary Tyler Moore show, Seinfeld, etc.). I didn’t get that feeling with this show.

  23. libby says:

    love MJF, but was disappointed with the show. Will give it another try, then move on to something else. It was very predictable.

  24. Lynda says:

    We are avid Michael J. Fox fans and were so excited he was coming back to TV; however, his talent far exceeds this sitcom. We didn’t like the cut-away interviews at all. Since Tracy is in the series, we’d rather have seen her as his wife. We could hardly understand a word the kids spoke–even Michael’s enunciation was clearer. We all know the Parkinson’s is there, but give it a rest; an occasional wisecrack, and the rolling chair and dinner-roll incidents would have been sufficient. The aunt’s character seemed unnecessary. We liked the newsroom and the aspect of his job, but the family casting and his sexual insecurity just didn’t cut it for us. No one is sorrier than I am that I gave it a “D.”

  25. amanda says:

    Gees, where do I start? I really like and respect MJF but he was mumbling and we couldn’t understand a word of at least 3 lines that he spoke in the kitchen scene. The role of his wife is so fake and their interactions are so put on, it was uncomfortable to watch them together. I mean, what woman is going to joke around and sweetly say…”oh come on honey, just be honest and tell me you’re attracted to her” (as the wife giggles). Any husband being attracted to a woman that looks like Tracy Pollan is NOT going to invite her over for dinner and joke about it….PERIOD. Tracy came on to him the moment she answered the door….completely unnatural and staged. They should have just left her out of the sitcom completely….it was just odd. I kept thinking of them as man and wife so her part was just, well….stupid. The wife role is too phony and untouched by any emotion. Michael looks as though he is just reading his lines. The aunt is unnecessary and the only actor I really enjoyed was the daughter. I thought her narration was cute and she seemed very talented. The bedroom scene in the end was just dumb. What are they….20? Who goes into a heavy make out scene after (at least) 15 years of marriage….like they couldn’t wait to have sex (especially after her husband was attracted to another woman all night)…anyway…just has too much of a soap opera feel…no way close to real life. I’d rather read a good book.

  26. KM Ols says:

    As a caregiver for an advanced Parkinson’s patient, I found the show very disappointing. I know MJF wants the viewer to ‘view’ this horrific disease as comedic, but there is nothing funny about it. There were a few ‘insights’ into the disease in each of the two episodes I struggled through — such as the night ‘terrors’ not “dreams” as they were depicted in the show; the trailing off of the voice; running up the stairs, etc, but Parkinson’s is NOT a cookie cutter disease. Patients like my spouse do not have access to the medications that MJF uses; my spouse was not a candidate for deep brain stimulation therapy and does not have cognitive skills because of the dementia that is attached to this disease (Lewy bodies). I found the ‘running up the stairs’ in one of the episodes needed some explanation; the reference to Dyskenesia while he was in the t.v. van, was never explained. Some Parkinson’s patients and I say “some” can run backwards, but CANNOT walk forward. Some have obsessive compulsive disorders (lightly touched on), but none of these were truly explained. Some have horrific side effects to their medsl never explained. I would have preferred a more realistic approach to this disease from MJF. Most medical personnel have NO clue about this disease and I was truly hoping that this show would enlighten rather than put a twist that it is a.o.k. I would have much preferred a documentary about the disease either hosted by Michael J. Fox or showing a ‘true day in the life of a Parkinson patient such as Michael J. Fox and others and his/her caregivers so that people would have a better understanding of this disease. I love MJF and he has tried to help us a lot through the Michael J. Fox foundation, but he really missed the mark here. :(

  27. patjs says:

    This was bad! It was so unfunny. What I am laughing at is the critics that swear this is the best show since sliced bread, but stay away from Dads. Well, hate to tell them-they are both equally unfunny. Sorry, MJF love ya-but unless you replace the whole cast-this isn’t going to work.

  28. Mary says:

    I love Michael J. Fox and I’ve missed seeing him on tv. So I’m willing to give this sitcom another chance but it’s not must-see tv. Cut out the documentary-style, make the children likable, and get rid of Tracy.

  29. MK says:

    I guess I have to give it another chance. First episode was dull. Second I did other things. Third haven’t watched yet. So we’ll see.

  30. alyssa says:

    I absolutely LOVE Michael J. Fox, but I won’t be watching any more episodes of this show. I was so disappointed by how unfunny it was. I think the only thing that ever got a laugh from me was the oldest son. It’s alright though, The Crazy Ones is hilarious!

  31. patricia says:

    Love the new show…

    We all missed u micheal..

  32. Ethany says:

    Love Michael. Always will!!!

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