'The Michael J. Fox Show' Is the Best Parkinson's Sitcom in the History of Network Television
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'The Michael J. Fox Show' Is the Best Parkinson's Sitcom in the History of Network Television

By Dustin Rowles | TV Reviews | September 27, 2013 | Comments ()

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The much anticipated Michael J. Fox show, which premiered with two episodes last night on NBC, turned out to be a fairly conventional family sitcom buoyed by the charm of Michael J. Fox and a considerable amount of Parkinson’s humor. In fact, it’s only the disease that afflicts both Michael J. Fox and his character, Mike Henry, as well as Fox’s extreme likability that sets the series apart from any other middle-of-the-road Modern Family clone populating the fall television season.

That’s not to say it’s a bad show, although the pilot displayed more promise and potential than the second episode would deliver. The The Michael J. Fox Show has a very late 80s/early 90s sitcom sensibility, and for a single-camera sitcom, it often feels like it’s missing a laugh track, as the humor too often relies on setups and jokes, rather than extracting natural humor out of the situations.

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As for those situations, the pilot episode has Mike Henry returning to work as a local and revered NYC news anchor after a long absence, in which Henry tended to both his Parkinson’s and his family. With too much time on his hands to parent, however, his family feels suffocated by his constant presence, and they eventually encourage him to return to work.

Outside of the Parksinson’s jokes, which are handled with deft self deprecation, the humor is fairly tame, and little on the generic side, although to the credit of both Michael J. Fox and Betsy Brandt — who plays Henry’s charming and good-humored wife — they deliver the jokes with considerable ease and magnetism, and their chemistry together is instant.

The second episode, however, is not as strong, although it’s more a function of the storyline than anything else. In it, Mike Henry develops a crush on an upstairs neighbor (played by Fox’s real-life wife, Tracy Pollan) but the extent to which they push the crush gets weird and uncomfortable. He has sex dreams about her that his wife overhears, and after he sets the neighbor up with his boss and friend, played with devilish charmisma by The Wire’s Wendell Pierce, he attempts to sabotage their relationship out of jealousy, all in front of his wife, who doesn’t find the crush nearly as unsettling as I did (there were a few moments, in fact, that I feared that The Michael J. Fox Show would not be the conventional family sitcom I suspected, but instead an icky swinger comedy about a guy with Parkinson’s who leaves his wife for the upstairs neighbor).

As is the case with any sitcom this early in its run, it’s difficult to say whether it will find its legs, but with the talent assembled, it has the ingredients to be this generation’s Cosby Show (with Parkinsons): Safe, mildly amusing, and sweet. For the moment, however, it’s just another inferior Modern Family wannabe that slides by on the allure of Michael J. Fox and the novelty of his Parkinsons.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Yeah, I missed the premiere, but i figured it was going to be somewhat on the safe and steady side. I can see NBC trying to make it their rock-solid family sitcom after the practically experimental stuff they were doing. Still, this was the start, and there a plenty of shows (on NBC no less) that had rocky starts.

    But I'm gonna have to let you suffer on that Cosby Show line. You were doing good until then. You really were.


  • Devin McMusters

    Wow, cheap shot at the Cosby Show.

  • George Tarleton

    it has the ingredients to be this generation’s Cosby Show (with Parkinsons): Safe, mildly amusing, and sweet.

    With all due respect, you're doing a serious disservice to The Cosby Show. That show was smart and well ahead of its time in a number of ways, and was genuinely funny and heartfelt. It may not be as timeless as other shows, but when it aired it was an amazing breath of fresh air. This is far more standard and generic-sounding.

  • ERM

    I found the first episode really endearing. I turned off the second episode.

  • dizzylucy

    Me too. The first one was kind of sweet and entertaining. The second one just made me uncomfortable.

    That said, Betsy Brandt should be in everything, Pierce was great, and I hope it turns out to be a success for Michael J. Fox. Though I really wish he'd become a regular on the Good Wife instead.

  • I did the same thing. I WANT to like this show, I like Michael J. Fox so much, but I really didn't care for the second episode at all. I'm planning to give it another try, though.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I liked it, the pilot got a few laughs from me. Then I watched the second episode and couldn't figure out why he was acting like a monumental ass to his wife because the upstairs neighbor had him lick a spoon. w/e, I'll watch again and hope the pilot is more the norm.

  • BendinIntheWind

    It wasn't stellar, but I did enjoy the show and I'm curious to see where it goes and how it develops. I'm also embarrassed to admit that I guffawed when he threw a roll at The Bunk and yelled "OOPS, PARKINSON'S!"

  • Becks

    Watched it and found it pretty lame but I'm hoping that the same crowd who love current Modern Family and things like Mike and Molly will love this show since Michael J. Fox is a national treasure.

    On a separate note, The Cosby Show is legitimately funny. Nothing like this hackey, corny BS.

  • Mrs. Julien

    We gave it a shot and assume it will be a hit because people love Michael J. Fox. It was indeed tepid. Wendell Pierce stole the damn show though. Yay, Bunk!

  • SelenaMac

    Agreed on Pierce! I wasn't nearly as charmed as I wanted to be, but the parts of a great show are all in there. Somewhere. Okay, so mostly the cast is good. Sitcoms are notoriously shaky in the early days, though, so I have hope. Sweet, deluded hope.

    Otherwise, MJF should go kidnap Allison Janney and Anna Farris from the set of Mom, rescue The Bacon from that shithole The Following, fire the kid actors (sorry, kids, stay outta show business) and redo the whole thing from scratch.

    This season is testing me for ever saying "I could watch [admired performer] in anything!"

  • lowercase_ryan

    I yelled "BUNK!!!" when I saw him

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