TV Series Review
It's the season's most compelling comeback: Michael J. Fox is back on TV.
Fox, of course, has Parkinson's disease—a degenerative and incurable condition that causes shaking and involuntary movements, among other things. And it eventually forced him to walk away from his hit Spin City. But he could never completely abandon acting. And so after guest starring in such shows as Boston Legal, Rescue Me and The Good Wife, he's back full-time, playing a family man stricken with Parkinson's and looking to re-ignite his career—a familiar character.
As Mike Henry, Fox is a one-time television anchor who's given an opportunity to return to the air—Parkinson's and all. But while that very public workplace fits snugly in the overall mix, the comedy centers mostly around the home front, where he and wife Annie shepherd three headstrong youngsters—teens Eve and Ian, and precocious kid Graham. There, in the confines of a family that has long dealt with Dad's disease, Parkinson's is not so much a scary, incurable condition as it is a source of both irritation and laughter—like Grandpa's penchant for old stories told a dozen times or Mom's inexplicable need to put mushrooms in everything she cooks.
"Can you not have a personal victory right now?" Annie tells Mike as he struggles to steady his arm long enough to serve the family some scrambled eggs. "We are starving!"
It's a show that you almost have to root for, isn't it? Fox has been a pretty fantastic spokesman in the midst of everything—always hopeful (at least publicly), never self-pitying and just as likable as he's ever been. "There's nothing horrifying about it to me," he told The Guardian. "I don't think it's gothic nastiness. There's nothing horrible on the surface about someone with a shaky hand. The way I look at it, sometimes it's frustrating, sometimes it's funny. I need to look at it that way."
And Fox's self-deprecating charisma gets a nice showcase in his new series. While he's sometimes just a tad hard to understand, his comic timing is as strong as it's ever been. While the show incorporates Parkinson's, it's not about Parkinson's—a crucial distinction. The disease is just one part of the picture, as Fox wants it to be, and as it should be.
It's only when it comes to crasser concerns of content that there are some problems with The Michael J. Fox Show. Mike and Annie aren't going to be cheating on each other any time soon, never mind Mike's wandering eye in Episode 2, but characters around them show little to no qualms about sleeping with various people. The two teens have their own share of hormonally charged storylines, some of them including homosexual tangents. Sly (and sometimes not so sly) sexual jokes pock the script.
Like an old friend (going all the way back to the 1980s' Family Ties), it's oddly reassuring to see Fox again in his element. And his comedy is clearly cleaner and, in many ways, nicer than many sitcoms surrounding it today. But salaciousness still snakes its way around the story, making his a show your family might not want to permanently tie itself to.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Michael J. Fox as Mike Henry; Betsy Brandt as Annie Henry; Katie Finneran as Leigh Henry; Juliette Goglia as Eve Henry; Conor Romero as Ian Henry; Jack Gore as Graham Henry
Paul Asay Paul Asay