Consider the types of parts Michael J. Fox has been playing in recent years.
Given his Emmy-winning work on “Rescue Me” and his recurring guest role on “The Good Wife” — for which he’s received three Emmy nominations thus far — it should have come as no surprise the “Family Ties” and “Spin City” alum hit his Parkinson’s-disease condition head-on in Thursday’s (Sept. 26) premiere of his NBC sitcom “The Michael J. Fox Show.”
His latest character, newly back-on-the-job New York TV newsman Mike Henry, also has Parkinson’s. That fact, along with Fox’s reasonably autobiographical approach to it, was integrated in numerous ways in the opening half-hour. Among them:
– As Mike explains his situation into a video camera operated by his daughter Eve (Juliette Goglia), she tells him, “Dad, you’re moving too much.”
– A flashback shows Mike’s on-air “chair incident” before he left his job — he slides out of camera range, then overcompensates by pushing himself too far the other way. “We have these things called wheel locks now,” his boss Harris (Wendell Pierce) says in trying to lure him back to work.
– In bed, Mike’s wife Annie (Betsy Brandt, “Breaking Bad”) asks him, “When was the last time you took your medication?” He replies, “Hours ago.” And she says, “Oh, good. I don’t have to do all the work.”
– Trying to call Annie the next day, Mike accidentally dials 911 instead of the area code 917 and explains to the operator, “My drugs haven’t kicked in.” Even more confusion results when the misdial brings police officers to his apartment.
– Mike’s emotion-prone new producer Kay (Ana Nogueira) is brought to tears upon meeting him: “To be part of this … part of you … call it inspirational.” And she later tells him, “You’re a hero of mine, both personally and … televisionally.”
– The first cut of Eve’s class-project video tribute to her father ends with her overly impassioned revision of Enrique Iglesias‘ song lyric “I can be your hero, baby” into, “You can be my hero, Daddy.”
– And at a family breakfast to surprise him, following an abbreviated “Today” appearance with Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie meant to promote his TV comeback, Mike has trouble spooning scrambled eggs onto Annie’s plate — prompting her to grab the spoon from him and declare, “Can you not have a personal victory right now? We are starving.”
Those who sampled ‘The Michael J. Fox Show” its first night got a bonus: a second episode with the star’s wife, Tracy Pollan, as a guest star. Since Fox has an on-screen spouse, Pollan played a new upstairs neighbor whose too-loud TV literally brought him to her door.
“Do I know you from somewhere?” was one of her first lines to him, cutely alluding to the real-life relationship that began when the couple worked together on “Family Ties.” In the story, Pollan’s character Kelly is a recent divorcee who doesn’t mind flirting with Mike … who, in turn, doesn’t mind being flirted with.
Matters get even more interesting when the neighbor turns up at Mike’s apartment, which has the effect of placing Fox between his real and fictional spouses. Annie playfully accuses Mike of having “a crush” on the other woman, growing increasingly frustrated when he won’t admit it to her.
Mike tries to deflect the suspicion by setting Kelly up with Harris at an at-home dinner party, and the plan works too well. He’s unnerved as he watches them become increasingly comfortable with each other — even resorting to trying to break the mood by asking, “Who wants to see my Emmys?”
Ultimately, Mike confesses to his crush over a loudspeaker as he and Annie retrieves their youngest son Graham (Jack Gore) from an all-family play place. “It’s nice to know, after all that’s happened, that women still find me attractive,” he admits.
And when Annie tells him she also did, he says it doesn’t count because she’s his wife: “What are you going to do? Leave the beloved newsman with Parkinson’s?”
What did you think of “The Michael J. Fox Show”? (NBC repeats both episodes Friday, Sept. 27.)