Michael J. Fox returns to NBC tonight on a brand new sitcom — not surprisingly called The Michael J. Fox Show. He’s had two long-running and successful sitcoms — Family Ties and Spin City — but will this one be ratings hit as well? Is it worth watching?
The Michael J. Fox revolves around Mike Henry (Fox), a popular New York news anchor who stepped out of the limelight five years ago after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Now, he thinks it might be a good time to go back to work. His old boss sees his return as a ratings-getter and his family is happy to get him out of the house. The rest of the cast includes Betsy Brandt, Conor Romero, Juliette Goglia, Katie Finneran, Wendell Pierce, Ana Nogueira, and Jack Gore.
Sound interesting? Here’s what some of the critics are saying:
TIME: “The three episodes NBC screened, especially the two past the pilot, aren’t bad, really; they’re studiously un-bad to the point of blandness. The supporting characters are thin types–a college-dropout older son, eye-rolling daughter, cute younger kid… The reason to hope here is Fox himself, and the fact that, having given The Michael J. Fox Show a full-season order, NBC should be patient enough to give the comedy time to find itself. If the pilot is making the meta-case that Michael J. Fox the actor is a professional whom no one should patronize, it’s right on. The first step is to say that Michael J. Fox the show needs to get better.”
Slate: “Plot-wise, however, Fox is old-school. In the second episode, Mike develops a crush on his upstairs neighbor (played by Fox’s real life wife Tracy Pollan). When Annie asks him about it, instead of copping to the attraction, he insists that it doesn’t exist. Annie gets mad, not because he’s attracted to another woman, but because he’s lying about it, a storyline that my colleague Dana Stevens correctly ID’d as having previously appeared in The Every Sitcom Ever Show.”
NY Times: “Very little that Mr. Fox, or anyone else, does in The Michael J. Fox Show, which starts on Thursday night, will force you to laugh. Everything about his return to sitcom stardom is mild, tucked in, determined not to offend. The main characters are blandly likable and one-note: patient (Henry’s wife), man hungry (his sister-in-law), swinging (his boss).”
THR: “Even with that bit of hackneyed structure weaved into it, the pilot works because it’s great to see Fox back on television with his trademark spot-on delivery. And secondarily, even without saying it outright, the show is both suggesting that Fox is fine and that it’s OK to feel both happy about that and to embrace his return. I certainly think people will. Fox isn’t looking for or asking for anyone’s pity, he’s just trying to get back to what he loves (and does extremely well).”
Newsday: “Few shows ever arrive with as much goodwill as this one. Even TV critics with desiccated hearts want to see a beloved star with Parkinson’s return in triumph… Instead, too cloying, too sentimental, too heavy on the NBC News tie-ins — as clumsily handled as they possibly could be — Fox doesn’t merely squander the goodwill but may go as far as reminding some hardened viewers what bugged them about most network TV comedies in the first place.”
Star-Ledger: “The family tension mined in the second episode — Mike refusing to admit he’s attracted to the sexy new upstairs neighbor (guest star Tracy Pollan, Fox’s real-life wife) — feels a bit stale out of the gate. And the wonderful character actress Katie Finneran (Broadway’s Annie) is wasted in the stock role of Mike’s self-centered single sibling. Still, the show has plenty of heart and lots of chuckles. And there’s a lot to be said for spending half an hour with an old friend.”
What do you think? Do you like Fox’s new sitcom? Will you keep watching?