Monday, September 30, 2013

Pilot Review: The Michael J. Fox Show

The Michael J. Fox Show (NBC)
Premiered September 26 at 9pm

I’ve always liked Michael J. Fox, and I suspect most people have too. From his early days on TV and in “Back to the Future,” Fox was charming and funny, and he succeeded on “Spin City” as well later in his career. In recent years, while he has worked less because of his Parkinson’s, Fox has made great guest appearances on “Scrubs,” “Boston Legal,” “Rescue Me,” and “The Good Wife.” Now, he’s directly addressing his disease and starring in a show that features it front and center. It’s a nice idea, but the main problem is that the show around his character feels awfully conventional. His children are so purposefully dysfunctional to the point of being too normal for TV children these days, and his wife, played by Betsy Brandt of “Breaking Bad,” is entirely dull. Katie Finneran and Wendell Pierce, two actors who have proven their abilities in important supporting TV roles on “Wonderfalls” and “Treme,” among others, are given prominent parts to highlight them, but they’re a bit too showy and don’t work fully well. Episode one provides an introduction to this world, while episode two shows that, when given the opportunity to be creative and thrive, it opts for a terribly easy and embarrassing plotline about an attractive female neighbor and the jealousy created by her presence. Seeing Fox succeed is something everyone wants to do, but his character isn’t quite endearing enough, and his show feels all too familiar and unappealing at the same time.

How will it work as a series? The second installment aired on Thursday night was all too telling for me, giving each of the children and Mike’s sister Leigh a chance to show their inner selves to unfortunate effect. If Mike’s back at work, let’s show him back at work, and give him a few believable scenarios in which to appear that don’t involve him just staying at home, because that’s not going to prove interesting or entertaining.
How long will it last? NBC opted to premiere this show a week before its Sean Hayes offering, which will occupy the 9pm slot while this one will air at 9:30pm. That suggests its confidence in its success, and while its numbers couldn’t equal those of CBS’ debut of “The Crazy Ones” (review coming up next), they were pretty good, and I think that NBC is going to want to jump on this comedy as one of their hits of the season.

Pilot grade: C+

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