September 27, 2013

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review: “The Michael J. Fox Show”


THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW:  Thursday 9:30PM on NBC

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Note:  NBC aired two episodes of THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW on its opening night, the pilot at 9PM followed by the first regular episode in the show’s usual 9:30PM timeslot.  Our thoughts on the pilot are here.

Previously… on THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW:  Mike Henry (Fox) left his job as a local TV reporter when he developed Parkinson’s Disease.  Since then, he’s been staying at home, driving his family–wife Annie (Betsy Brandt), sons Ian and Graham (Conor Romero and Jack Gore) and daughter Eve (Julette Goglia)–crazy.  They’re delighted when Mike’s old pal Harris (Wendell Pierce) talks him into going back to work.  Also on hand (living in the same apartment building as the Henrys):  Mike’s single sister Leigh (Katie Finneran).

Episode 2:  As hoped, once the show’s premise was clear, the second episode kept the Parkinson’s jokes to a minimum–although on the other hand, it was a little weird when Mike met a new neighbor (played by Fox’s real-life wife Tracy Pollan) who didn’t know him from TV, and she apparently didn’t even notice his very obvious symptoms.  The episode itself, written by Producers Lori Zimmet and Dan Rubin, and directed by Victor Nelli, Jr, was rather blah.  The central story had Mike with a mild crush on the flirtatious neighbor, one which he wouldn’t admit while all but drooling over her during what was supposed to be a double date that matched her with Harris.  That scene was the highlight of the episode, with Fox and Pierce working splendidly together, but the Annie/Mike scenes, which made up the bulk of the story, were comfortable without having a lot of laughs.  It all ended up in an arcade, with Mike’s voice distorted when he addressed the crowd to confess his crush on a DJ’s mike, with the sit-commy message that husbands sure are dumb and thank god wives are so understanding.

The B and C plots were worse.  In one, Eve was disappointed to discover that her new lesbian friend not only wasn’t gay, but was into Ian.  In the other, Leigh felt unappreciated by Annie, and when babysitting Graham in the park lied that she was his mother, so the other moms would give her validation.  Neither of these stories did anything to build up their characters (Leigh is already quite annoying just two episodes in), and again, they were devoid of laughs.  Also, this is not a show that needed the overused stylistic gimmick of characters talking directly to camera.  It’s used unevenly and illogically here, and adds nothing to the scripted scenes.

Like its star, The Michael J. Fox Show is easygoing and amiable, and perhaps that will be enough for viewers.  There’s not much more to be said for it at this point.  The show is a very routine family sitcom that’s distinguished only by the star and his condition, and there’s little in the way of insight or surprising wit.  Other than Pierce, no one in the ensemble is standing out.  The question, as it goes forward, is just how far “pleasant” will get the series.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  If Nothing Else Is On…

PILOT + 1:  Painless But Forgettable


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."