Hey you! This isn't a review, it's a PREview. Huge difference. Most notably, the "P." Also, these PREviews are based on early cuts of pilots that might change drastically by the time they officially hit the air, so we can't properly review them. But we CAN give you an idea of what to expect. In this series of early looks at the new shows of fall 2013, there's no contemplating, no deep analysis; just super-duper quick thoughts on what we just watched that we're passing on to you. We'll revisit each previewed show in the fall with the hyper-intellectual breakdowns and fart jokes you're used to from us goons here at TV.com.
STARRING AND CREATED BY: Michael J. Fox! Michael J. Fox! Michael J. Fox! It's right there in the title. But also Betsy Brandt (Breaking Bad), Katie Finneran (Wonderfalls), Wendell Pierce (The Wire), and young'uns Conor Romero, Juliette Goglia, and Jack Gore as the kids. Sam Laybourne (Cougar Town) created the series and will run the show with Alex Reid (Up All Night), and Will Gluck (Easy A) will executive produce.
THE GIST: Fox plays Mike Henry, a man who's five years removed from his gig as a popular New York news anchor following a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. But wait, it gets funnier! Without a job to fill his days, he spends most of his time getting all up in the business of his family (wife, three kids) and his sister, so he decides to go back to work. Naturally he wants to be treated just like a normal guy. Also naturally, that doesn't happen.
SNAP JUDGMENT: What might've come off as a charity case for a former television icon is actually a heartwarming, honest, and even slightly edgy vehicle for MJF to return to NBC. It's part throwback to the comfortable comedy of yore, with just enough modern-day touches to bring it into the present with relevance. This is good stuff, and it all starts with the treatment of Fox's character. Instead of focusing on Mike's disease, the show portrays Mike as a self-sufficient, driven, and somewhat-annoying father, husband, and human being. The way the character is disarmed gives Fox plenty of comedy to work with, and he's outstanding. Yes, there are plenty of Parkinson's jokes, but they don't dominate the pilot and they're actually quite funny in Fox's hands. Of course, every viewer will face their own little quandary about how comfortable they feel laughing at gags that focus on the disease (watching Fox try to open a pickle jar will be hilarious for some, frightening for others), but anyone who enjoyed Fox's guest role on Curb Your Enthusiasm will be fine. The rest of the cast (even the kids) takes the quick-witted humor and rolls with it, creating a fast-paced family comedy with a realistic domestic feel. But more than anything, this is a surprisingly funny show.
PILOTITIS DIAGNOSIS: The pilot moves along so comfortably that you won't realize it's establishing anything. There's a lot of the same magic from the Modern Family opener here.
FACES TO LOOK OUT FOR: Well you know Fox and you should know Brandt, Pierce, and Finneran (who are all fantastic), so pay attention to Goglia as the middle daughter in the family. She's had several small parts in various shows, but she's ready for the next step.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Wendell Pierce has an excellent sexual intercourse finger-pantomime in the pilot that represents some very uncomfortable sex. Also, pickle jars.
EXCITEMENT LEVEL: Though it it's not really something that would typically appeal to my comedy tastes, The Michael J. Fox Show is easily one of the best comedy pilots of this year or last. It made me laugh... multiple times! Me! Can you believe it? Fuzzy feelings and chuckles all over the place. On the excitement meter, it's an 8 out of 10. On NBC's excitement meter, it should be a 1,000.
PILOT PREVIEW POWER RANKINGS:
(Where we rank the fall season's pilots based on very early impressions)
1. Almost Human - J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman's robotic buddy-cop drama
2. The 100 - Teens have fun (and die) on post-apocalyptic Earth while the adults fight each other in a big tin can orbiting the planet
3. Intelligence - Josh Holloway stars as a Cyber Command agent who has Wi-Fi in his brain
4. Sleepy Hollow - Ichabod Crane zaps to the future to help a detective stop the Headless Horseman
5. The Tomorrow People - Young people, including Stephen Amell's cousin, get superpowers
6. The Blacklist - James Spader is a master criminal who turns himself in to the FBI on one condition: He only works with the pretty new FBI agent
7. Hostages - Toni Collette is a doctor whose family is taken hostage and will be killed by Dylan McDermott's character unless she kills the President in surgery
8. Dracula - Jonathan Rhys Meyers is the fanged one in this re-imagining of the classic story of an undead guy chasing his old girlfriend
9. Lucky 7 - A group of gas-station employees win the lottery, for better or worse
1. Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Andy Samberg and a bunch of buffoons are cops in Brooklyn
2. The Michael J. Fox Show - Fox returns as a man with Parkinson's who goes back to work to the delight of his family
3. Back in the Game - Maggie Lawson returns home and winds up coaching her son's Little League team while her drunk dad heckles her
4. Trophy Wife - Malin Akerman marries into a big family and ends up with two ex-wives and three stepchildren in the process
5. The Crazy Ones - Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar are a father-daughter team in the advertising business
6. Mom - Anna Faris and Allison Janney play a mother and daughter with life problems
7. Enlisted - Geoff Stults goes to army reject camp with his two brothers
8. About a Boy - Jason Katims' TV adaptation of the film adaption of Nick Hornby's novel about a man-boy friendship
9. Super Fun Night - Rebel Wilson and her loser friends hit the social scene
AIRED ON 4/16/2014
Season 1 : Episode 21