“I spent time with my family during their really formative years and enjoyed that, and I kind of messed with pills and new medications that help me more to deal with [Parkinson’s symptoms] that I don’t have as much now because of medication to counter the side effects,” says Michael J. Fox of his long-awaited return to series television in The Michael J. Fox Show, his new art-imitates-life NBC sitcom. “So it just seemed like the right time to do it.”
The Michael J. Fox Show
Premieres: One-hour premiere Sept. 26 at 9pm ET
Airs: Thursdays at 9:30pm ET
Here’s the first thing you need to know about Michael J. Fox’s long-awaited, keenly funny new sitcom: Fox stars as a husband and father of three with a particular affliction that affects his entire family.
He’s worn out his welcome as a stay-at-home dad.
If you were expecting the answer to be Parkinson’s disease, the progressive neurological disorder that Fox shares with his onscreen character, beloved former New York news anchor Mike Henry, well, that factors in, too. Henry accidentally dials 911 while trying to call his wife. He takes forever to dish up dinner. But mostly he’s just way too excited about family-bonding stuff like apple picking and leaf fights for his exasperated clan.
And that, said Fox at a recent press event, is what his real life’s been like, too.
“A lot of times when you have a disability, one of the things you deal with is other people’s projections of what your experience is, and people projecting on what they think it is, and their fear about it, and not seeing the experience you’re having,” Fox explained of his light-handed, approach to Parkinson’s on the show. “… there’s nothing horrifying about it to me.”
Thus, Mike Henry, like Mike Fox, has a medicine regimen that works well enough to allow him to return to television, much to the delight of his family, coworkers and the legions of fans who’ve missed him. “He’s so wonderful and warm and how can you not be a little bit in love with him?” says Betsy Brandt, the Breaking Bad actress who’s enjoying her first foray into comedy as Annie Henry, Mike’s schoolteacher wife. “And the more I work with him and the more I get to know him, the more in love with him I am. He’s that guy!”
Brandt, who filmed the pilot while Bad was still in production, says that even her original TV husband Dean Norris recognized her new man’s appeal. “He said, ‘You tell that Michael J. Fox to back off — this show isn’t over and that means the divorce isn’t final yet,” she laughs. “I said, ‘I was thinking about you the whole time, baby!’”
Fox’s real-life missus, Tracy Pollan, will guest star in an upcoming episode, as will the Today crew, New Jersey Gov. Cliff Christie and other famous folks who cross Mike Henry’s personal and professional path. In keeping with the series’ family-centric feel, Fox also hopes, to incorporate familiar faces from his Family Ties and Spin City days. “As characters come up, we’ll certainly mine old friendships and old working partners and get them involved,” he said. “It would be great.”