A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Michael J. Fox Show marks the much-anticipated return of Michael J. Fox to a starring role in a comedy series, two decades after his diagnosis with Parkinson's disease. The series intentionally mines Fox's symptoms for laughs (a 30-second struggle to open a pickle jar finally solved by the 8-year-old son; the family's impatience with his failed attempts to serve dinner, etc.), but it does so with just the right ratio of comedy to sensitivity, giving viewers the blessing to snicker at his follies. Even so, the delicate balance could blur similar lines in real-world scenarios even for older kids, so if yours watch, be sure to talk to them about the difference between laughing with someone and laughing at them. Content-wise, the show is on par with most primetime sitcoms, so you can expect implied sex (but no nudity), innuendo, physical affection (kissing, mild foreplay), as well as occasional salty language like "bitch." Ultimately the show celebrates overcoming obstacles, self-acceptance, and the healing effect of (you guessed it) family ties.
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What's the story?
Mike Henry (Michael J. Fox) was once America's favorite news guy, but a Parkinson's diagnosis prompted him to leave his post to spend more time at home with his family. Now years later, his kids –- college dropout Ian (Conor Romero), high school standout Eve (Juliette Goglia), and quiet Graham (Jack Gore) –- are growing up, and his wife, Annie (Betsy Brandt), is ready for him to get out of the house more. As luck would have it, Mike's former coworker, Harris (Wendell Pierce), offers him his old job back in the hopes of boosting ratings, and Mike accepts, contingent on Harris' pledge to not exploit his condition to lure viewers. (Yeah, right.) The series also casts Anne Heche as Mike's professional rival and features cameos by familiar NBC faces like Matt Lauer and Al Roker, as well as public figures like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Fox's wife, Tracy Pollan.
Is it any good?
One of Hollywood's most beloved performers returns home to NBC in THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW, assuming a starring role in a series for the first time since Spin City's culmination in 2001 and more than 20 years after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's. Even though he's never hidden the effects of his condition from cameras, often taking supporting roles in shows like The Good Wife and Rescue Me alongside his very public fundraising work on behalf of medical research, being at the center of a series brings his symptoms to light to a new degree. The show is loosely based on his life, both with the disease and as a family man, and it's unfailingly honest about the ups and downs on both counts. What makes it so endearing is that this is precisely what Fox and the show's creative team set out to do, giving viewers a sense of both the frustrating and funny aspects of an oft-avoided disease.
Even so, The Michael J. Fox Show also manages a far more impressive feat; it upstages the curiosity factor of Parkinson's with a heartfelt, family-centered story that's similarly honest about the ups and downs of life. It doesn't take long to look past Fox's tremors and get absorbed in his more relatable (at least for most of us) struggles of raising kids and balancing work and home responsibilities, and the messages that emerge here self-affirming for families and easily tailored to their own unique struggles.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether this series accomplishes its goal of an honest portrayal of Parkinson's disease. Is it sensitive enough to the challenges those with the condition face? Do you think anyone would take offense with what Fox is doing here? Is this an appropriate venue for raising awareness?
Tweens: What makes it OK to laugh at Fox's struggles with daily activities like eating or getting dressed? How is this different from how you would react if you saw someone with the same symptoms in person? Does this show have a positive impact on people's awareness of this and other diseases?
How does this show portray family life? Does this resonate with your family's experiences? What unique challenges does your family cope with?
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