We remember him fondly as Marty McFly, the high school student who drove his Delorean time machine to go back to the past to restore his future by repairing his parents’ disrupted love story.
That was 1985.
“Back to the Future” was one of the coolest films on the Gen X planet and Michael J. Fox was on top of his game.
On television, Michael was gaining ground as Alex P. Keaton from NBC’s “Family Ties”, eventually becoming the focal point of the extremely popular sitcom. Next came “Spin City” on ABC, another TV sitcom where he played Mike Flaherty, a law school graduate serving as New York’s Deputy Mayor.
In between his TV commitments, the actor managed to star in films including sequels to “Back to the Future”, “Teen Wolf”, “The Secret of My Success”, “Light of Day”, “Bright Lights, Big City”, “Casualties of War”, “Doc Hollywood”, “The Hard Way”, “Life with Mikey”, “For Love or Money”, “Greedy”, The American President”, “Mars Attacks!” and “The Frighteners”.
In 1998, Michael announced that he had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease since 1990. He semi-retired from acting in 2000 and only offered voice overs for films including “Stuart Little” and “Atlantis: The Lost Empire”. He also appeared in several TV shows as guest including “Scrubs”, “Boston Legal”, “Rescue Me” and “The Good Wife”.
It wasn’t an easy ride for Michael ever since the actor had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.
In one of his earlier interviews, he said he hated himself for what Parkinsons did to him. He was in depression and in denial for seven years after learning about the disease taking over his body.
However, after that period was over, Michael came to terms with his condition, gave up drinking and became an activist particularly in the advancement of stem cell research. He also established the Michael J. Fox Foundation in 2000 to help find the cure for Parkinsons Disease. His journey with PD had been documented in several books and memoirs that he wrote beginning in 2002.
Michael has already received a host of awards, accolades and recognitions from various organizations for his efforts towards finding the cure for Parkinsons Disease. But more importantly, he became a source of hope and inspiration for many for holding up and shining through in the face of adversity.
Mike is Back
Last night, all eyes were on the actor as Michael returned to primetime TV in a new sitcom named after him.
“The Michael J. Fox Show” premiered last night on NBC, “home” to Michael for seven years during his stint on “Family Ties” back in the 80’s.
Interestingly, the actor now plays Mike Henry, an NBC news anchor who came back from retirement after spending time with his family upon being diagnosed with Parkinsons Disease.
He is supported by a good cast including Betsy Brandt (his wife Annie), Juliette Goglia (his daughter Eve), Conor Romero (his older son Ian), Jack Gore (his younger son Graham), Katie Finneran (his sister Leigh), Anna Nogueira (his assistant Kay) and Wendell Pierce (his colleague and friend Harris).
Dealing with Parkinsons
The writers handed Michael back to his audience without sugarcoating.
As Mike Henry, Michael seemed perfectly represented, a successful celebrity tainted by Parkinsons who had chosen to move on .
The plot centered on Henry’s strong ties with his caring and supportive family who learned to deal with the disease as much as Henry did – in a non-melodramatic way – even going as far as using the disease to make clever and oftentimes, funny retorts.
In a way, it worked.
For those of us who were still not used to the new Michael J. Fox as compared to who we remember growing up with back in the 80’s, taking in Michael’s new demeanor as an actor in his new sitcom was initially a painful process. There’s a bit of denial at first – but then his shaking and extra movements stopped bothering us after a few commercials – as his warm and jovial personality finally took us back into the realm of our old Marty McFly.
Not great but promising
The idea of having some of the cast individually speak to the camera in monologues to share their thoughts is not new but still a cool way to engage the audience as part of the Henry’s extended “family”.
Michael, despite his condition, still rocked as an actor.
With regard to the cast, it’s easy to love the three Henry women for their pleasant personalities including Mike’s starstruck assistant Kay but there’s just not enough juice in the plots to extract more from their characters. Hopefully, the writers will veer away from predictable storylines and overused formulas to paint another stereotypical happy sitcom family – and the Henrys unrealistically hanging out in the video arcade late in the night half buried in colorful balls should never happen again.
Maybe the next episodes will be better.
After all, Michael J. Fox is in the house and as Mike Henry said “If that lady had her baby in the tree”, everything else should be easy.
"The Michael J. Fox Show" airs on NBC on Thursdays at 9:30 pm EST.