Ratings are in for Thursday television and things are looking dismal at NBC. The network’s new comedy block didn’t offer one show that hit four million total viewers last night. Parks and Recreation brought in 3.2 million, Welcome to the Family brought in 2.5 million, Sean Saves the World brought in 3.2 million, and The Michael J. Fox Show brought in 3.8 million. While Parks and Rec has never been a huge ratings bringer, this seems to be a classic case of a viewers sticking to a network rather than sticking to the best shows airing on a given night.
I know there’s a ton of television available on Thursday nights. CBS offers a far more dominant comedy block. ABC has back to back Shonda Rhimes going on. Fox has a weird Thursday, featuring both The X Factor and Glee. Even the NFL Network offered a football game last night. However, if you’re going to watch one new comedy this season, it should be The Michael J. Fox Show. Here’s five reasons why NBC’s Thursday night comedy has been great so far, and why you should be watching.
1. Mike And His Wife, Annie, Have Real Chemistry
When Breaking Bad was ending, one of the first actors to be cast in a new series was Betsy Brandt, who played Hank’s wife Marie on AMC's drama. When I heard Brandt would be transitioning to comedy, I wasn’t sure how great her transition to comedy would be. Regardless, Brandt and Fox exude incredibly chemistry onscreen. They seem like a happy but still argumentative couple that lives a busy lifestyle, but still has time to get up to some hijinks.Last night's episode featured the Mike and Annie competing to get their youngest child invested in the activity of their choice. They work well together, and do so without one half of the couple being the more dominant jokester.
2. Four Episodes In, All Three Kids Have Well-Defined Personalities
Frequently, it takes a while in a comedy about adults for the kids to be as well drawn. That hasn’t been the case with the Michael J. Fox Show. The writers went to great lengths to incorporate the kids in the plotlines heavily throughout the first few episodes. So, instead of getting just a few pithy lines from the kids, they all have well-defined personalities. Eve (Juliette Goglia) is smart and obsessed with being unique, Ian (Conor Romero) is a computer nerd and college dropout who doesn’t quite know where his life is headed but still possess charm and irreverence, and Graham (Jack Gore) is a young trickster who is frequently getting up to hijinks and breaking things. Each of the kids is watchable, and each of the kids is fully integrated into the plot of the show.
3. It’s A Good Mix Between A Modern Sitcom And The Good-Natured Family Values We Grew Up On
A lot has been written on how The Michael J. Fox Show is a cross between Modern Family’s single-camera work and NBC’s nineties sitcom format. While there are shades of both of these ideas in the plot, the blend is more pronounced not by format but by subject matter. In essence, NBC is giving us the traditional nuclear family sitcom facing familiar problems that can be solved in a single episode. More often than not, we even get a nice little packageable moral at the end, but it actually feels modern because the issues are very current (kids on cell phones, a teen dropping out of college) and the lesson the family learns isn’t always PC or of the sentimental variety. Some comedies take a while to find a rhythm, but The Michael J. Fox Show has had a vision from the start.
4. It Relies On Just The Right Amount Of Fox’s Parkinson’s
Before the show premiered, people questioned the role that Fox’s Parkinson’s disease might have in a half hour sitcom. Fox was quick to point out that the disease was his reality and that sometimes the disease can be frustrating but other times it can be amusing. Parkinson’s came up a lot in the pilot episode for The Michael J. Fox show, as audiences watched Mike struggle with the decision to return to work. However, as the season has progressed, Mike’s disease is not the prominent plotline, and it generally only comes up in situations that makes sense. It would be impossible for Fox to pretend he doesn’t have Parkinson’s at this point, but NBC’s comedy writes in jokes that are tactful and work within the context of the show.
5. It’s Already Picked Up For A Full 22 Episodes
It’s that time of year when people are settling into a TV schedule. Sometimes, audiences don’t want to spend time with a new show, assuming it could be headed for cancellation any minute. Listen: NBC has already picked up The Michael J. Fox Show for a full 22 episodes. The network did this before the show even aired. There’s no danger that the comedy will be dropped before the end of the season, but it may not come back next year if viewers don’t show up to support the comedy. NBC may have made a mistake by trying to make its struggling comedy block a thing again, pitting it against CBS' dominant block. But if you give the show a shot, you should be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.