Michael J. Fox: New Comedy That Parallels Own Life Starts Thursday

Wednesday, 25 Sep 2013 06:53 PM

By Ken Mandel

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In the trailer for "The Michael J. Fox Show," the lead actor's TV alter ego gathers his family for an announcement.

"I don't want you to get angry or confused or scared, but, uh, I'm thinking of going back to work," Fox's fictional newsman Mike Henry says.

After much relieved jubilation, Henry's wife responds: "We're just kind of happy that you're getting out of the house."

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It's difficult to distinguish between Fox's make-believe and real-life in his new situational comedy. The 52-year-old veteran actor returns to network television Thursday night with his self-titled NBC comedy, in which he stars as the middle-aged Henry, who makes a comeback to television after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

Sound familiar? It should, since the plot mirrors Fox's actual world. The former star of "Family Ties," "Spin City" and the "Back to the Future" movies disclosed his own Parkinson's diagnosis in 1999 — eight years after initially being diagnosed — and eventually stepped back from acting as a result.

After diving into raising money for the disease and helping to raise his family with wife Tracy Pollan, Fox returned to TV with guest spots on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Rescue Me," and "The Good Wife."

Now, he's back full-time.

"I just thought, 'Why can't I?'" Fox told The Canadian Press. "I mean, there's no reason not to do it. It just seemed like the right time to do it."

Fox's co-stars include Betsy Brandt ("Breaking Bad"), who plays his wife Annie Henry, and Wendell Pierce ("Treme," "The Wire") as his boss, Harris Green. Anne Heche will appear as a news anchor and Candice Bergen and Charles Grodin play Henry's parents.

Fox told The Canadian Press that he considered doing a drama, but didn't want the long hours. NBC wanted the comedy and offered a full 22-episode commitment. Through the sometimes funny moments, Fox hopes to show audiences that people with Parkinson's can live a fairly normal life.

"[There's] nothing on the surface horrible about someone with a shaky hand," he told The Canadian Press. "That's our reality. We have no control."

Fox doesn't want to elicit sympathy for his situation, despite its obvious challenges.

"(Your challenge) doesn't have to be life-shattering or life-ending," Fox told "TODAY's" Willie Geist. "It can just be a new thing that pushes you to a new place."

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Related stories:

Michael J. Fox Finds Humor in Parkinson's Battle

Christie to Appear on Michael J. Fox Sitcom

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