I wouldn’t doubt that The Michael J. Fox Show feels tremendous performance anxiety. Expectations run high whenever a big-name star like Fox makes a comeback, of course, but add to that how desperately NBC needs a reliable performer on Thursday nights (or any night, for that matter), and you’ve got more riding on your shoulders than most sitcoms ever have. It’s clear that NBC would like MJF to be the network’s answer to ABC’s Modern Family, and that’s a lot to live up to. I can’t speak to how MJF will perform for the network; Thursday’s episode, “Art,” took a sizable ratings dip, but it’s not impossible that the series could pick up a bigger audience as the season goes on. But as the show seeks out that audience, it seems to be having some trouble figuring out the kind of show it wants to be, and if it doesn’t get a handle on that, it’s going to dip in quality as well.
Has there been an actor in the last thirty years with broader appeal than Michael J. Fox? I mean that in the best way. Immediately likable, charming, unthreateningly handsome, quick with a snappy one-liner. What’s not to like? He’s Alex P. Keaton! He’s Marty McFly, for crying out loud! So it comes as little surprise that, after a long Parkinson’s-induced break from demanding film and television roles, he would return triumphant to anchor a series that looks to be every bit as likable as he is.