Michael J. Fox's return to TV might not have gone exactly as hoped, but the Emmy-winning star isn't sweating it. In a new story in The Hollywood Reporter, Fox reflected on his goals for returning to TV with The Michael J. Fox Show.
"No one said to me, ‘Don't do this.' People asked me gentle questions about my constitution and whether it's something I was seeing the full picture of, but I was," Fox said. "I had an excellent time working on some other shows, particularly that extended arc on Good Wife. I knew that one of two things would happen: As I continued, I'd either get weaker or I'd get stronger. And I got stronger. My stamina increased. Things like learning lines, which was tougher than it had been, came back. This was about me getting on the horse again and realizing I knew how to ride."
Fox, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1991, starred in Spin City from 1996-2001 before leaving the series as his symptoms worsened. He went on to appear in Rescue Me, Curb Your Enthusiasm and the aforementioned The Good Wife. Fox teamed with Easy A's Will Gluck to stage his fulltime TV comeback. It was an art imitates life kind of sitcom about Mike Henry (Fox) a newscaster with Parkinson's who returns to work after taking time off to be with his family. The project sparked a bidding war and NBC ultimately won, giving The Michael J. Fox Show a straight-to-series commitment and promising all 22 episodes would air. The show was designed to let people into the world of what it was like living with Parkinson's, not laugh at it, Fox said.
"I never felt like we were laughing at the [disease]; I felt we were laughing at the reaction to it," Fox said. "These situations show up in my life, and I have a choice, on a daily basis, of processing it as an affront or processing it as a challenge. I don't like to be [pitied]. I wish I could take credit for this quote but I can't: ‘Pity is a benign form of abuse.'"
Slated for Thursdays at 9:30, The Michael J. Fox Show premiered to decent numbers. But then ratings slipped. And continued to slip.
"When we got our initial time slot, we got nervous. We thought, ‘Hopefully, they have a plan for bringing people here.' But we were up against CBS, [which had] that Big Bang Theory juggernaut, and there was no remedy for it. So you just plow ahead and continue to try to make the show better," Fox said. "Was I disappointed by the ratings? It probably has to do with what I deal with on a day-to-day basis, but I don't process things that way. I don't feel bad. I don't feel angry. I don't feel like I need to point fingers about time slots and things like that."
In January, NBC's Robert Greenblatt addressed the show's ratings slide at TCA. "Obviously we're going to have to see how it plays out the next few months…but it's certainly not anywhere near where we expect it to be," Greenblatt told reporters about The Michael J. Fox Show. Then NBC pulled the show from its schedule. The network has yet to announce when the remaining episodes will air.
"I love this show and I love the people that I work with, and I'd love to continue on with it if that's what happens. I have a feeling of accomplishment, of camaraderie and of affirmation," Fox said. "The hardest thing about doing something is getting started, and once you get started, it gets a life of its own, and you just ride it and see where it takes you. We just have to see where this takes us. But I don't think this journey is finished. I think these episodes, if they're put in a more advantageous spot on the schedule, can attract an audience and keep it."
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)