By Scott Collins
3:26 PM CDT, September 25, 2013
Michael J. Fox was a huge TV star back in the 1980s and '90s. But can he do it again?
The 52-year-old star returns Thursday night in "The Michael J. Fox Show," the NBC comedy in which he plays a middle-aged broadcaster angling for a career comeback after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
That plot line of course parallels the real life of Fox, the former star of "Family Ties" and "Spin City," who disclosed his Parkinson's diagnosis in 1999 and shortly thereafter cut back on his acting.
So can he return to TV stardom more than a decade after setting it aside? Maybe -- but it probably won't be like it was before. And the challenges he'll face on that front have nothing to do with his illness -- which, by the way, he says is under control with medication and rest.
The good news for Fox and company is that reviewers seem to be warming up to the show, which has averaged a fairly decent 65 rating on the review aggregation site Metacritic. "It's more likable than funny, but it has a very clear sense of what it wants to do," critic Alan Sepinwall wrote, expressing a common sentiment among reviewers.
The bad news for Fox? It's not 1983 -- or 1993 -- anymore. It's much harder for a network comedy to break through these days, when fans can slip off to watch "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" on FX, "Arrested Development" on Netflix, and so on.
And then NBC hasn't done the show many favors with scheduling. "Michael J. Fox" will air at 9:30 p.m. Thursdays, between another new comedy, "Sean Saves the World," and the perennially ratings-challenged "Parenthood." It will directly compete with "Two and a Half Men" on CBS, not to mention "Grey's Anatomy" on ABC and "Glee" on Fox.
A scheduling sweet spot? Um, no. It's the same spot "Parks and Recreation" was in last fall -- and it struggled there, too.
NBC may get an initial burst of curiosity and nostalgic affection for Fox, then. But over the long haul, "The Michael J. Fox" is going to walk a very tough road.
What do you think of Fox and his new project?
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