Friday, December 29, 2017

The Michael J. Fox Show: "Christmas"

Premiered December 12, 2013.

For those who missed it, The Michael J. Fox Show ran for 14 episodes during the 2013-14 TV season. It focused on the life of newscaster Mike Henry, and his family.  Mike has recently returned to the news biz after taking time off to deal with Parkinson's disease. 

On their first Christmas together, Mike Henry (Michael J. Fox) and his wife Annie (Betsy Brandt) were too poor to buy each other Christmas presents.  Now, they every Christmas they try to out-do each other, in order to see who can give the gift with the most "wow factor."   Mike has gotten Annie a gold turtle necklace, since "turtle" is his nickname for her, since she is "resilient but vulnerable." Since Mike is a huge fan of Sting's music, Annie has hired Sting to perform in their home. 

Their daughter Eve (Juliette Goglia) is questioning her spiritual identity.  She recently attended a Hanukkah party and is highly critical of the material side of Christmas.  Eve has taken an interest in Judaism and begins to sprinkle her conversations with Yiddish slang. 

When their older son Ian (Conor Romero) tries to get his younger brother Graham to participate in holiday traditions (like making cookies and writing a letter to Santa), Graham (Jack Gore) acts disinterested.  This makes Ian worry that Graham has stopped believing in "the magic of Christmas" and is determined to make sure his younger brother retains his Yuletide spirit.  Graham wants a toy called Spacefish, so Ian is determined to scour the city to find the present.

Plans begin to go awry when Mike's assistant Kay (Ana Nogueira) gives him an expensive personalized brief case.  Since Mike is worried his gift for Kay (a Starbucks gift card) isn't good enough, he gives Kay the turtle necklace.  Mike now has nothing for Annie and sends Eve in search of another necklace.  Making matters worse, Kay dumps her fiance Kevin (Vandit Bhatt) because his gift was far inferior.

Sting arrives at the Henry's apartment.  Unfortunately, Mike is delayed due to being stranded at the news bureau by a snowstorm.  Annie is forced the hang out alone with Sting.  During their conversations, it becomes obvious that she knows nothing about Sting's music, since she was "more of a hair band girl."  This appears to disappoint Sting and their interactions are extremely awkward.

Ian's attempts to find a Spacefish come up empty, since it's Christmas Eve and all the stores are sold out.  His aunt Leigh (Katie Finneran) tells him not to worry, she knows a guy who sells things that "fall off trucks."  Ian is desperate enough to accept Leigh's offer.  Ian is directed to visit a diner and ask for  a man named Chris (J.B. Adams).  It turns out that "Chris" bears a striking resemblance to a certain resident of the North Pole.

Will the Henry family's Christmas plans work out?

J.A. Morris says:
I enjoyed The Michael J. Fox Show during its brief run and I think this is a solid Christmas episode.  I'm not sure why the show failed, but I'd guess that viewers in 2013 were tired of shows that used the "fake documentary" format of characters speaking to an unseen interviewer.

Mike and Annie's Christmas tradition of one-upping each other sounds materialistic but in context is actually very sweet.

I particularly liked Ian's concern over Graham losing the Christmas spirit.  Older siblings are often seen bullying younger ones in TV comedies or ruining Santa for them, so this represents a nice change of pace.

Eve's "spiritual crisis" is mostly played for laughs, but the commercialization of Christmas is sometimes enough to make even the most faithful observers question the point of Christmas.

Fans of Wendell Pierce's work in dramas like Treme and The Wire may be surprised to see Pierce act in a comedy series.  Pierce, as Mike's boss Harris Green, has some of the funniest lines in "Christmas."

Sting is a good sport here, acting let down when Annie ignorant about his music.

"Christmas" features a story that's both funny and touching, something that's difficult to pull off.  If you've never seen this series, I think it's a good "starter" episode.

J.A. Morris's rating:


3 and a half candy canes.

RigbyMel says: 

"Christmas" is a solid episode of a sweet sitcom that was still finding its feet and was not allowed to do so due to its cancellation.

Yes, the storylines are a bit predictable, but holiday entertainment tends to fall into this "comfort food" sort of category and there is much to enjoy here.

Competitive gifting is a trope in holiday shows because it occurs in real life - this episode invites us to laugh at Mike and Annie's attempts while also showing that their gifting comes from really caring about each other.   Side note:  if someone wanted to get Sting to come to my house as a Christmas present,  I would certainly not object!!!

We also get a time honored "getting stuck at the office" at Christmas segment, which harks back to similar instances of TV holiday celebrations -- most notably an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which also takes place in a newsroom.

Teen daughter Eve comes off as well intentioned but a bit clueless with her flirtation with Chhh-anukkah (as she pronounces it) and Judaism.   There's a great scene where a Jewish cab driver gives her food for thought about what's good about the holidays.

As J.A. Morris says, the B-plot with Ian trying to keep Christmas magical for his little brother Graham is adorable and a bit unusual for sitcom sibling relationships at the holidays.

Sting performs "August Winds", a song from his album The Last Ship which was released a couple of months before this episode aired.  It's a pretty song,  but I think in the context of a holiday themed episode, I'd prefer to have seen him do something a bit more Chirstmas-y -  there are several previous holiday recordings he could choose from.   That being said,  he's a very good sport playing along with the running gag about Annie professing not to know his music at all and Aunt Leigh's confusing him with Billy Joel.

This may not be a classic holiday episode per se,  but it's worth checking out if you have the inclination.

RigbyMel's rating :


2 and a half candy canes

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