New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – the darling of NBC, having recently appeared on Saturday Night Live, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon – appears in an upcoming episode of NBC’s new Michael J. Fox comedy series but immediately puts Fox to sleep, the actor explained this morning. Fox plays a version of himself on The Michael J. Fox Show – a well-known, much-loved personality, suffering from Parkinson’s Disease living in Manhattan. Except his Michael Henry character isn’t a beloved former TV comedy and movie actor — he’s a local newscaster. In one of the early episodes, Henry lands a big interview with Christie but, having been up a couple days straight, falls asleep in the first moments of the interview.
Henry works at the NBC owned-and-operated station in the country’s No. 1 market. Fox explained at TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2013 this morning that the show creators were looking for a way to have the character be “recognizable, but not make him an actor or an athlete – an actor would be boring and athlete would be impossible.”
Henry works at the NBC station because “a fictional television network didn’t give us 22 episodes,” series co-creator/exec producer Will Gluck joked-but-not-really. Struggling Today Show anchors Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie are featured in the pilot – and they could show up going forward said Fox, in which case the show would be “not doing it to save them” but to service the primetime show, that’s been given a plum Thursday timeslot. Fox, who stepped down from his last TV series starring role, on ABC’s Spin City when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, said that coming back to the work schedule “I knew one of two things would happen: either I was going to atrophy as I went on in the year, or rebuild the muscles. And I’m finding I’m rebuilding the muscles. I’m more comfortable with the schedule every week.”
Anne Heche, who was not on the panel, will play Henry’s nemesis and a news anchor who, 20 years earlier, used Henry to further her career. Fox’s wife, Tracy, with whom he starred on Family Ties, has made a guest appearance on his new show; Fox said he’d love to take advantage of other relationships from his Family Ties and Spin City days. Asked how the show came together, co-creator Will Gluck joked, “I really wanted to do a show about a guy with Parkinson’s, and a couple of people passed.”