A few weeks ago I presented my tribute to one of my favorite actors, Christopher Lloyd. Of course one of his most famous roles was in Back to the Future, my favorite movie ever, and today I decided to check out the other half of that starring duo. I present my tribute to Michael J. Fox

Like last time I will be listing the programs and movies I have seen him in. So if I leave off a great or memorable performance it is only because I missed out on it.

 

Michael J. Fox is one of those actors to truly be admired. He can take a horrible project and use his charm to make it likable. He can take a horrible character and make him lovable. He can even take a horrible illness, Parkinson’s Disease, and rather than give up figure out how to overcome it while working for a cure someday. I don’t think it’s possible to see this actor and not enjoy his work. He has won many awards including several Emmy’s and for good reason.

 

He started out in Canada in some forgettable sitcoms before coming over to this country. One very early role was in “Class of 1984” which was a violent movie about a school gang which starred Perry King. I saw it once when at my grandmother’s house, and I was a little young to be seeing that film. I never forgot it (it inspired many stories I would write later on) but I did forget Michael J. Fox was in it. I did remember Rowdy McDowell was and he was good. This movie is way too hard to describe here, it needs its own article but since I saw it I wanted to mention it.

 

Michael J Fox’s breakout role was in a little show you may have heard of, which he catapulted into one of the biggest hits of the 1980’s.

 

Family Ties-What can I say about this show that hasn’t been already said? Actually the truth is the show has not aged well. That makes since the show was firmly entrenched in the 80’s. There is a reason it was canceled in 1989 and why there will never be a reunion. This show embodied everything about the 80’s, and the breakout character was Alex P. Keaton. Conservative, snob, elitist….they all fit. This is one of those characters who should be hated! Yet he was loved, so much so that the show became more about Alex than the parents, who were supposed to be the focus. Yes the show can get corny, but it was a powerhouse comedy in the 80’s and airing right after The Cosby Show was a major part of NBC’s Thursday night lineup. This show was a major part of my childhood. Of course on this show Fox had a girlfriend played by Tracy Pollan, who he just happened to have married in real life and had four kids with. How cool is that?

 

Poison Ivy-I am racking my brain trying to remember if I saw this made for TV movie in 1985. I was a huge fan of Michael J. Fox and Nancy McKeon so I would imagine I did, although my parents were strict about me going to bed when I was that age. This was a silly camp movie, before the much sillier Camp Cucamonga came along (anyone remember that one? I have to do an article on it!). I am going to assume I saw it and keep on here, thought chances are I probably missed it (I missed everything back then!)

 

Night Court-Family Ties was still a fairly new show when this one premiered. One of this first episodes involved a wise cracking runaway who refuses to believe a man claiming to be Santa Claus. Michael J. Fox is darned good in this episode, and it amazes me that when this show aired he had already had enough star power for NBC to get him to guest star. This was a season one episode and if you’ve never seen it, and can find it, check it out. Season 1 of this show was weak as hell but this is one exception.

 

Teen Wolf-This is the first film that Michael J. Fox starred in. Remember what I said about how he could take use his charm to make a horrible project a big hit? Well, here is example number one. This was one of the biggest sleeper hits of 1985. And it was stupid. I mean, it was stupid in a thoroughly enjoyable way, but it was still stupid. Basically Michael J. Fox turns into a wolf due to a family curse and shenanigans ensue. My biggest disappointment in this film is that the wolf disappears for the last fifteen minutes, as the character decided to win the Basketball game as himself. How boring, it becomes another sports movie. Despite that there are some entertaining moments in this film which I have not seen in a very long time.

 

Back to the Future-Have I mentioned this movie yet? I loved this movie. I loved everything about it, and that includes Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly. The funny thing, is that he was not the first actor to the play the character! Ok I am sure everyone knows this story, about how the producers wanted Michael J. Fox but he was doing Family Ties. So they hired Eric Stolz, who sucked. Big shock. They begged Family Ties producers Gary David Goldberg to let Fox do the movie, and the rest is history. I think after doing the embarrassing teen wolf he couldn’t wait to do something respectable. And he was perfect in this role as the wide eyed Marty, just trying to deal with this crazy situation.

 

Family Ties Goes to England-This was another NBC Movie of the week (whatever happened to those?) and I already talked about it so I won’t go into too much detail here. Basically the movie is boring, and all the characters were out of characters especially Alex who becomes a wimp in the film. This was a clichéd 80’s TV movie in every way, even including a jewel heist in the plot, and I just wish it never existed. If you’re curious it is a DVD extra and probably on You Tube, I spent years trying to understand this as a kid and, frankly, still don’t get it.

 

The Secret to My Success-If you’re ever looking for the cheesiest 80’s movie, I direct you to this one. Here is example #2 of how Fox can take a ludicrous plot and make it a hit with his charm and winning smile. This movie has everything, even incest, and was a big hit in 1986. The plot has Michael J. Fox coming to New York City to make it big. The first twenty minutes or so are actually pretty believable. Then it becomes a sex farce. Then the plot turns into one of those “pretending to be someone else” films with Fox pretending to be an executive while also working in the mail room of a huge company. Then a slapstick comedy as he tries to keep everyone from discovering his big secret. There are misunderstandings and all kinds of fun! In between all of this it’s also a romantic comedy, and Helen Slater is the love interest. It even featured the song “Oh Yeah” which was made famous in Ferris Bueller This movie is silly, corny, lame, not realistic….and I loved it when I first saw it. Ah 80’s movies……

 

Back to the Future II & III-What else can I say about these films? The one thing I liked about Back to the Future II was that Fox got the chance to shine playing his own son and daughter, in the same scene! The second film was basically fan service, and I loved it!, and the third film I always had mixed feelings about. Despite my problems with the film, Michael J. Fox makes the movie watchable every time

 

The Hard Way-Hey why not put James Woods and Michael J. Fox in an action movie, and see what happens? I know I saw this movie but don’t remember a thing about it. It was a hit when it first opened but quickly faded away.

 

Saturday Night Live-Michael J. Fox hosted this March 1991 episode which aired right after the end of the Gulf War. The best part of the episode was the monologue which had a spoof of the Back to the Future series. There was also a great sketch about all the problems former child actors seemed to be having at the time. Not the best episode of SNL, but a decent one and worth checking out just to see Michael J. Fox’s portrayal of Dan Quayle in the cold opening.

 

Doc Hollywood-Everyone knows this little movie. It’s about a hot shot doctor who gets stuck in a small country town. This film was one of Woody Harrelson’s first film roles and is pretty well liked. Not by me, I saw this and was bored. It’s not bad, but it didn’t hold my interest very much. It’s a cliché story where the Doc hates where he is but learns to love it, heck just go watch Cars which is the same plot except that was about a race car. This came out the same year as The Hard Way and was a better film, but not one of my favorites.

 

For Love or Money-I will admit it; I saw this only because Michael J. Fox was in it. It’s a very simple romantic comedy with Fox as a concierge who falls for a woman he was pretending to date and it’s just a very basic story with no real suspense. The movie is not awful, but it’s not great either. I also hated the romanticized way they portray New York City in the movie, it’s so fake it’s distracting.

 

Greedy-I saw some of this thanks to my brother who really liked this movie. It’s a silly comedy about a bunch of relatives trying to suck up to a millionaire for an inheritance. It’s basically a slapstick kind of farce with all kinds of characters and silly situations. The film has an all-star cast including Nancy Travis, Phil Hartman, and Kirk Douglas among many others. Not a bad film if you’re looking for a real silly comedy.

 

The American President-Ah, now we’re talking! This is one of my favorite movies, I just love it. And it’s not an epic movie or anything. It’s really just a little romantic comedy about the President, who is a widower, dating a lobbyist. The thing that propels it into something special is the performances. Michael Douglas, Martin Sheen, Annette Benning, and of course Michael J. Fox. In fact Fox may be the one working the hardest in this film, giving some very strong scenes and a very strong speech toward the end. I could talk all day about this little movie, just a great film to watch if you’re looking for something to do on a rainy day.

 

Mars Attacks-I HATED THIS MOVIE!!!!!!! I never even finished it. Michael J. Fox is in it, but not proud of it I imagine.

 

Stuart Little-How could they take such a simple idea and make such a horrible movie? Michael J Fox is fine as the voice of Stuart, but good lord did this movie suck. The worst thing is that Geena Davis is also in it, whatever happened to her? Ok I will be fair, this is a kid’s movie and there are some cute moments. Nathan Lane is funny as the voice of the cat.

 

I am not forgetting Bright Lights Big City, Homeward Bound, Frighteners, Atlantis : The Lost Empire, and Casualties of War I just never saw them.

 

Spin City-I was always amazed that a big star like Fox would come back to network television. I guess that shows how big an ego he has, which is none really. This was another Gary David Goldberg series and I was never a loyal fan, I admit it. I have seen some episodes and it was pretty funny. Fox played the deputy mayor of New York. It had a very strong cast and while the gags were kind of broad they were also clever. Of course Fox left the series when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and his last episode as a regular was one of the most emotional hours of television ever. It felt like we were really saying goodbye to the actor, not just the character, and if you can watch that show without choking up then you are better than I.

Scrubs-This show was definitely unique. It could be funny, even silly, and then hit you with very dark and serious stuff at the same time. For example, Michael J. Fox appeared in a few episodes as a dashing young doctor who everyone loved. He had one little problem, he had a severe case of OCD. I would imagine being a doctor with OCD would be hard, and as we see in the episodes it is not an easy thing to live with. Fox was brilliant in his episodes, and really did a good job conveying what a struggle OCD is to live with.

 

Most recently he has appeared on “The Good Wife” which stars Juliana Margulies. He appeared in a few episodes as an unscrupulous lawyer. He also appeared in Curb Your Enthusiasm last year. As much as I hate to admit I have not seen much of his recent work. I have read that he is to star in a new series next year on NBC, and you know I will be checking that out. Michael J. Fox is one of my favorite actors, he was a big part of my childhood and I still enjoy him as an adult. I hope he will be around for many more years so that others can enjoy his amazing talent.

By richb

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