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'The Michael J. Fox Show'

The new comedy debuts Thursday, Sept. 26 at 9 p.m. on NBC

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Michael J. Fox has lots of awkward stories to share about Parkinson’s? like the time he inadvertently dialed 911 instead of the area code 917 and the authorities came bursting into his New York home. Or how strangers will approach him to share sad stories about completely unrelated diseases. Or the time his wife, actress Tracy Pollan, mocked his attempt at a personal victory when he took too long to serve himself some food. ”It could take potentially three minutes to get eggs from here to there,” Fox, 52, explains. ”It’s just fact. And when you deal with that fact, it’s funny. The context here is that nothing is sacred.”

Especially if it could mean another amusing moment for his eponymous NBC show — his first regular series role since leaving Spin City in 2000. Much of his new single-camera comedy — which follows New York news anchor Mike Henry (Fox), who returns to work while managing his Parkinson’s at the urging of his wife, Annie (Breaking Bad‘s Betsy Brandt), three kids, and former boss Harris (The Wire‘s Wendell Pierce) — draws heavily on Fox’s real-life experiences as a happily married family man who isn’t defined by his condition. ”For 20 years he’s been gathering material,” says exec producer Will Gluck (Easy A). ”The spigot is wide open. He’s very open to share.”

Fox is also eager to work regularly — something he discovered while booking guest-star roles on The Good Wife (he’s once again up for an Emmy for his turn as attorney Louis Canning), Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Rescue Me. All the gigs incorporated his Parkinson’s into the story lines, and the result was gold. ”I just thought, ‘Why am I not doing more of this?’ It’s what I do, and recent experience tells me I can do it,” says Fox, who may return to The Good Wife this season if his schedule allows it. ”I thought about being that guy on Law & Order who shows up and gives Sam Waterston s— at the beginning of the second act by saying, ‘Here’s why the case doesn’t work.’ But I didn’t want to be that guy once a week. I realized I could take on more. To start off playing a young man on Family Ties, then someone in early middle age on Spin City, then a father on this show was a nice transition for me.”

While the show will lean on Parkinson’s for laughs in the pilot, the health-related humor will taper off as the series progresses. ”He leads with that stuff to make you feel okay,” explains exec producer Sam Laybourne. ”If you hit people very quickly with that, you disarm them. Some complications may be because of Parkinson’s, but the motor of the episodes is never Parkinson’s.” As when Mike falls asleep while interviewing New Jersey governor Chris Christie (who guests as himself), or spars with a new anchor/old nemesis played by Anne Heche. Even when the jokes do stem from Parkinson’s, Fox says fans shouldn’t feel any guilt about laughing. ”They shouldn’t think, ‘Did I do something wrong?’ My late, great friend [and Family Ties creator] Gary David Goldberg used to say, ‘You can’t take back a laugh.’ It’s out there and too late.”