Post #98: He’s Back!

Things you should be watching

Michael-J-Fox-michael-j-fox-11265218-1280-960When I was a kid I had the biggest crush on Michael J. Fox. If you’re interested, I’m straight. Not that it matters. But I do mention it if only to enforce and convey the depths of Fox’s pull over my psyche and general affection when I was younger. I loved him completely. His mannerisms. His timing. His mildly raspy voice. There was always something incredibly reassuring and comforting to me when he was on screen. And for my money, Fox is the most gifted television actor of his generation, and one of the most imminently likable screen presences of the last thirty years, if not of all time.

Family Ties was on when I was the perfect age for Family Ties to be on. Smack in the sweet spot of its target audience, I gobbled it up, along with Growing Pains and Different Strokes and The Cosby Show and other mid 80s sitcoms that dominated my early adolescent viewing. And among all the great characters at that time, including Cliff Huxtable himself, Alex P. Keaton, played by Michael J. Fox, was hands down the best character on television. And the best television acting performance of the entire decade. You could disagree with me, but you’d be wrong. Once in a while I still catch a random re-run of Family Ties and though it can get by on nostalgia alone, it’s Fox’s work on the show that nudges it past the soppy kitsch it would otherwise be relegated to, and moves it nearly to the point of art. Nearly. He’s that good.

In the late 90’s, Fox returned to television  as New York City deputy mayor Mike Flaherty on Spin City, a criminally underrated turn that, while mired in a show that was, in truth, only pretty good, saw Fox’s comedic genius on display week after glorious week.

To Wit:

Of course, we all know what happened next. Fox, who had been for years hiding the fact that he had Parkinson’s disease, had to leave Spin City, and his career in acting, both to deal with his illness and because it’s tough to get work as a guy with shaky hands and features that are aging prematurely. I won’t elucidate the details of Fox’s very public and refreshingly honest approach to dealing with his disease and trying to find a cure. Suffice to say it’s been otherworldly. If you’re curious, check out his foundation.
But I digress. What I’m actually here to tell you is that my world was positively rocked the other day when I learned that Michael J. Fox is returning to television full time!!! Yeah, I just threw down three exclamation points. And you wanna know why? I wanted to make damn sure you could feel my excitement coming off the screen at you. NBC has created a new starring vehicle for Fox. Check it.

Time will tell if the show is any good. It actually looks all right and seems to mesh Fox’s natural comedic chops with the aesthetic drive of how he’s tackled Parkinson’s. The truth is that I don’t even care if the show is good. I’m just glad Michael J. Fox is back where he belongs.

Because in truth, I’ve never really gotten over that crush.

Post #76: Nicholas David, A Tribute


thevoice2012p-1727795142291215960-1Yes, I watch The Voice. Yes, I love The Voice. Yes, I have a problem. No, I don’t care if you’re making fun of me right now. Go ahead. Shannon and I started watching the reality singing competition at its inception and have religiously watched all three seasons so far, cheering as Javier (Season 1), Jermaine (Season 2), and recently Cassadee took home the prize. I don’t care what anyone says, it’s a great show. Sure, it’s as rife with shameless product placement as the next reality show. Sometimes, the whole show feels like one interminable commercial for the coaches (Cee-Lo Green, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, and Christina Aguilera) or the special musical guests, and when that part becomes particularly icky, when the commercial break just happens to be plugging the new CD by the special guest who just performed, I occasionally start cracking wise. But most of the time, The Voice, more than anything, is a full on love fest. I’m serious. The Voice has got to be just about the most positive, affirming reality show ever made. Nobody ever gets cut down. Nobody is ever embarrassed just because. People are encouraged, given constructive criticism, and, if they progress deep into the competition, are granted the space, time, nurturing, and corporate muscle to turn them into legitimate stars. Most reality shows’ sole purpose is to create an apparatus to humiliate its contestants. To see what stupid and erroneous things they’ll do to get famous. The Voice only rewards. Yes, there are winners and losers. Yes, the early going features “knockout rounds” but even when parting ways with an outgoing guest who just choked on live television, the show wraps everybody up in a big Cee-Lo bear hug and, almost stubbornly, remains a positive space for its cast and for the viewers.

I write not just to praise The Voice overall, but to praise Nicholas David, who came in third in the recently ended Season 3 competition. In the past, I’ve enjoyed and gotten attached to some Voice contestants, but even in the early going of this season, I was invested in Nicholas’s growth and wanting him to win this show. At times, I felt ashamed at how much I wanted him to win. You wanna know how much I wanted him to win? I actually voted. I’ve never voted for anything that wasn’t an election in my life. You know how during the Olympics, you watch those little human interest stories and learn about the teenaged backstroker’s life outside the pool, and then when the big race comes you’re sweating and screaming at the television for her to take home the gold? How uplifted you feel when she wins? How crestfallen when she doesn’t? It was kind of like that. I was also rooting for Nicholas because, looks wise, he’s about the last guy who ever has a chance of winning a reality television show, where though the playing field appears to be “even,” the best looking people somehow always seem to rise to the top. Nicholas is a timeless soul singer wrapped in a chubby, gangly, geeky white guys body. He wears a lot of rings and beads and swag, but the captain of a neighborhood Dungeons and Dragons club is still under there. When he sings, he kicks his leg out in the most awkward way. He says “yeah, baby,” a lot. Bows in this weird, Budda like way. Started wearing his hair in a freaky Barry Gibb thing. But week after week, I’d watch him progress, rise to the pressure, and totally slay whatever song he took on, from “Lean on Me” to “September” to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to “You Are So Beautiful.” His version of the latter literally made me cry. Twice. The guy has pipes so soulful and pure America looked way the hell past his looks and almost crowned him the champ. He used to be way overweight and a heavy drinker and, it would seem, many times came close to giving up on his dreams. He had a few kids and watched his singing career drift away from him like a detached thought balloon. You watch this guy sing, so much better than 99% of the shit that passes for popular music and you start swearing there’s no justice in the world. Or maybe there is just a bit. Because I’m sitting here writing about him, singing his praises. Singing, get it?

Now, let’s say you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, but for some reason you’ve read this far anyway out of blind loyalty, or strange curiosity, then let me reward your patience with some samples of Nicholas’s performances from the show. I dare you not to fall in love with this guy.