After four episodes it’s become clear that The Michael J. Fox Show is a time capsule of sitcom staples. A lot of what is put into the Thursday night sitcom is rehashes of tried and true story lines and last night’s episode “Hobbies” enforced this. Focusing mainly on Michael’s in office rivalry with an old colleague, Susan Rodriguez-Jones (Anne Heche) this was the classic work place rivalry. You can always make something good out of these situations but “Hobbies” chose to go the straight and narrow resulting in a rather mediocre but sometimes funny episode.
The show is always a breezy 30 minutes and despite seeming old fashioned it fits perfectly into the current trend of NBC comedies. Fox still delivers the quips and wry humor he is known for and that is why it’s easy to watch this show despite being a tad run of the mill. Tonight the run of the mill workplace rivalry is perpetuated by placing Fox in the already sympathetic slot and Heche into the overly aggressive and sometimes insane bully saving face value to the rest of the newsroom. These kinds of rivalries need to be handled with care and realistically the best aren’t good versus bad they are simply flawed individuals acting as combatants. Jim and Dwight of The Office always showed this by constantly upping the ante but here it’s a series of jabs and shouting matches in private. You can tell this is television because none of this would fly in the real world and most likely someone would be fired already.
The resentment on Michael’s part seems so cut and dry as you would expect a hint of jealousy towards Susan. She has been on the rise in his absence but the story keeps going back to an incident in the Florida everglades when Susan left Mike stuck in the swamps. This would be a tad boring if it wasn’t for the presence of Heche who despite phoning in some obvious traits is still entertaining. She is still always welcome to any cast as her numerous television appearances over the years have shown and despite being a rather transparent character I hope they can build her character well.
The main sub plot of this episode involved Mike and Annie’s insistence on Henry finding a hobby (hence the obvious title) as he spends too much time fiddling with his video game. Mike wants him to play hockey and Anne wants him to take up pottery which the extremes of that situation seem odd. Ultimately both parents choose these hobbies to benefit themselves more than Henry’s. It’s a mundane situation that is perpetuated by Mike’s questioning his young son’s level of masculinity. It’s also nice to see Fox’s love of hockey brought into frame and the guy still has the chops to play on the ice.
There were some funny one-liners and situations. Watching Betsy Brandt dive into the notion of the Ghost pottery treatment was rather amusing and you can tell she is happy to be on a show where no one dies for once. Eve’s storyline involving Leigh teaching her how to fight back through Twitter had its merits but mostly for the awkwardness of watching Eve run. I don’t think anyone actually runs this way but hey this is a comedy so roll with it.
It’s easy to dissect episodes like “Hobbies” because there is no weight to The Michael J. Fox show which is both a good and a bad thing. It’s fun but not always funny and this episode showed where you can have a rehashed storyline that can and can’t work given the right opportunities.