After weeks of hype, I looked forward to seeing two characters with disabilities in prime time this fall in Ironside and The Michael J. Fox Show. After seeing each pilot episode, I thought the drama far outdid the comedy. It wasn’t that the police show dazzled, but the situation comedy came up small.
Ironside’s premier was pretty good despite some questionable accessibility issues. The main character, whose name gives the show its title, seems to have a lot of people to do the leg work—no pun intended, I swear—for him, and I’m not sure how well that will play out. He seemed to get around the city a little too easily, and the one scene where he saw a gun under a sofa cushion because of his eye level being in a wheelchair was totally overplayed. Overall though, the character seemed very strong and the focus on the typical crime drama story, which carries every TV lineup these days, will hopefully keep the show on the air long enough for the character to develop. It was also good to see the character involved with a woman without any doubt that they are having sex.
Maybe my expectations for the Fox show were too high, but it had a weak start. Bottom line, the comedy just wasn’t funny. I kind of excused the pilot because there was a need to introduce the character and his Parkinson’s disease. There were some fairly predictable cracks about the disability, but nothing that deserved more than a guffaw.
NBC ran two episodes of the show on its first night, and the second one was where disappointment started to settle in. Not only wasn’t it offering any real laughs, the premise was downright awkward. The Fox character, whose married with two children, became infatuated with the new upstairs neighbor. It may sound hypocritical after what I said about Ironside, but the awkwardness had nothing to do with the disability. The adulation eventually played out right in front of his wife. I’m never big on the word dude. In fact, I only know one person who can use it and not sound like an idiot. But it was the ultimate dude moment—as in, “Dude, you’re wife is right there. What the hell are ya doing?”
I really do hope Fox bounces back with a strong episode this week. We need good, realistic characters with disabilities in prime time. It’s a little disappointing to me that both characters became disabled later in life as opposed to being born with a disability. I think the two experiences have some major differences, and I hope to see the latter eventually appear on television. It’s not that I have any problem with the former, and those stories certainly need to be told as well.
But I’m glad to see these two characters on the air and hope they last awhile. My guess is Ironside has a better chance of making that happen based on what I’ve seen so far on.