The Michael J. Fox Show ended a three-week vacation (because of Thanksgiving and The Sound of Music Live) with “Christmas,” and it seems in that short time the series forgot how to walk. The show continued its regression from the awful “Thanksgiving” episode to the point of utter incompetence. This episode lacked in pretty much every fundamental area of a sitcom, but primarily in cohesion and humor.
“Christmas,” as the title suggests, begins with the Henry family detailing their Christmas plans and setting up various learning opportunities for Ian and Eve, the latter of whom has apparently reach the point on the archetypal Angsty Teen Cycle where she rags against the consumerist nature of Christmas. Unfortunately, unlike Graham in “Homecoming,” she merely pontificates and vaguely converts to Judaism in her own mind (because that’s totally how it works, and Jews do not have a highly commercialized winter holiday, apparently). Her conversion entails reading Without Feathers (already getting off on a bad foot) and speaking like an extra from Fiddler on the Roof. The premise might have skirted being offensive if the jokes were even remotely amusing, but they were just a series of underdeveloped, greeting-card clichés. Eventually it takes a Jewish cabbie to convince her that the spirit of Christmas is what makes the holiday special, not the gifts.
In another part of Manhattan, Ian swings the opposite direction from Eve and hunts down a popular toy for Graham, à la Jingle All the Way. This is largely boring filler that doesn’t even benefit from an Arnold Schwarzenegger-Sinbad fight at the end, but Ian’s storyline, much like Eve’s, serves to teach him about the Christmas spirit. When Ian is unable to track down Graham’s toy, Leigh tips him off to a guy who knows a guy (tragically not a warehouse full of sleazy conmen in red suits!), who ends up looking like Santa and gives Ian the toys free of charge. As it turns out, it’s all an elaborate ruse by his mother to keep the magic alive, but Ian believes it’s actually Santa. This probably explains why he flunked out of Cornell.
While the Henry children are busy learning about the spirit of Christmas, Mike and Annie spend the bulk of the episode tediously attempting damage control on their gifts for each other. Mike, wowed by an inappropriately extravagant gift from his assistant, Kay (it’s okay, I forgot about her, too!), gives her the gift he had intended for Annie. He then must track down a replacement while subbing for Susan, who called in sick. Of course, Annie’s gift for Mike (Sting, in what I guess is technically stunt casting) is time-sensitive, which only exacerbates this already impossibly contrived scenario. When Mike is held indefinitely at the station, Annie and Sting head to him to deliver the gift because, as the one terrible joke the writers left out might go, “You can’t play the lute and be a diva.” The entire Sting storyline is long and bizarre, but it does yield a couple good jokes from Leigh and Harris, who remain consistent in their value to the show.
It’s alarming that halfway through the first season The Michael J. Fox Show would assemble its most disjointed, least funny episode to date, especially considering it had shown real progress prior to “Thanksgiving.” But if this is how all holidays are with the Henrys, we can only hold out hope they’re not planning anything for New Year’s.