Michael J. Fox, the #Parkinson’s cause and me

Michael J.  Fox, god bless him, should win a medal one day for all the good he’s done to advance the cause of Parkinson’s research.    As I wrote in The Fiscal Times, the community could not have asked for a better spokesman.

His “Q Score,” a measure of celebrity awareness and likeability, stands at 28 percent, nearly double the 16 percent average. A whopping 88 percent of adults aged 18 and older know who Fox is, more than double 31 percent average for other celebrities.

My one quibble with Fox is that “The Michael J. Fox Show” is  a mediocre effort.    As a Parkie — Parkinson’s sufferer — I wasn’t expecting every episode to be an infomercial about my disease.  What I was hoping for was some laughs, which have been lacking.  The first two episodes were disappointing.  I thought the third one was a little better.

Maybe the show will get better over time.  Maybe it won’t.

But the fact that millions of people are now aware of Parkinson’s that weren’t before is a good thing.

And if Michael J. Fox or any of his people happen to be reading this blog, I think I have got some ideas that can save your show.

Call me. :)

#Newspapers ain’t dead yet

In my first piece for Investopedia, I note that stock of newspaper publishers have been doing surprisingly well even though the fundamentals for the industry remain horrible.  From the story:

Indeed, the sector that every investing pundit loves to hate has been beaten to a bloody pulp over the last few years is starting to show signs of life, faint though they may be. Some investors, such as Warren Buffett see value here. Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, the soon-to-be-owner of the Washington Post, seems to as well as does Southeastern Asset Management, a hedge fund that recently disclosed a 12% stake in the new News Corp. (NYSE:NWS), Rupert Murdoch’s print holdings such as the Wall Street Journal.

Just to be clear, I am not saying that good times are near just less godawful ones.   Publishers are diversifying into faster-growing businesses such as television.   Some papers such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times are benefiting from paywalls. The Washington Post didn’t start charging to access its website until this year, a huge blunder.

Attention #BarneyMiller fans: I need your help

Few people know that getting “Barney Miller”, one of the most popular and groundbreaking television programs of the 1970s and 1980s, on the air was nothing short of a miracle.   This is a largely unknown story that I want to tell in a book I am planning to write.l

Executive Producer Danny Arnold, a largely unknown sitcom pioneer, who pushed “Barney Miller” to address many hot-button political issues including gay rights, one of the first shows to do so. He clashed with ABC, which aired the show for 8 seasons and even threatened to pull the show from the network if he didn’t get his way.

Arnold’s story is a complex one. On the one hand, he could be charming and generous, lavishing extravagant gifts such as an Aston Martin on people who worked for him. But many found him to be intimidating. He was known to have unpredictable, volcanic mood swings. Few were spared his wrath, even people who he otherwise liked. Arnold had a low opinion of the human race and often said that smiling was a sign of stupidity.

A perfectionist who demanded so many changes to scripts at the last minute that they were never completed before an episode was filmed, Arnold drove the cast and crew crazy, He also snuck off the watch the races at Santa Anita when otherwise should have been working. To top it off, Arnold had to cope with feuds among the cast and a decade-long legal fight over the show’s ownership with co-creator Theodore J. Flicker which he lost at a cost of millions. He died in 1995.

As an award-winning journalist who has written about the media for more than a decade, I am qualified to tell the “Barney Miller” story. My book will offer the first comprehensive account of the “Barney Miller” story, which has been told so far on a piecemeal basis in anthologies. have interviewed members of the cast and crew along with scholars who will help me put the show in its proper historical context.

I want to hear from “Barney Miller” fans.  What   What have you always want to know about the show?  What are your favorite episodes?  What were the qualities about the show you especially liked?

By the way, Abe Vigoda is alive, at least he was when I spoke with him a few months ago.   The clip I put in this post is from the classic “Hash Brownies” episode, one of the many “Barney Miller” classics.  Enjoy.