“It’s definitely an increased workload but it’s a lot of fun,” Fox told HuffPost TV about his return to series television. “I can’t say I had forgotten how much I enjoyed working, but it reinforced to me that it was something that I really loved and missed and it’s been a great experience.”
The family comedy takes a page from Fox’s real life: He plays Mike Henry, a beloved New York City newscaster with Parkinson’s who leaves his job to spend more time with his family. “Breaking Bad” star Betsy Brandt plays his English teacher wife Annie and Wendell Pierce plays his old boss Harris Green — and they’re both trying to get Mike out of the house and back to work for their own reasons.
“I’m just trying to get Michael back on the air because he was a popular anchor … I, like all news directors, am looking at numbers and ratings,” Pierce told HuffPost TV.
As for Brandt’s big shift from dark drama on “Breaking Bad” to comedy, she seems thrilled: “I get to laugh so much at work,” Brandt said. And as for working with Fox: “I looked up to him for a long time, and I still do — to be able to work with him is just phenomenal.”
“He’s not defined by his condition. He is a really talented actor and a very funny man,” Pierce said of how the show will handle the character’s — and the actor’s — Parkinson’s.
The cast is rounded out with another familiar face and some newcomers: Katie Finneran plays Mike’s sister Leigh, Juliette Goglia is daughter Eve, Conor Romero is son Ian and Jack Gore is youngest child Graham. And since the show is partly based on Fox’s real home life, Fox admitted he sometimes takes experiences from his family and brings them to the show.
“But I do it in a way, like, ‘How can we mutate this in a way to work with the TV family?’ So there’s plausible deniability,” Fox said. “There’s nothing we can directly trace [back to my real family] and say that happened to this kid.”
His TV kids don’t seem to mind — but are they aware of his TV legend status? And Brandt’s darker work?
“It’s awesome that Michael is a legend in the comedy world and Betsy is coming from a very serious show and coming into the comedy world,” Romero told HuffPost TV. “You get to take things from the two of them, use them, steal them and play off them, which is awesome.”
“Michael has this huge career that he’s had for years. He’s such a legend. It’s really awesome hearing stories from the “Back to the Future” set when he was working on “Family Ties” at the same time, and barely sleeping,” Goglia said. “And working with Betsy — like everyone else in the world, I’m a huge ‘Breaking Bad’ fan and I feel really cool because I get my own special interviews with her because she loves talking about it … it’s pretty cool to get insight into some of my favorite pieces of work.”
No family sitcom is complete without the somewhat wacky sidekick character, which is where Finneran comes in. The Tony-winning actress said she did some research into the comedic sitcom sidekick. “I love Sean Hayes. We actually got to know each other, we did a show called ‘Promises, Promises’ a couple of years ago. I got to pick his brain about how he works and what he does. I love great sidekick parts,” she said. “I really wanted to make her not too obnoxious, so I’ve really been working on that. I don’t know if I succeeded or not.”
One thing’s clear about this cast: they genuinely seem to be having fun. “I so love this job and I love this group,” Brandt said on the red carpet of NBC’s fall TV launch party. “I want it to be a huge, huge hit. I was just saying if we could come out like ‘The Cosby Show’ or ‘Family Ties,’ I would be forever happy. I’ll probably be forever happy because that’s just how I roll.”
“The Michael J. Fox Show” one-hour premiere airs at 9 p.m. ET on Thursday, Sept. 26 on NBC and moves to its regular 9:30 p.m. ET timeslot the following week.
A Bold Policy on Coal-Fired-Plants
Just two weeks ago, China announced a ban on the construction of new coal-fired power plants in three areas of the country with severe air pollution.
TheGreenGrok gave China high marks for adopting the policy: any policy that limits the use of coal, the dirtiest of the fossil fuels, is a step in the right direction. In the case of power plants the gains on the climate front are huge — natural gas produces about half as much carbon dioxide (CO2) basis as coal on a BTU to BTU basis.
But there was a caveat. The policy is a step in the right direction only if it actually leads to less coal usage on a net basis. If coal that would have been burned in the three affected regions ends up being used elsewhere, it’s another example of greenwashing á la the tried-and-true bait and switch. And the caveat is a biggie for China, a country with huge coal reserves.
So, is China really contemplating eschewing coal for cleaner fuels to address environmental issues like climate change? An article just out in the journal Nature Climate Change by my colleagues Chi-Jen Yang and Rob Jackson at Duke suggests that the answer is no.
Coal-Syngas Plans Would More Than Cancel Benefits from a Ban on Coal-fired Plants
Yang and Jackson report that China has approved a plan to develop a huge set of facilities designed to convert coal into synthetic natural gas. The process essentially involves placing coal, water and oxygen under high pressure and temperature until the coal releases a raw gas that can be separated into different components. The raw gas is further treated to remove impurities and produce methane or synthetic natural gas (syngas).
The plan is to use the syngas to fuel power plants designed to burn natural gas. Now, at first glance that might seem to be fine — after all, natural gas is a relatively “clean” fossil fuel — but in this case we’re talking about natural gas derived from coal.
Yang and Jackson write that the “life-cycle [greenhouse gas] GHG emissions [from syngas] are roughly seven times that of conventional natural gas.” If the syngas is used to produce electricity, “its life-cycle GHG emissions are ~36-82% higher than pulverized-coal-fired power.”
And without pollution controls for mercury and acid gases at the gasification plants, this process isn’t cleaner, meaning poor air quality will be part of the bargain. And if all that’s not bad enough, the plants are water-intensive, using 50 to 100 times more water to produce a unit of methane as compared to shale gas.
The Land of Contradiction
Currently nine syngas plants in the arid northwestern parts of the country have been approved, with an additional 30+ in the planning stages. The authors estimate that if just the nine approved plants are built, they would emit 21 billion metric tons of CO2 as compared to three billion metric tons that a conventional natural gas plant would emit over a plant’s roughly 40-year lifetime. Further, should all these plants be built, “emissions would be an astonishing ~110 billion tonnes of CO2 over 40 years.”
Could it be that China has failed to account for emissions from gasification in its climate action plan or has Beijing come under the spell of the clean coal hype? Or is it just a case of China talking green while walking further and further down coal-emission road?
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