It’s been a long time coming, but the first season of ABC sitcom Spin City has arrived on DVD. The show ran from 1996 to 2002, with Michael J. Fox starring as Deputy Mayor Mike Flaherty for the first four seasons before he stepped down due to complications from Parkinson’s and was replaced by Charlie Sheen.
More than ten years after the beginning of its run, Spin City feels like it’s following an archaic format – the multi-camera, filmed in front of a live studio audience, traditional sitcom seems so passé. But Spin City is also hilarious – a testament to the strong execution of a formula and the right way to develop an ensemble cast for television.
Creators Gary David Goldberg (Family Ties) and Bill Lawrence (Scrubs) designed the series around Fox, and it would be his last regular acting gig. Fox’s comedic talent has been somewhat forgotten now that his acting has slowed considerably, and re-watching Spin City so many years later is a reminder of just how strong of a presence he carried. It’s a pleasure to watch him work.
The Spin City – The Complete Season One DVD set contains all 24 episodes from season one, and while the show ended up hitting a strong stride in the second and third seasons, Spin City didn’t take too long finding its footing. It plays faithfully to the political show formula – mayor stumbles into some kind of political snafu and his staff has to ward off the press and deal with the ramifications.
There’s nothing revolutionary about the scripts, but the strong cast makes up for it with their endlessly enthusiastic performances. Barry Bostwick (Rocky Horror Picture Show) manages to combine savvy political wisdom with a penchant for being a bit of a doofus as Mayor Randall Winston. The hilarious Richard Kind (Mad About You) often steals the show as bumbling press secretary Paul Lassiter. Michael Boatman (Arli$$) and Alan Ruck (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) play off each other well as polar opposites Carter and Stuart. And Alexander Chaplin, who only lasted on the show about as long as Fox, is consistently funny as small-town speechwriter James Hobert.
Spin City makes good use of every one of the ensemble players while still maintaining Mike’s balance of his personal and professional life as the crux of most storylines. The show was at it’s best in these early years, before the distraction of Heather Locklear’s character and before the Charlie Sheen era when the cast was pared down considerably. The Spin City – The Complete Season One DVD will probably find most of its life from the nostalgia of original fans of the show, but despite its traditional format, it’s a sitcom that has solid staying power. Presumably, Shout Factory will continue to release subsequent Spin City seasons on DVD, and hopefully, the show will find some new fans on DVD. It deserves them.
The special features are well thought out, with a nearly 40-minute collection of brand new interviews from the entire principal cast and crew. It’s not a huge surprise they were able to get these actors, as none of them are too busy these days, but it’s great to see new interviews rather than rehashed material on the DVD set. Additionally, there are episode commentaries on several of the episodes, with most of the principal cast including Fox, contributing to one or more commentaries. Rounding out the special features are excerpts from a 1996 presentation Fox and Goldberg gave to members of the Museum of Television & Radio.
The Spin City – The Complete Season One is a collection of highly entertaining episodes, and a well-produced set. For fans of the show, it’s a must-own.