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STUDIO: Shout Factory
RATED: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 630 minutes
• Commentary on six episodes by cast and crew
• Prime Time Partners – Michael J. Fox and Gary David Goldberg: from a 1996 presentation at the Paley Center for Media
• Team Fox: Supporting the Michael J. Fox Foundation
• The Spin: All new interviews with Michael J. Fox and cast and crew
Politics is a dirty business, and subsequently a funny one.
Michael J. Fox, Carla Gugino, Richard Kind, Alan Ruck, Michael Boatman, Connie Britton, Alexander Chaplin, Barry Bostwick.
I’ve always liked Michael J. Fox’s work, going back to the beginning with Family Ties. Throughout his career he’s been very adept at comic timing and owning the characters he portrays. He’s kind of specialized, both in TV and movies, in representing self-assured characters that are just south of arrogant (except for Alex Keaton, who personified the word). Spin City is essentially the last project on which he worked before discovering that he had contracted Parkinson’s Disease. In fact, it was that very same malady that forced his resignation from the show as his symptoms continued to deteriorate. But when he started the show, he was still that same old Fox that we all new and loved. And his Michael Flaherty was a grown up Alex Keaton-lite: not quite so abrasive and nowhere near as conservative, but still good at what he did and able to center a sitcom and make it entertaining.
Spin City benefited from not only Fox’s work on the show, but also the cast of comedy veterans who could hold their own with him. A typical episode would center around the staff trying to solve some goof or gaffe by the mayor, while mixing in fast-paced comedic banter between Flaherty and the staff. Alan Ruck portrayed the sexist Stuart Bondek, Richard Kind was the suck-up coward press secretary, Paul Lassiter, Michael Boatman was Carter Heywood, an acid-tongued gay staffer, and Alexander Chaplin was the naive and gullible speech writer, James Hobert. Carla Gugino was initially on the show as Mike’s girlfriend and reporter, Ashley Schaffer, for a few episodes in the first season, but left early into the series run. Finally, Barry Bostwick rounded out the cast as the disaffected and shallow Mayor Randall Winston.
Season 1 consisted of episodes such as “Pilot,” in which Mike and the rest of the staff tried to solve the dual problems of a garbage strike and the mayor asking a reporter if he was drunk when asked if he would march in the city’s Gay Pride parade. Meanwhile, Mike freaked when he realized that he and Ashley had actually been living together for the majority of their relationship. “The Rivals” has the administration dealing with the former mayor, who is often critical of the mayor, and Mike and Ashley trying to avoid annoying neighbors. “Striptease” has Mike discovering that his new girlfriend is a stripper, and “Mayor Over Miami” finds the mayor on an impromptu road trip with Paul to Miami after separating from his wife, with Mike and the staff scrambling to find out where he went.
Spin City was a well-written and acted show and is really Fox’s last go-round as the actor we came to like and respect without the cloud of his affliction hanging over him. He was still at the top of his game here in this first season and the show still holds up well today, over a decade later.
The show was shot in TV standard, and actually doesn’t look as good as other TV box sets that I’ve seen. There’s some grain and the quality of the video tends to not be all that good sometimes. Sound is fine, but there are no subtitles. In terms of special features, there are six episode commentaries by Michael J. Fox, creator Gary David Goldberg, director Thomas Schlamme, Boatman, Chaplin, Kind and Ruck. Prime Time Partners are highlights from a closed seminar with Fox and Goldberg at the Paley Center for Media in 1996. It’s an interview with Paley President Robert Batsha where Fox and Goldberg give their takes on working together again and making the show. It runs about 30 minutes. Team Fox is Fox talking about all of the efforts his organization has done, including charity events, that have raised money for Parkinson’s Disease research that runs about six minutes. The Spin is a 35-minute making-of featuring all new interviews with the cast and crew about working on the show.