24 November 2004 | liquidcelluloid-1
Heather Locklear is a gaping black hole that sucks every last ounce of life out of this formerly incredible series
"Spin City": Network: ABC; Genre: Sitcom; Content Rating: TV-14 (for language and strong sexual content); Available: syndication; Classification: Contemporary (Star range: 1 - 4);
Season Reviewed: Seasons 5 & 6
To keep this little project manageable I have roped off the new millennium as a starting point to look at television. The trap door in this rule is that if a show was on the air at all after that time I can review the whole thing - except in the instances where that show underwent a change, for better or worse. Unfortunately, as with 'The Drew Carey Show' and 'The Daily Show', 'Spin City' is one such series whose glory days lie before the year 2000 and out of my jurisdiction. Thus, this review is really of a version of 'Spin City' that isn't the heart of this show. It is of a show that had lost it's lead, reshuffled the cast and was on it's dying legs. The change in the show is undeniable, and it would be irresponsible to simply ignore it, but this is not what 'Spin City' really was about.
Created by Bill Lawrence and Gary David Goldberg, 'Spin City' is a traditional sitcom about the womanizing deputy mayor and his staff of spin-masters struggling to save and protect the image of flaky New York City mayor Randall Winston (Barry Bostwick). The real 'Spin City' was driven about Michael J. Fox's terrific lead performance and absolutely impeccable comic delivery (for which he garnered a well-deserved Emmy award and 2 Golden Globes). It crackled with sharp, adult and always laugh-out-loud writing and an awesome ensemble cast to contend with any other on TV. Michael Boatman, Alexander Chapman as James, and Jennifer Esposito's hot Stacey are just 3 of my favorites. And the reunion episode with Christopher Lloyd was superb. Truly one of the funniest shows on the air, It probably gets my vote for the most underrated sitcom of the 90s. During the first 4 years, 'Spin City' was a 4 ½ star show by my scale. It was that good.
At the close of the 2000 season, Fox made a classy exit to fight a private battle with Parkinson's disease. At that signal, the rest of the cast (save for Boatman, Bostwick, Richard Kind and Alan Ruck) jumped overboard like rats form a sinking ship. But all was not quite lost as replacement Charlie Sheen - reportedly hand picked by producer Fox himself - stepped in and stepped up, filling the new role with surprising success and agility. Sheen has picked up Fox's mannerisms for the arrogant Mike Flaherty and incorporated it into his own completely new character, Charlie Crawford (like Fox, taking his own first name). In fact, with this his first project after coming out of rehab, Sheen is something of a revelation here. As hard to believe as it may be for the purists, but he almost comes up to par with Fox.
The fast and steep decline of the series really has nothing to do with Charlie Sheen. I believe it had more to do with the rest of the ensemble leaving and the show making the suicidal decision to shoulder the series on Heather Locklear. 'Spin' then quickly became a 2-person series in which we are supposed to agonize over the sexual tension between the leads and wonder if Sheen and Locklear's characters will get together. It should have occurred to Lawrence that it's fans where smarter than that. Locklear is a black hole that sucks every remaining ounce of life out of 'Spin City'. Sheen's efforts to save the show and the legacy of it's name deserve far better than this. Forget about this. Stick with seasons 1 through 3, and 4 as a bonus, and you will be in good hands.