Thanks in part to inexpensive reality shows, new television series are having a hard time making it past a single season. Taking the time to sit down and really get involved with new characters seems futile, when the likely end result will be cancellation and disappointment. It's amazing when shows that began ten to fifteen years ago - and ran a commendable five to seven seasons - come out on DVD because it's a reminder of what might be lost on today's audience. A great example of that is recently released "Spin City: The Complete Fifth Season." As I took another look at the series on DVD, I can't help but wish for a return to the '90's, when television was, well, good.
"Spin City" was a sitcom that took place in city hall. While the environment would seem more suited to a cop drama, "Spin" managed to get a remarkable amount of laughs thanks to solid writing and a terrific cast. "Spin City" isn't really a show about politics, instead it was a platform to collect a group of individuals that were often at odds, creating funny, standard sitcom situations. What made it work as well as it did was the consistent writing and witty performances.
When "Spin City" first aired, Michael J. Fox did a fantastic job leading the show as deputy mayor, Mike Flaherty. His job - as well as the rest of the staff's - was to keep the Mayor (Barry Bostwick) from drawing any negative attention to his somewhat dim-witted behavior. The series did a great job focusing on a different storyline each week, giving the staff something to take care of, and often Flaherty to help save the day. While not as memorable as same-era sitcom, "News Radio," there's a similarity in the way the group dynamics play off one another, creating a handful of humorous situations from week to week.
By the 4th season, Fox decided it was time to leave the series, and the creators decided to carry on with a new lead character played by Charlie Sheen. Ratings suffered in the fifth season without Fox's character, and Sheen - especially in retrospect - seems like too significant a change in comedic tone at the core of the show. Staffers that continued on to season five included press secretary Paul (Richard Kind), head of minority affairs Carter (Michael Boatman), chief of staff Stuart (Alan Ruck), and season four addition, campaign manager Caitlin (Heather Locklear). Charlie Sheen played the new deputy mayor, Charlie Crawford who had a different approach to dealing with the Mayor and office staff. Unlike Flaherty, Crawford is a bit egotistical, which doesn't always go over well with his new co-workers, mainly Caitlin. Still, despite some character differences, the show basically stays the same course.
BR> The sixth season is the final season for "Spin City," but it certainly goes out with some memorable episodes, as well as a three episode arc featuring the return of Mike Flaherty. Michael J. Fox returns as Mike at the beginning of the season in the episode "The Arrival." The episode has a lot going on including the Mayor dating a married Judge (Farrah Fawcett) while thinking of launching his next campaign, to Charlie and Caitlin seeing if there's more to their relationship than friends, to Mike helping Charlie with the mayor. Mike tells everyone he's engaged and has decided to quit working, that is until he hears about a work crisis at City Hall. Charlie becomes increasingly uncomfortable the longer Mike is around, but in the end Charlie ends up helping Mike.
The final season follows the usual set of mishaps as well as character development. This season follows the Mayor's relationship with the Judge and how that sets the tone for his campaign, Carter deciding he wants to be a father ("Yet Another Stakeout"), Charlie dating the opposing campaign manager, Staurt dating one of Carter's best friends Michelle (Lori Loughlin) and Caitlin and Charlie seeing if they are more than friends. There are some predictable moments like Charlie posing as Caitlin's boyfriend when her mother visits ("The Wedding Scammer"), but over all the series is enjoyable.
While the return of Michael J. Fox is the highlight of season six, there are other storylines and episodes that are entertaining and enjoyable to watch. Like mentioned earlier, this was before reality television, and it feels good to watch something with witty dialogue, funny delivery and actual plots. "Spin City" is still ten steps above a lot of today's television.
With no extra features, "Spin City: The Complete Sixth Season" is recommended for fans of the series who want to add to their collection. For those unfamiliar with the series, I recommend starting with the earlier season and working your way through them. It's a series that's certainly worth a look for the memorable performances, humorous situations, and if anything else, it's a reminder of what television used to be: consistent entertainment.
6-01 25/Sep/01 The Arrival (1)
6-02 25/Sep/01 A Tree Falls in Manhattan (2)
6-03 02/Oct/01 Wife with Mikey
6-04 09/Oct/01 The Apartment
6-05 16/Oct/01 Yet Another Stakeout
6-06 23/Oct/01 Yeah Baby!
6-07 06/Nov/01 Sleeping with the Enemy
6-08 06/Nov/01 She's Gotta Habit
6-09 13/Nov/01 The Wedding Scammer
6-10 20/Nov/01 Fight Flub
6-11 27/Nov/01 Chinatown
6-12 11/Dec/01 An Office and a Gentleman
6-13 08/Jan/02 O Mother, Where Art Thou?
6-14 05/Mar/02 Rags to Riches
6-15 12/Mar/02 Sex, Lies and Video Date
6-16 19/Mar/02 Eyes Wide Open
6-17 26/Mar/02 Age Against the Machine
6-18 09/Apr/02 An Affair Not to Remember
6-19 16/Apr/02 Let's Give Them Something to Talk About
6-20 23/Apr/02 Look Who's Not Talking
6-21 30/Apr/02 A Tale of Four Cities
6-22 30/Apr/02 A Friend in Need
VIDEO: Shout Factory gives the show a very nice presentation. Offered in 1.33:1 full-frame, the series looks bright and crisp. While not crystal clear, the series looks about broadcast level. Colors look warm and crisp, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: Clean, well-recorded stereo soundtrack, with clear dialogue.
There are no extra features.
Final Thoughts: The series continues to be a little more inconsistent as it gets into latter seasons, but even a lesser "Spin" is still better than much of what's on TV today. Not a highly enthusiastic recommendation, but recommended.