Shout! Factory // 1998 // 540 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 11th, 2009
MJF at his best.
Shout Factory's got the third installment of Michael J. Fox's not-too-shabby return to prime-time situational comedy.
Fox is Mike Flaherty, the deputy mayor of New York City, saddled with the unenviable position of trying to make a dimbulb mayor appear competent. This inevitably leads to numerous sticky situations in which Mike and his underachieving staff must work to dig the mayor out from under.
Season Three brings 26 episodes of city hall tomfoolery, featuring Mike taking a swim with some seals, the mayor beating back dirty campaign tricks from his estranged wife, Paul (Richard Kind, A Bug's Life) exploring his inner fashion multiculturalist, and Stuart (Alan Ruck, Ferris Bueller's Day Off) discovering the joys of gay Thanksgiving.
Spin City is funny. I don't know how "groundbreaking" it was (as breathlessly proclaimed on the packaging) but when compared to the heavy-hitters of half-hour comedies (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Arrested Development) it falls noticeably short. Among the mid-level, standard-issue sitcoms, where your Two and a Half Men and How I Met Your Mother dwell, Spin holds its own as a solid way to kill thirty minutes and maybe get a few laughs along the way.
The best thing this series has going for it is the cast. There are some weak points (I never thought Alexander Chaplin's James was terribly interesting, and Connie Britton and Jennifer Eposito seem to eat into each other's characters) but the big-shots carry the weight of the comedy especially well.
It all begins with Michael J. Fox. The guy is a natural at this. Building off his huge TV success in Family Ties and a hit-and-miss movie career, he slides neatly into a role well-built for him. Mike Flaherty is a hyper, hapless character and Fox plays him perfectly, changing gears from a manic whirling dervish to a straight man in mere moments. It's a classic role, mixing buffoonery with wry one-liners and, though Charlie Sheen would perform adequately when he took over (kick-starting his own sitcom career) he never emerged from Fox's imposing shadow. The man has the skills to pay the bills.
Fox backed up by some great performances from Alan Ruck, Michael Boatman (Hamburger Hill), and just barely Richard Kind, a guy who annoys me with prolonged exposure. My favorite, though, is Barry Bostwick as Mayor Randall Winston. Bostwick is responsible for creating one of the best airheads in sitcom history and, next to Fox, is consistently the funniest guy on the set.
Spin City: The Complete Third Season is simple, but good enough. Episodes are cleanly transferred in their native, full frame aspect ratio and the 2.0 stereo mix does what it has to do. No extras are a bummer.
This release is all substance, but the show is funny.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 540 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated