The Good: Funny, Moments of character development, Moments of performance
The Bad: No DVD bonus features, Plots get "sitcommy," Some character stagnation
The Basics: Funny, a little dated and with some moments of genuine character, Spin City Season 3 is a worthwhile addition to the collection of anyone who likes sitcoms.
There is no show I seem to get quite as excited about running into on cable when I travel - having no cable television at home - than Spin City. I'm not sure why, but whenever that or Girlfriends comes on, I always seem to stop my morning channel surfing while traveling and give it my attention. My wife seems to have picked up on this because recently when she found Spin City: The Complete Third Season in a discount bargain bin, she picked it up for me. The truth is, I'm grateful to have the boxed set and I appreciate her getting it for me, but the third season is an unremarkable DVD set which adds nothing that the original episodes did not have. As such, it offers little value to the DVD buying audience who is adding it to their permanent collections.
But more than that, the third season of Spin City was a series of true hit-or-miss episodes which either worked exceptionally well or failed miserably with very little middle ground. And while characters like the Mayor and Janelle and Nikki have a chance to truly grow and evolve, some of the others, most notably Paul and James, truly stagnate. The inclusion of Carter's geriatric dog added an element that was amusing for one appearance, but became painful as the season progressed, almost as painful as Stuart's new girlfriend, Deidre. But, on the balance, the quality of the episodes is enough to recommend the boxed set, if for no other reason than to get the "comfort food" of the sitcom whenever one wants to be able to watch it!
The Mayor of New York City decides to run for re-election and at a press event for it, Mike takes credit for saving a baby from an accident. Shortly thereafter, Mike meets Heidi Klum and he begins dating the supermodel. This, naturally, sets off Nikki, who has carried a torch for Mike and, unfortunately, sets her lying about her feelings. Her lie to Mike is called when she makes up a fictitious boyfriend and Mike invites them to have dinner together. When Mike finds himself single again, it is after Nikki has met the man, Arthur, who meets all of the criteria she assigned to her fictional boyfriend and Mike gets jealous of Nikki and Arthur, doing all he can to keep the two apart.
While Mike's jealous machinations run most of the a-line stories, Stuart begins dating the equally-perverted dominatrix Deidre and Carter hooks up with an old friend of Mike's. The Mayor starts dating Janelle and Paul and Claudia move toward having a child, which they require some outside help for. And, ultimately, Heidi Klum returns to throw a wrench into Mike's new relationship.
Unlike most situational comedies, Spin City, which is set in the staff of the Mayor's Office in New York City, goes for more serialized episodes in the third season. The arcs essentially go from Mike and Heidi to Nikki and Arthur to Mike and Nikki. While there are some episodic episodes which break up the season from being a true serialized work - like "The Nutty Deputy Mayor" where Mike wears a fat suit in order to understand the ordeals of obese people or "An Officer And A Gentleman" where Mike's old friend returns to New York, comes out to Mike and tries to date Carter - the bulk of the episodes flow surprisingly well from one episode to the next to tell a story of a year in the life of the office.
Rather annoyingly, there is a clip show ("That's Entertainment"), but most of the episodes are fairly fresh. "Back To The Future IV: Judgment Day" relies almost entirely on understanding "Back To The Future" and appreciating the chemistry Michael J. Fox and guest star Christopher Lloyd have with one another. And the show, occasionally, remembers it has a political context, as episodes like "The Deer Hunter" make satire out of what politicians will do for campaign contributions. And there are some general sitcom gems, like "Monkey Business" which takes the time to develop the friendship between homophobe Stuart and his homosexual roommate, Carter.
Like anything truly worth watching, the third season of Spin City is all about the characters. Here are the primary characters and how the third season finds them:
Mike - The Deputy Mayor of New York City, he begins dating Heidi Klum until his feelings for Nikki surface. When that happens, he is forced to compete with Arthur, almost donating a kidney in the process. But when they do hook up, they are surprised to find that it's not all fun and games. Over the course of the year, Mike inadvertently shoots a baby deer, confronts his oldest friend, comes to believe his mentor is insane and helps the Mayor out of every tight jam he gets himself and his staff into,
Carter - The gay professional continues keeping Stuart under his roof and takes in the ancient dog who nearly dies virtually every time he is on screen. He acts as a confidant to Nikki and loathes Diedre, which makes it difficult for him when he tries to use Diedre to get back at Stuart for using one of his ex's. He has a fling with Mike's naval officer friend,
Stuart - Continuing to be an antagonist at the office, he hooks up with a woman as kinky as he is. He comes to appreciate Carter more and keeps everyone in the office from meeting his sister for reasons he won't share with anyone,
Paul - Ever the pennypincher, he is bullied while performing his job by a new reporter. He and Claudia want to have a child, but discover they can't, so Paul does his usual cheapskate attempt to use Mike to artificially inseminate her (in this case, liquor). He helps Stacey learn to be cheap after she fails to bust him for abusing sick leave,
Nikki - After suffering through Mike's parade of girlfriends, including Heidi Klum, she makes up a boyfriend based on the Arthurian legends and has to come up with a man who actually meets those criteria when Mike invites them both to dinner. She manages to get what she wanted from Mike, but then finds herself getting more and more possessive of him,
Stacey - She tries to bust Paul for abusing paid sick leave, but ultimately learns how to be as grossly cheap as him,
James - He has a funeral for a cow and loses his life savings by putting his faith in Mike and the stock market,
Janelle - Begins secretly dating the Mayor and has a tough time breaking up with him when she's done with the relationship,
and Mayor Winston - After enthusiastically turning around his re-election chances, he finds himself crippled by untimely laughing spells. He causes a p.r. crisis when he pitches poorly at a baseball game with a symbolic first throw and he hides from the cameras when Thanksgiving at the Mayor's is turned into a reality show. After getting dating advice from unlikely sources, he starts seeing Janelle and accidentally outs her as his girlfriend on Politically Incorrect! And before it is all over, he has an action figure made of himself.
By the third season, all of the cast knew their characters and as a result, there is nothing spectacular or surprising that comes from most of the acting. Barry Botswick manages to bring some substance to the bumbling mayor in the latter episodes when the Mayor and Janelle are struggling. Similarly, Michael J. Fox makes Mike both funny and actually emotionally-interesting when struggling with his feelings for Nikki.
If there is any standout in Season Three for the acting, it is from Connie Britton, who plays Nikki. Her character has oscillated between dippy and strangely cold. But in the plot arc with Nikki and Arthur, Britton is actually able to infuse genuine happiness into the character, which offsets well the character's earlier sadness in the season. That she credibly portrays the entire emotional range makes her character pop in ways that she hasn't up until this season.
Ultimately, for a boxed set with no DVD bonus features, it is the quality of acting, plot and little character moments that make it worth buying and Spin City The Complete Third Season has just enough to warrant the attention of anyone who likes a good sitcom.
For the other works with Richard Kind please check out my reviews:
Toy Story 3
Spin City - Season 1
Spin City - Season 2
For other television reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2012, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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