Spin City

Spin City is an American television sitcom that aired from September 17, 1996 until April 30, 2002 on ABC. Created by Gary David Goldberg and Bill Lawrence, the show was set in a fictionalized version of the New York City mayor's office, and originally starred Michael J. Fox as Mike Flaherty, the Deputy Mayor of New York. Fox departed in 2000 at the conclusion of Season 4 due to symptoms of Parkinson's disease, and Charlie Sheen assumed the lead role of Charlie Crawford for the final two seasons. The series was cancelled in May 2002 after a decline in ratings.

Spin City
Season 1 intertitle
Political satire
Created byGary David Goldberg
Bill Lawrence
Theme music composerSpin Doctors (seasons 2–3)
Composer(s)Shelley Palmer (seasons 1-4)
Danny Pelfrey (seasons 5–6)
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes145 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)Gary David Goldberg
Michael J. Fox
Bill Lawrence
Andy Cadiff (season 4)
Richard Day (season 4)
David S. Rosenthal (season 4)
Tom Hertz (season 6)
Camera setupFilm; Multi-camera
Running time30 minutes
Production company(s)Ubu Productions
Lottery Hill Entertainment
DreamWorks Television
DistributorParamount Domestic Television
Original networkABC
Picture format480i (SDTV; entire run)
720p (HDTV; season 6)
Original releaseSeptember 17, 1996 (1996-09-17) 
April 30, 2002 (2002-04-30)
External links


The series presents a fictionalized version of the local government of New York City, and follows its Mayor Randall Winston (Barry Bostwick) and his staff as they run the city, although the main person in charge is Deputy mayor Mike Flaherty (Fox). Mike is talented at his job, dealing with spin work and general chaos, but not so good managing his personal life, which he neglects. Other members of staff at City Hall include press secretary Paul Lassiter (Richard Kind), the office snitch and a manipulative coward, who has a habit of being a troublemaker and is often kept in the dark about things; chief of staff Stuart Bondek (Alan Ruck), who thinks of himself as a lothario and is highly sexist; and head of minority affairs Carter Heywood (Michael Boatman), a gay black man with a suicidal dog named Rags.

Carter Heywood was seen as a revolution in modern television. As the writer Orville Lloyd Douglas noted on his blog GayBlackCanadianman, "Far too often whenever a character is gay on television it's always a white person. In North America gayness equals whiteness and gay black men are displaced due to race, gender, and sexual orientation. Finally, the writers and producers of Spin City got it right. Carter was a well adjusted young black man he wasn't on the down low, he also wasn’t confused or conflicted about his homosexuality."[1] Despite their overwhelming personal differences, Stuart and Carter actually become roommates and best friends.

Also on the staff are speech writer James Hobert (Alexander Chaplin), who is weak-willed and gullible; Mike's secretary Janelle Cooper (Victoria Dillard); and accountant Nikki Faber (Connie Britton). Janelle later becomes the mayor's secretary and Stacey Paterno (Jennifer Esposito) joins the show as Mike's secretary and Paul's nemesis. Together, this group helps run City Hall, improves the Mayor's image, and covers for his frequent mistakes—while sorting out their own personal issues.

At one point in development, the show was simply called Spin.[2] At the start of the series, Mike is dating reporter Ashley Schaeffer (Carla Gugino). In early promos for the series, the relationship is shown to be the main premise of the show. After just a few episodes, however, Ashley and Mike separated and the character was written out.

The nature of Carter and Stuart's relationship became a running gag during the series. The two ended up becoming so close, their friendship was mocked by others, and their arguments sounded so much like husband and wife, a whole episode was dedicated to the notion that the two argued like a married couple. The two ended up meeting an older duo of best friends (one black and one white) who were virtual twins of Carter and Stuart in terms of personality; when it was discovered that the two older versions had become a couple, it ended up scaring Stuart quite a bit. For his part, Stuart tends to be very protective of his time with Carter, going so far as to be genuinely jealous when Carter spends more time with new campaign manager Caitlin (Heather Locklear). In spite of all the jokes and flirtations, they prove to be best friends willing to do anything for each other. This, too, was considered an important moment in television history, with Douglas noting, "I love the fact that the writers of Spin City explored the fact that gay men and heterosexual men can be friends. The straight man doesn’t have to worry that the gay man might hit on him."[1]

Later years

In 1998, Michael J. Fox announced he had Parkinson's disease. As a result, a new character, Caitlin Moore (Locklear) was introduced at the start of the 1999–2000 season to help lessen Fox's workload. Caitlin was Mayor Winston's campaign manager as he decided to run for Senator, and much conflict occurred between Mike and Caitlin about who was in charge of the mayor. Their relationship was more complex than a simple feud, and hints were dropped that it would become romantic.

In 2000, as his symptoms got more severe, Fox announced he was leaving the show at the end of the season to spend more time with his family and to raise awareness of Parkinson's.[3] His character left City Hall at the end of the show's fourth season, taking the blame for an alleged Mafia link the mayor unknowingly had.[4] A brief coda to the fourth-season finale revealed that the character moved to Washington, D.C., becoming an environmental lobbyist and there meeting a young senator named Alex P. Keaton, the name of the character Fox played on Family Ties.[4][5] Executive producer and co-creator Bill Lawrence also left the show, along with a few cast members and writers/producers.

The remaining producers decided to carry on the series with a new lead. For the show's fifth season, Charlie Sheen, as new Deputy Mayor Charlie Crawford, joined Caitlin, Paul, Stuart, Carter, and the mayor. The characters of Nikki, James, and Janelle were written out, to be replaced by assistant Angie Ordonez (Lana Parrilla).


Michael J. FoxMike Flaherty1996–2000, 20011–4, 6 (3 episodes)103
Carla GuginoAshley Schaeffer1996, 19981 (12 episodes), 3 (1 episode)13
Richard KindPaul Lassiter1996–20021–6145
Alan RuckStuart Bondek140
Michael BoatmanCarter Heywood145
Connie BrittonNikki Faber1996–20001–4100
Alexander ChaplinJames Hobert100
Barry BostwickMayor Randall Winston1996–20021–6144
Victoria DillardJanelle Cooper1996–20001 (recurring), 2–4 (starring)90
Jennifer EspositoStacey Paterno1997–19992 & 346
Heather LocklearCaitlin Moore1999–20024–671
Charlie SheenCharlie Crawford2000–20025 & 645
Lana ParrillaAngie Ordonez2000–2001521
Faith PrinceClaudia Sachs1996–1999, 20001–3 (recurring), 5 (guest)21
Rags the DogRags the Dog1998–20023–6 (recurring)20
  • Michael J. Fox as Mike Flaherty. Deputy Mayor of New York and a playboy, Flaherty lives in a New York City bachelor pad and is constantly balancing his personal life and his job, trying to maintain a healthy distance between the two. Flaherty leaves the mayor's office at the end of season four, after taking the blame for an unknown mob connection the Mayor had (Fox left the series due to Parkinson's disease), but returns during the first three episodes of the sixth season, culminating in his marriage.
  • Carla Gugino as Ashley Schaeffer, a journalist and love interest for Mike during the first 12 episodes. She was written out when the show started to focus more on the workplace, but returned for one episode in season three.
  • Richard Kind, as Paul Thomas Lassiter, press secretary at City Hall. A known troublemaker and childish member of the group, he is often the victim of practical jokes or mishaps at City Hall. During the show, he marries Claudia Sachs, who in season five leaves him to become a nun. By the end of the show, he moves into an apartment across the hall from Carter and Stuart.
  • Alan Ruck, as Stuart Bondek, chief of staff at City Hall. He is narcissistic and a love-rat, although he is unsuccessful at maintaining a relationship. Early on in the series, he moves into an apartment with Carter, which generates a rivalry as he is a homophobe and is generally uncomfortable around Carter's dog and his uptight lifestyle, though they eventually become best friends.
  • Michael Boatman, as Carter Heywood, head of Minority Affairs at City Hall. His character was met with positive reaction because of his portrayal as a prominent gay black character in a TV series. Carter owns a suicidal old dog named Rags, who dies towards the end of the series. In the same season, Carter decides he will adopt a baby; in the final episode he welcomes a boy named Sam.
  • Connie Britton, as Nikki Faber, a co-worker at City Hall. She is confident and free-spirited and often dates dangerous men. She develops an on/off relationship with Mike. She leaves after season four for unknown reasons.
  • Alexander Chaplin, as James Leonard Hobert III, a speech writer at City Hall. He is shown to be anxious and shy, and early in the show has a crush on Nikki. During season four, he is fired in favor of Caitlin being hired as marketing campaigner, and James is hired as Mike's secretary, although he is led to believe his position is as 'Deputy Deputy Mayor'. He also leaves after season four for unknown reasons.
  • Barry Bostwick, as Mayor Randall Winston, the inept Mayor of New York City. It is stated that he was a state assemblyman sometime prior to his election as mayor. At one point during the show he runs for the Senate, although between seasons he apparently changed his mind. He is married at the beginning of the show but gets divorced during its run and his ex-wife writes a tell-all book about life with the Mayor. He develops a relationship with his secretary Janelle during season three. During the final season, he develops a relationship with Judge Claire Simmons (Farrah Fawcett), but she dumps him when she reveals she does not want to live life in the public eye.
  • Victoria Dillard, as Janelle Cooper, Mike's secretary during the first season, promoted to the Mayor's secretary during the second. She develops a relationship with the Mayor during season three.
  • Jennifer Esposito, as Stacey Paterno, who replaced Janelle as Mike's secretary for seasons two and three after Janelle became the Mayor's secretary. She is from Brooklyn and is shown to be very outgoing, much like Nikki.
  • Heather Locklear, as Caitlin Moore, introduced into the show in season four to lessen Michael J. Fox's screentime after he announced he had Parkinson's disease. She is brought onto the staff as marketing campaigner, and takes James' old desk, while James becomes Mike's secretary. She becomes romantically involved with both leads by the end of each of their respective tenures on the show.
  • Charlie Sheen as Charlie Crawford, Mike's replacement for the final two seasons. He, too, is a playboy and at first struggles to keep his troubled past from getting in the way of his new position. He eventually becomes romantically involved with Caitlin by the end of the series' run. He is also romantically involved with Jennifer Duncan, played by Sheen's real-life partner at the time, Denise Richards; his father is also played by Sheen's real-life father Martin Sheen.
  • Lana Parrilla, as Angie Ordonez, Charlie's secretary. She was only featured in season five, as Parrilla left following the season, thinking her character was underused. No secretary is shown during season six, and her desk is left empty. Some of the cast are shown using it, albeit not permanently, implying Charlie is no longer using a secretary.


SeasonEpisodesOriginally airedRankRating
First airedLast aired
124September 17, 1996 (1996-09-17)May 13, 1997 (1997-05-13)1711.7
224September 24, 1997 (1997-09-24)May 20, 1998 (1998-05-20)N/AN/A
326September 22, 1998 (1998-09-22)May 25, 1999 (1999-05-25)259.2
426September 21, 1999 (1999-09-21)May 24, 2000 (2000-05-24)249.1
523October 18, 2000 (2000-10-18)May 23, 2001 (2001-05-23)N/AN/A
622September 25, 2001 (2001-09-25)April 30, 2002 (2002-04-30)N/AN/A

Awards and nominations

Michael J. Fox won one Primetime Emmy, out of four nominations. The show won four Golden Globes (three for Fox and one for Charlie Sheen), out of its nine nominations.

Home media

Shout! Factory has released all six seasons of Spin City on DVD in Region 1.[6]

DreamWorks Home Entertainment released two best-of sets entitled "Michael J. Fox – His All Time Favorites" Vols. 1 and 2 in 2003, each containing 11 episodes. All 22 episodes are taken from the four seasons containing Fox, each starting with a brief interview in which he describes what he likes about the episode. In the 2003 interviews, Fox shows symptoms of his ongoing illness. Both DVD boxes contain bonus material with fund-raising TV commercials for Parkinson's disease research, starring the Spin City cast.

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
The Complete First Season 24 November 4, 2008
The Complete Second Season 24 April 28, 2009
The Complete Third Season 26 November 3, 2009
The Complete Fourth Season 26 February 15, 2011
The Complete Fifth Season 23 August 16, 2011
The Complete Sixth and Final Season 22 December 13, 2011

See also


  1. "Carter On Spin City Was A Breakthrough Black Gay Male Character". March 25, 2008.
  2. "The Art of Picking TV Titles: 9 Do's and Don'ts". yahoo.com. March 9, 2012.
  3. Rice, Lynette (January 18, 2000). "'Spin' Out, The three-time Emmy nominee plans to devote himself to his family". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 3, 2008.
  4. "Goodbye Pt. 2". Spin City. Season 4. Episode 26. May 24, 2000. ABC.
  5. "Poobala.com". Crossover between Family Ties and Spin City. Retrieved March 9, 2008.
  6. "Spin City DVD news: Announcement for Spin City - The Complete 6th Season - TVShowsOnDVD.com". tvshowsondvd.com. Archived from the original on September 26, 2011.
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