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Reviewed by Will Harris
y the time “Spin City” had rolled around for its second season, most viewers had gotten the idea of what the series was about: Michael J. Fox is the deputy mayor of New York City, and he’s dealing with an occasionally competent boss and an eccentric staff. As such, you’d figure that the folks working behind the scenes would have figured out what worked during the first season, weeded out what didn’t, and settled into a comfortable groove. It’s rather surprising, then, to put “Spin City: The Complete Second Season” into the DVD player and observe the introduction of a plotline that didn’t work all that well in Season One.
The plotline in question is the introduction of a new girlfriend for Mike Flaherty (Fox). While there’s obviously humor to be gleaned whenever Mike dips his toe into the dating pool, the series began with Mike getting into a relationship with reporter Ashley Schaffer (Carla Gugino), and the character was quickly dropped in favor of focusing on the show’s ensemble. Why bring back the concept? Perhaps it’s because they found someone almost as cute as Gugino: Paula Marshall, playing the Mayor’s wife’s divorce attorney, Laurie Parres. Fair enough, but the end result was approximately the same this time as it was before, with Laurie vanishing after only a handful of episodes. There is, however, a more permanent female addition to the cast: Mike’s new secretary, Stacy Paterno (Jennifer Esposito). She’s a hottie, to be sure, but she’s also a spitfire, making her more than capable of warding off any and all advances from Stuart (Alan Ruck).
Season Two of “Spin City” is a great one for guest stars, with Meredith Baxter playing Michael J. Fox’s mother for the second consecutive series; during the course of her two-part episode, she has a liaison with the Mayor, which totally weirds Mike out. Also on the mom front, Raquel Welch turns up as Paul’s mother, which is a stroke of casting so ridiculous that it somehow works in spite of itself; the best part occurs when Stuart pops Paul’s bubble of oblivion and makes him aware that his mom is incredibly hot. Ed Koch and Alan Dershowitz turn up when Paul (Richard Kind) takes a case to “The People’s Court,” Regis and Kathie Lee play themselves when the Mayor makes an appearance on their show, Mos Def plays a master of Three-Card Monte, and Alyssa Milano plays the Mayor’s daughter, Meg. Lastly, fans of ‘90s trivia may recognize Marla Maples as a date of the Mayor’s who has a thing for Mike, though precious few others will. (Her ex, Donald Trump, also rears his head this season, albeit in a different episode.)
Aside from Mike’s relationship with Laurie, it’s relatively slim pickings when it comes to ongoing storylines within the show. In fact, the only one of any note occurs when Paul decides it’s time to mend fences with his ex, Claudia (Faith Prince), which eventually leads to an old-school wacky sitcom wedding in the season finale. Otherwise, however, “Spin City” continues its trend of presenting its plots on an episode-by-episode basis, dealing with a mixture of personal and political problems. But hey, if it works, it works.
Special Features: What the hell, Shout Factory? Last time around, you filled the set with featurettes and commentaries, and this time, we get nothing. You couldn’t have spread the wealth a little bit when you had access to the cast members and get ‘em to do at least a couple of commentaries for this season, too? Talk about a major letdown after the awesomeness of Season One.