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The Spin is In

13 Sep, 2008 By: John Latchem

The 1995 film The American President would serve as the creative starting point for two TV shows of the late 1990s. The most obvious is “The West Wing,” created in 1999 by the film’s scribe, Aaron Sorkin.

But before that show began, the sitcom “Spin City” represented a return to television for American President co-star Michael J. Fox, who often spoke about how the film gave him the idea to do a show about politics.

Shout! Factory will release Spin City: The Complete First Season Nov. 4 (prebook Oct. 7) as a four-DVD set at $39.99.

In addition to all 24 episodes of the 1996-97 season, the boxed set will include new interviews with the primary cast, including star and executive producer Fox.

“The cast talks about how special it was working with Michael,” said Lorrie Shapiro, VP of DVD production for Shout! Factory. “They talk about how much they learned and how much of a comedic master he was.”

The show stars Fox as Mike Flaherty, the deputy mayor of New York City, running city hall on behalf of Mayor Randall Winston (Barry Bostwick). The regular cast in the first season includes Richard Kind, Alan Ruck, Michael Boatman, Connie Britton and Alexander Chaplin. Carla Gugino (Watchmen) appeared in 10 episodes as Mike’s girlfriend.

Extras on the season one set, according to Shapiro, will include a retrospective featurette with the entire cast, a behind-the-scenes look at the show, and seven commentaries. The set also will include highlights from a Museum of Television and Radio seminar conducted shortly after the show debuted, featuring Fox and co-creator Gary David Goldberg discussing what it was like to work together again after “Family Ties.”

“We have them talking in 1996, and we have them talking again in 2008,” Shapiro said. “The perspective has changed. Everything looks just a little different. It has a new meaning for them.”

The show itself, Shapiro said, doesn’t feel dated at all, and still seems as funny and fresh as ever.

“It’s really just about a family, a workplace family,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro said the fact that the set streets on election day is a happy accident.

“While the show is about politics, it’s not about running for office,” Shapiro said. “It’s about running an office.”

Another potential tie-in is Fox’s upcoming stint on “Rescue Me,” Shapiro said.

Fox spent four years on “Spin City” before bowing out due to complications from Parkinson’s Disease. The show would continue for two more seasons with Charlie Sheen in the lead role.

Shout! Factory is licensing the show from DreamWorks for the DVD release.

“It has a huge fan base, and we really wanted it,” Shapiro said.

While this is the first complete-season volume of “Spin City,” episodes have made their way to DVD before. Universal in 2003 released two compilations of episodes selected by Fox. The titles were poor sellers at the time, which may have discouraged a wider release. But, Shapiro said, the strategy of testing the market with a best-of disc creates something of a catch-22 for fans who don’t want to buy select episodes they assume will be part of a larger collection later.

“People really want great sets,” Shapiro said. “I don’t think best-ofs work as the only release. Best-ofs should come out after the whole show has been released.”

Shapiro agreed that a similar paradox occurs when determining the best release pattern for an older show that has already finished its run: releasing season sets has become the norm, or releasing the complete series up front (as Time Life has done with “Get Smart” and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”) to capture the attention of a fanbase that might pass up the season sets in anticipation of the bigger box.

However, Shapiro said, the season set represents the happy medium, especially for indie labels such as Shout! Factory.

“A complete series would be an enormous undertaking financially, and the price would have to be too high,” Shapiro said. “There’s too much material. It would take more than a year for a company like us to put that out.”

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