Everything I Need to Know, I Learned From Spin City
This week marks the official premiere of Michael J. Fox‘s new television show The Michael J. Fox Show. What a great title, I know I’m already hooked because I would watch absolutely anything with Fox in it. In fact, if Fox jumped off a bridge, I would go right after him.
When I was fourteen years old, I moved towns and switched high schools. It was the only time in my life that I have ever felt truly depressed. I hated my new school, I didn’t want to make new friends, I didn’t want to leave the house. I shared a room with my brother Zach and for some reason, we turned on the television one day and a show called Spin City was on. Naturally, I had loved Michael J. Fox previously from Family Ties and Back to the Future, but I had never really paid attention to his talent and charm before. He was always just another dude to me, until the charisma of Mike Flaherty entered my life. Mock me if you will, but there was something about that show that made me feel better about my life. The mayor was a hilarious character who my brother modeled his own comedic timing after. The supporting characters were all wonderful–Connie Britton, I fell in love with; Richard Kind is so true to his name; the relationship between Michael Boatman and Alan Ruck seemed true to real life even. And then there was Fox.
And I loved him. And I still love him. Because of Spin City, I became an avid Fox fan. I read all of his books, I follow his stem cell research closely, I donate to the MJFF whenever I can, and I am always excited to see his name pop up anywhere.
To celebrate the new, let’s talk about the old.
(Not the Charlie Sheen episodes, those do not count.)
EINKTILF Spin City
1. The definition of homosexuality.
Mike: My grandmother thought that a homosexual was a person who slept with one person their whole life. We were gonna let it slide but she kept telling the mailman she was a homosexual.
Also, I feel like Spin City did a really nice job covering the topic of homosexuality. Not only was one of the main characters (Carter) an openly gay (Black, even!) man, but there were multiple episodes that addressed homosexuality in a positive way. And not that the show is all that old, but I feel like in 1996, we were not super progressive with tackling “controversial subjects” in sitcoms, so props.
Roberta: Mr. Mayor, would you consider marching in the Gay Pride Parade this week?
Mayor Winston: What, are you drunk?
Hilarious, but I guess also BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY when you are in public office. I mean, duh, but we all know it happens all the time in real life.
2. Be careful who you sleep with.
So Mike is a bit of a ladies man to say the least, and for some reason, one of the most memorable episodes in my mind is one where he sleeps with a bit of a crazy lady who decides to freeze his sperm to impregnate herself with. I think it was probably because I was so young, but I remember being horrified that such a thing was even possible. (Is it?)
If I really wanted to be dramatic, I could pinpoint this episode as the reason I don’t sleep with strangers. I mean, I guess I have the power in the situation, but it still just freaks me out. People are nuts.
3. “Life is about finding inner peace.”
Carter, so wise. Everyone goes to Carter with their problems, dating or otherwise, and I always love how cynical and harsh he is. I hope everyone has a coworker like Carter.
I like to think I’m Carter at my job, but I just don’t think I am cynical enough. Definitely wise, though.
4. Represent your roots.
Michael: Oh hey Stuart I want you to find Carter and meet me in my office at 2:15.
Paul: 2:15, what’s 2:15?
Michael: Ah 2:15 is my favourite verse from John. Be good, John. Johnny be good. Go, Johnny, go. Amen.
Besides that fantastic Back to the Future reference, Spin City always represented Fox’s former ties. (See what I did there?) Christopher Lloyd plays a character in an episode and it is full of BTTF references, including “that’s heavy” and “great Scott!” Not only that, but Meredith Baxter, the mom from Family Ties played Mike’s mom on the show and, Michael Gross, the dad on Family Ties was also on the finale of Spin City (not playing the dad of either character though).
And also Tracy Pollan plays a former love interest of Mike’s, and come on, she is his wife in real life. Love Tracy. <3
5. It’s okay to date your coworkers.
…haven’t I used this lesson before? Sigh, I must really mean it, then. CLEARLY there are exceptions to this rule, but I was a huge fan of Mike and Nikki’s relationship, even more than I was a fan of Mike and Caitlin’s relationship. Mike really got around.
That being said, Mike dated two of the girls in his office, and everything was fine, right?
6. Standing close to someone is a good chemistry test.
Like the whole sperm thing, but much more romantic, something that has always stuck in my mind from Spin City was a scene in which Nikki and Mike are trying to prove that they should not date, and I believe it is Nikki’s suggestion, but she tells Mike that she heard if two people stand as close as possible to one another and don’t feel anything, it wasn’t meant to be. They stand nose to nose basically, and both try to deny their chemistry–until, of course Mike trips over an ottoman and Nikki runs into the door.
I have a friend I have been on and off with for what feels like most of my life, and I told him about this scene one time. He stepped really close to me and I shoved him away, so obviously I’m a grown up who can deal with my feelings.
7. Don’t date mob men.
Nikki, who makes terrible dating choices (hey, she’s just like us!), gets into a relationship with a mafia dude without knowing the whole mafia part of his life. The charmer befriends everyone, and it turns out he was dating Nikki in an attempt to overthrow the Mayor and his administration. Someone has to take the blame, and though everyone (especially Nikki) volunteers, naturally Mike steps up and acts as the scapegoat. He resigns, and of course this was all because he had to leave the show in 2000 due to his Parkinson’s.
But, in general, not a great idea to get involved with the mob. I’d do it for Sonny Corleone though, are you kidding me.
8. Be loyal to your team.
Like aforementioned, Mike takes the bullet for his team, and moves on in his life. I have previously about a million times discussed how important I think loyalty is, and though I admit I am loyal to a fault sometimes, I would rather lean on the side of “too loyal” than “not loyal enough.” Though I have never personally done anything as self-sacrificial as giving up my career for someone’s bad dating mistake, I want to believe that I might.
I just ultimately believe that the love of your friends and family is much more vital than anything else. It is not something I am willing to sacrifice for much.
9. It’s hard to say goodbye.
The second part of Fox’s last episode is pretty much still the saddest television moment(s) for me (except the dog from Futurama, and maybe when Mark Greene dies on ER). Watching each of the characters say goodbye to Mike, but knowing that the actors are saying goodbye to Fox is just heartbreaking. The moments are so sincere, and sweet, and funny, and I am crying just thinking about it.
Watch if you haven’t. Watch the whole darn show if you haven’t.
10. Other things: Michael J. Fox is perfection that is all.
Also, rest in peace, Gary David Goldberg. Thank you for oh so many laughs throughout the years.