What's the biggest story coming out of the new television season? Okay, the fact that CBS's Yes, Dear is still on the air. But ranking a close second is the surprising success of Spin City in the wake of Michael J. Fox's exit last May. So far this season, the ABC sitcom with Hollywood bad boy Charlie Sheen now in the driver's seat has posted year-to-year ratings gains. In fact, the show has even managed to beat NBC's powerhouse drama The West Wing among young adults.
For executive producer Gary David Goldberg, whose friendship with Fox dates back to their Family Ties days, Spin's prosperity is clearly bittersweet. (Fox left the four-year-old series to focus his time and energy on battling Parkinson's disease.) "But I think what allows me to enjoy it is how much Mike is enjoying it," he tells TV Guide Online. "And Charlie is so great as a guy and so respectful of what Mike has done and the path that was cleared for him, that it's been easy to accept his success and really root for him, too."
Still, Goldberg who returned to Spin's helm this fall after a two-year sabbatical acknowledges that it wasn't easy proceeding without the multiple Emmy-winning Fox. "It was hard at the very beginning to work through the differences and kind of not see the ghosts everywhere in the shadows," he sighs. "But once we kind of hit our stride, then it became a new enterprise. It's been very satisfying. It's like you have Joe DiMaggio, and he retires, and then you get to play with Mickey Mantle."
It doesn't hurt that Sheen is surrounded by a cast of all-stars, namely the underrated Heather Locklear, who Goldberg concedes didn't click with Fox last year. "Interestingly, because the audience so loved Mike and was so protective of him, they were very unwilling to let a woman go toe-to-toe with him," he says. "Whereas here you get the sense that the audience feels Charlie can pretty well get whacked around as much as he needs to be and they can enjoy that battle."
And should ratings ever dip, Goldberg could always call on his secret weapon to boost the numbers. Speaking of which, are there any plans for Fox to pay his old haunt a visit? "I really don't know," he says. "Obviously we are only concerned about his health and not trying to put any hurdles in that race. We don't want him thinking about us or worrying about us or in any way feeling obligated.
"However," he adds, "if he said, 'Hey, I feel great and I would love to do a show,' I'm sure we could get one written in a hurry. But I don't know that the best thing isn't for him to just do what he's doing, which is fighting against Parkinson's and spending time with his family and looking out for himself."