Having made his initial TV debut years earlier as Republican Alex P. Keaton, Michael J. Fox blatantly crossed the political aisle in his triumphant TV return.
Now he is playing Democratic New York Deputy Mayor Mike Flaherty. Flaherty is a curious combination of Al Gore and George Stephanopoulos with lots of requisite/inevitable `Kennedy family' references tossed in.
His boss is Mayor Randall Winston (Barry Bostwick), a more-or-less transparent spoof of Bill Clinton. In terms of physical structure at least, there is a fair resemblance. Vocal-inflection and intelligence, I don't see a comparison, but hey, politics is the game of compromise. You take what you can get.
Basically, this is a small-screen version of Primary Colors: a warm-hearted but satirical look at Democratic politics. And the 24-episode season won't make you incur a personal deficit in order to own it!
A favorite episode is "Kiss Me Stupid" where another childhood crush, Luke Perry returns to his former boyfriend Carter Heywood--with some very important but unexpected news. After having dated each other for a while, Luke's character now dates women, even planning on marriage. Spence Kamer wants Carter to be his best man for this impending ceremony. Perry's apparent comfort with publically delivering `flirty' lines to another man sincerely impressed me, having grown up seeing him merely as a `teen idol'. Instead of Sheen in the later seasons, the production crew for this series should have convinced Perry to sign on as a replacement for Fox. Who knew he was capable of successfully delivering sitcom work? I certainly hadn't.
Being a disability advocate, I easily imagined myself in "Deaf Becomes Her". Misunderstandings about the Mayor's intention towards the deaf community (and more generalized, the disability community!) eventually get successfully resolved. Arriving at mutual ground, Mike and the city's leading deaf advocate realize they do share a mutual desire to help people--and maybe more.
Mike is a politician, but he's also on the prowl only for true and lasting love. An ongoing storyline this season is his romance with news reporter Ashley Schaeffer (Carla Gugino)---and how sincerely heartbroken he becomes upon their breakup ("Bye-Bye, Love"). Rather than a temporary fling with the inevitable `campaign trail...etc' woman, Mike concedes that he is looking for something deeper and safer ("Striptease").
This is exactly why Mike is so charming; he is political without being `sleazy' or the stereotypical know-it-all. He's still our lovable `guy-next door'!
After Mike (duh), my second favorite permanent staff member has to be Carter Heywood (Michael Boatman). As the Mayor's "Diversity Liaison" (who comes on in the "Pilot"), he is supposed to perform outreach with and for `diverse' community organizations. Otherwise, presumably these groups would not have their fair share of representation at City Hall. For it's not that the other staff are insensitive or `not diverse' they just juggle multiple `other concerns' in the ever-compartmentalized world of public service. There is always too much to do and never enough time or money.
Perpetual pulls between his previous "outsider" grassroots community organizing and now being on the `inside' gets best illustrated in "Pride and Prejudice". The same needle exchange program which Carter believes would halt (or even eliminate) the spread of AIDS throughout New York ultimately must get withdrawn for political expediency. It's a powerful lesson for Carter to concede that the `edgiest' public policies will not always work the best in the staid world of bureaucracy. Carter is passionate about his causes, but he's also genuinely intelligent and articulate--rather than being a `token' who is appointed merely to fill a slot.
Since Boatman and the other actors merely could have been one-dimensional tokens for Fox and Bostwick to bounce their one-liners off of, it's appreciated that they have substantive plots of their own throughout this season (and the series). Technically it's 'his' show, but Fox is the type of leading actor who sucessfully demonstrates that he can and is not afraid to share the limelight with other actors.
Extras for this season include a retrospective featurette by the cast and crew: they are also contributing to fond memories about this perpetually awesome series. And Michael J. Fox and Gary David Goldberg themselves provided a seminar to what was then the Museum of Television & Radio. It explained how the creation of this series successfully came into fruition between the two of them.
Please, please, cast your vote for this release so we get (at least) all the seasons with Mike elected into production--and on the market!