Star’s exit clouds future of ‘Spin City’

Alphabet pondering spinoff

Barely a year after announcing he has Parkinson’s disease, thesp Michael J. Fox has decided to ankle ABC’s “Spin City” at the end of the season — a move which likely means the end of the laffer in its current form.

Out of respect for Fox’s illness, Alphabet execs were reluctant to talk about the future of the DreamWorks Television-produced “Spin,” issuing a statement noting that “there are more important things in life” than business considerations. Privately, however, ABC insiders said it seemed difficult to imagine the show, which films on location in Gotham, would return next fall sans Fox.

One possibility under consideration is a “Spin” spinoff featuring the show’s ensemble cast, perhaps led by Heather Locklear, who was brought on board this season in part to lighten Fox’s workload. Talent from “Spin” could also be used to create completely different skeins.

Should ABC and DreamWorks move forward with a “Spin” sequel, Fox might be open to making guest appearances on the new show.

Execs at ABC and DreamWorks Television declined to comment on such scenarios.

What it means

By the time Fox, 38, leaves “Spin,” the skein will have produced 100 segs over four seasons. While DreamWorks had already sold “Spin” into syndication, a decision to end the show because of Fox’s departure would ultimately result in a financial hit for the studio since there would be no future episodes available for sale to local stations. Studios tend to make their largest profits on a skein after its fifth season.

While “Spin” has been a solid hit for ABC, the show has never been a runaway success Nielsen-wise. The success of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” also lessens somewhat the potential ratings impact should “Spin” disappear.

After breaking the news to several key “Spin” scribes and producers early Tuesday, Fox issued a statement explaining his reasons for leaving the show.

“After long and careful consideration, I have decided that following the completion of “Spin City’s” fourth season (and the filming of our 100th episode), I will not be returning for a fifth year,” he said.

“I could not be more proud of the show, our cast, writers, crew and all that we have accomplished over the last four years, yet I feel that right now my time and energy would be better spent with my family and working toward a cure for Parkinson’s disease. This does not mean I am retiring from acting, producing, or directing, only that I want to relieve the strain of producing and performing a weekly network series.”

Fox’s announcement came on the eve of “Spin’s” move to a new 9:30 p.m. Wednesday timeslot. The show has been moved repeatedly since bowing on ABC in fall 1996, yet has somehow managed to maintain a solid core of viewers.

Fox had hoped to keep news of his decision secret until Wednesday, once voting for this weekend’s Golden Globes was complete. Word leaked out, however, after Fox informed scribes on the show.

Web statement

ABC Tuesday issued a statement praising Fox for his work on “Spin.”

“Michael has been an extraordinary partner over the past four years,” the web said. “We know that ‘Spin City’ has been a labor of love for Michael and we are proud to have been a part of its success.

“But there are clearly more important things in life, and we wish Michael and his family our heartfelt thanks and continued support.”

DreamWorks Television topper Dan McDermott echoed ABC’s sentiments, calling Fox’s “talent and creativity” the “cornerstone of ‘Spin City’s’ success. Of course, we understand his decision; Michael has always put his family first. We appreciate all the effort, commitment and courage he has put into the show. To be sure, we greatly look forward to our continuing creative relationship and we will be announcing upcoming projects in the near future.”

Fox first became a star on the 1980s NBC laffer “Family Ties,” playing the conservative teen Alex P. Keaton. He then broke out as a major film star with the “Back to the Future” features, before returning to the small screen with “Spin.”

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