Flavorwire Profiles HUMANITAS Trustee Bill Lawrence
In recent years, showrunners have become more and more visible to television viewers. Where we once based our interest (or lack thereof) in a show on the actors, premise, or network, we now often pay more attention to the creator behind it — for better or for worse. We may tune in to a comedy because the showrunner also helmed our favorite sitcom or refuse to watch a drama because the showrunner previously ended a series on a bland or unsatisfying note. In this series, Flavorwire examines a specific showrunner’s body of work: the hits, misses, overlooked projects, and ones that never had a chance. For the inaugural edition, we take a look at Scrubs, Cougar Town, and Clone High creator Bill Lawrence.
In 1996, Bill Lawrence co-created Spin City with Gary David Goldberg (Family Ties), a sitcom centered on a fictional mayor in New York City, Mayor Winston (Barry Bostwick), and his Deputy Mayor, Mike Flaherty (Michael J. Fox). The show was notable for its funny look at local government (beating Parks and Recreation to the punch) and the strong, highly developed characters that would later become a Lawrence staple. A standout was Carter Heywood (Michael Boatman), a gay black man — the kind of character that had rarely played such a prominent role on television before — who was written with care and confidence.
Spin City aired six seasons on ABC (and lives on in syndication), but its first four seasons are definitely the best. Michael J. Fox is pure gold as Mike Flaherty, and his dynamic with Bostwick was the anchor of the show. Unfortunately, Fox’s Parkinson’s resulted in Fox leaving prematurely (he was replaced by Charlie Sheen in Season 5). The show never felt the same, not just because of his departure, but because Bill Lawrence left as well, and the writers were never able to replicate the quality of his work.