NewsRadio: The Complete First and Second Seasons
The annals of TV history are filled with examples of good sitcoms that started out small, swiftly attracting a core set of devoted fans but not making much of a dent in the ratings. Many of them were killed quickly ("The Tick," "Andy Richter Controls the Universe"); others went on to become huge hits after the network decided to give them a chance ("Cheers," "Seinfeld"). Somewhere in limbo between the two extremes are shows like NewsRadio, a clever, endearingly quirky office comedy that lasted five seasons on NBC in the late 1990s despite the fact that it never came close to attracting the masses of viewers that Peacock contemporaries such as "Friends" and "Frasier" raked in every week. In NewsRadio's case, that may have been for the best; because it flew a bit beneath the radar, the show was always able to maintain its loopy sensibility and penchant for smart irreverence (phrases that would probably never be used to describe a more mainstream hit like "According to Jim"). The debut season (a brief seven episodes, since NewsRadio was originally a mid-season replacement) begins as fresh-faced news director Dave Nelson ("Kids in the Hall" veteran Dave Foley) starts a new job at WNYX, an all-news radio station in New York City. The station's motley crew includes bickering news anchors Bill McNeal (Phil Hartman) and Catherine Duke (Khandi Alexander), ambitious reporter/producer Lisa Miller (Maura Tierney), vivacious secretary Beth (Vicki Lewis), matter-of-fact electrician Joe Garrelli (Joe Rogan), enigmatic station owner Jimmy James (Stephen Root), and oddball Matthew (Andy Dick). As Dave settles in, he realizes just what kind of lunacy he's in for; the group as a whole is as competitive and insecure as a bunch of teenage girls and as prone to trouble as an eight-year-old boy. In other words, they're just like everyone you've ever worked with, except they have a writing staff. The show's cast is strong across the board; veteran character actors Hartman and Root are particular stand-outs, but all of the principal actors are talented comedians who seem to understand that there's more to creating a funny character than just spouting one-liners. Indeed, one of the reasons NewsRadio works so well is because its characters are carefully developed to offer the same kinds of contradictions and idiosyncrasies that make real people so interesting. Like its media-focused office sitcom predecessors "Mary Tyler Moore" and "Murphy Brown," NewsRadio turns its characters into a de facto family, with all of the maddening (and hilarious) ups and downs that word implies. After a long delay caused by creator/executive producer Paul Simms's desire to beef up the discs' special features, Sony/Columbia TriStar brings NewsRadio's first and second seasons to DVD in a three-disc, 29-episode set. All episodes are presented in a clear full-frame (1.33:1) transfer with Dolby 2.0 Stereo audio and optional Portuguese subtitles; 20 of them have audio commentaries provided by a rotating roster that includes Simms, Foley, Root, Rogan, Dick, Tierney, Lewis, Alexander, various writers and directors, and even former NBC head Warren Littlefield. The set's other extras filmographies, a featurette with footage and cast interviews from the first season, and a Season Two outtake reel are on Disc One. Two slim keep-cases (one double-disc, one single-disc) inside a paperboard sleeve.