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STUDIO: Sony Pictures
RATED: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 2,184 minutes
• 50 episode commentaries on select episodes with cast and crew
• Seasons 2 – 5 gag reels
• Seasons 2, 3 featurettes
• Seasons 4, 5 short films
• Season 1 filmographies
It’s news on radio by way of TV…in cardboard.
Dave Foley, Stephen Root, Andy Dick, Maura Tierney, Vicki Lewis, Joe Rogan, Khandi Alexander, Phil Hartman, Jon Lovitz.
goings on at WNYX, a news radio station set in New York, where the only
thing odder than the news reported is the staff members reporting it.
It seems like only yesterday that I mused upon Season 5 of this show (it was, actually). Now that I’ve had a chance to reacquaint myself with earlier episodes from when Phil Hartman was still part of the show, I realize how much he is truly missed, and that NewsRadio was definitely a better show, and Hollywood was a better place with him in it. Hartman was fresh off of his legendary SNL stint and could easily have had his own starring show. We’ll never know how such a show would have done in the fickle world of Nielsen ratings, but just the fact that Phil Hartman made the choice he did – to be part of an ensemble cast – shows the type of performer he was. Hartman was known for his impressions, teamwork sensibilities and ability as a true utilitarian actor. In NewsRadio, he was part of a team, didn’t try to overshadow the rest of the cast and in fact became part of their family. For a major star to due that is somewhat rare, and that’s just another indication of the kind of star and performer he was.
Hatman’s Bill McNeal was a smart-ass, an abrasive and frequently unpleasant character with a razor wit and distinct blowhard quality that wasn’t at the forefront, but nonetheless inescapable. Hartman said that he based the character on himself with “any ethics and character” removed. His frequent ruminations on his scarred childhood with fondness was a highlight of the show, and his drive-by comments on the other characters were always something to look forward to. Hartman wasn’t the star, even though he was, and that suited him just fine. The show, although a true ensemble, wasn’t ever quite the same afterwards.
“Hi, I’m Bill McNeal. You may remember me from other roles such as Lionel Hutz, President Clinton, Frank Sinatra and Troy McClure…”
Indeed, it was the ensemble nature of the show that made it something of a rarity on TV. That and its frequently ludicrous stories, sight gags and acerbic take on current stories gave it an edge that made it stand out, although never quite made it a hit. The show was frequently on the bubble and was moved around the NBC schedule like that old recliner you can’t quite find a place for. The
actors were mostly character actors and sketch artists rather than big
name stars, with the exception of Hartman, another rarity. But they
meshed together when that isn’t the norm in sitcoms. Usually if a show
is a hit, it’s centered around either the name star headlining or the
no-name who becomes the breakout star. Anybody remember what Family Matters was like before Urkel became the center of the whole thing? Thought not.
“I think it’s really for the best that we end our relationship here, Lisa. I mean hey, we’re both meant for better things anyway: you’re going to go on to save lives on another show and I’ve got that whole gay, homeless, drug addict guest appearance on Brothers & Sisters lined up…”
Although Hartman was definitely the man (although he never referred to himself that way), I’d say on a personal level that my favorite character on the show was probably Stephen Root’s Jimmy James. His eccentric, irreverent mannerisms on the show were frequently a highlight, especially in Season 5 when he was suspected of being D.B. Cooper. Also, in my previous review, I remarked that the writing on the show dropped into being juvenile at times. But after watching several more episodes from the earlier seasons, I came to realize that that was one of the quirky attractions of the show, right from the beginning. NewsRadio
wasn’t the best sitcom to come along in the last fifteen years, it
wasn’t even the best sitcom on NBC during its time. But it was solid,
creatively if not ratings-wise.
“Stephen, you have a chance to think about my proposal?”
“I’m not really feeling the whole ‘get blasted on coke, bi-sexual, calling Improv patrons the n-word, exposing myself in public, running my car into a utility pole, slapping some guy in the face, groping Ivanka Trump, telling Jon Lovitz I’ve put the Phil Hartman hex on him, urinating on a sidewalk, licking Farrah Fawcett, Carrie Fisher and Patton Oswalt on the face and generally being a complete fuck-up’ thing.”
“Sure, I understand. You mind if I go for it, though?”
“Hey. you gotta be you, right…?”
Ah, the packaging. Let’s discuss that, shall we? It’s all the original twelve discs, Seasons 1 – 5, exactly as they are in the individual season sets, repackaged into a single flimsy plastic container that looks like something donuts would be packaged in at the local Kwik-E-Mart. They’re covered by a cardboard singlet and slid en masse – with no separating casing of any kind to prevent disc scratching mind you – into an even flimsier cardboard housing. I’ve seen better presentations on African bootleg DVDs. Seriously. This is either a genius of thrifty marketing or the biggest F-U to a series collection of a TV show I’ve ever seen.
There’s a printing on the inside cover of the various episodes on each disc, but nothing to indicate what special features are on what disc. But I did find a semi-handy breakdown of the offerings from our informative friends over at Wikipedia:
|DVD Name||Region 1||Special features|
|The Complete First and
May 24, 2005
|The Complete Third Season||
February 28, 2006
|The Complete Fourth Season||
June 20, 2006
|The Complete Fifth Season||
March 20, 2007
“Look, Catherine, we slept together and it was nice. But what else do you want from me?”
“I want to do it with Phil Donahue.”
“Alright, meet me in the radio booth after work…”
One thing that they did do right is the plethora of episode commentaries, most of them by Paul Simms and including the various cast members. I’m surprised by the number that Andy Dick did. I’m even more surprised he was coherent long enough to do them. If you’re a fan of the show and already have the season sets individually, there’s absolutely no reason to scrap those for this version. No new features, featurettes, nothing. Unless you have a hankering for completely substandard packaging, stick with what you already have. If you are a fan but don’t have the season sets, you could pick this up and save quite a bit money-wise. But you might want to invest in a dozen slimcase DVD holders.
The Packaging: Cardboard out of 10