TITLE: NEWSRADIO - THE COMPLETE SERIES
Release Date: October 28, 2008 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Full Frame (4:3)/Color/1995-99
Number of Discs: 12
Number of Episodes: 97
Running Time: 2184 minutes
Total Run Time of Special Features: 1230 minutes
Audio: English Dolby Surround
Subtitles: Portuguese; Closed Captioned
• Season Two Gag Reel
• Season Three Gag Reel
• Season Four Gag Reel
• Season Five Gag Reel
• Behind-the-Scenes Featurette from 1995
• Commentaries by various cast and crew members on 46 episodes
• Filmographies of the Cast Members
• Assorted Featurettes
• The complete “One Man NewsRadio” anthology
All Five Seasons on 12 Discs!
NewsRadio is the beloved and hilarious Emmy-winning comedy featuring one of the most talented ensemble casts ever gathered -- in addition to Andy Dick. The complete series is now available for the first time in this 12-disc set.
WNYX is the #2 news radio station in New York City and the wacky anchors, management, and behind-the-scenes crew are going to make sure it stays that way. The stellar cast includes Dave Foley, Stephen Root, Andy Dick, Maura Tierney, Vicki Lewis, Joe Rogan, Khandi Alexander, and the wonderful Phil Hartman. After Phil’s untimely death in 1998, Jon Lovitz was brought on board for what would ultimately become the show’s final season. Packed with guest stars and unforgettable moments, here are all the zany antics, office politics, romances, breakdowns, and outburst you remember. With this set, NewsRadio can be on-air whenever you want!
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
Tying together the memorable moments as stated in previous reviews:
I honestly can’t sit here and recommend specific episodes for this season - they’re all great! All of them. I’d recommend just grabbing a soda and a snack, pop the first disc into the DVD player and just watch them straight through, pausing occasionally. Repeat for the other two discs. Keep an eye out for more than a few special guests along the way. Comedian Janeane Garafolo (“Saturday Night Live,” “The Ben Stiller Show”) is in the seventh episode, the season one finale, “Sweeps Week.” A pre-SNL Chris Kattan guest stars in the season two premiere, “No, This is Not Based Entirely on Julie's Life.”
Comedian Dennis Miller, another SNL’er is in the 9th episode, “Goofy Ball.” John Ritter guest stars in the 12th episode as Dr. Frank Westford, a shrink hired to talk to the various employees at WNYX who just happens to have been a former professor of Lisa’s whom she slept with. Bebe Neuwirth (Lilith on “Cheers) guest stars in the next episode, “Friends,” alongside Toby Huss (“The Adventures of Pete & Pete”) who would later go on to work with Stephen Root on King of the Hill. Toby would return again on episode 17, “Xmas Story.” Also appearing in “Friends” and “Xmas Story” is rapper Tone Loc, who plays a security guard. Keeping with the music theme, thrash-metal fans out there, take note, Anthrax appears as themselves on the 15th episode, “Negotiation.”
Almost all the episodes are great. That being said, here are some especially good ones to watch for (just my opinion):
1) President. This is just a strange yet great episode--the 3rd season premiere. Over Dave and Lisa’s objections, Jimmy decides to run for president.
2) Review: The very next episode! Matthew quits over a story that he’s not allowed to do, while an annual review of the station sparks problems far and wide.
4) Arcade: Dave’s old nemesis comes back to haunt him (dramatic music) when Beth replaces the lobby sandwich machine with a certain popular 1980s arcade game...meanwhile, Lisa retakes her college entrance exams to see if her mind is slipping.
7) Daydream: A broken thermostat and heat wave induce some extremely strange dreams in the WNYX staff.
11) The Trainer: Bill thinks he’s been cheated by his new health club; the staff discovers a secret about Dave’s past.
20) Our Fiftieth Episode: An argument over a traffic ticket gets Bill committed to a mental hospital.
24) Space: The NewsRadio crew faces disaster on a space station hundreds of years in the future. Yes, you read that right.
The List of Guest Stars:
Al Roker: President
James Caan: Movie Star
Ben Stiller: The Trainer
Norm MacDonald (“Saturday Night Live”): Complaint Box; The Injury
George Lindsey (“The Andy Griffith Show”/”Mayberry R.F.D”): Rose Bowl
Jon Stewart: Twins
Jon Lovitz (“The Critic,” “Saturday Night Live”): Our Fiftieth Episode*
Jerry Seinfeld: The Real Deal
*Jon Lovitz guest starred as “Fred” in season three, before becoming a regular cast member in season five following the death of Phil Hartman.
I love this season. To me, there are no really bad episodes to be found. Personally I love the Who’s the Boss two-part episode where they put Bill in charge of the station. I admit, I wasn’t a fan of the “efficiency expert,” but it did bring about some interesting plots. You really can’t go wrong with any episodes in the season. Sinking Ship is notable, as the fourth season finale and Phil Hartman’s last show. As far as guest stars go, Jon Lovitz guest stars as a suicidal man in the season premiere, Jumper. We’re, at this point, only one year shy of Lovitz joining the cast himself. Lauren Graham, who would go on to take the role of Lorelai in Gilmore Girls, in the episodes “Planbee,” “The Public Domain,” “Super Karate Monkey Death Car,” and “French Diplomacy.” 24 fans, take note, Mary Lynn Rajskub Chloe is in the episode The Secret of Management. That’s about it.
There are a few key episodes in the final season. In the first episode of the fifth season, the WNYX gang is mourning the death of Bill McNeal due to a sudden heart attack -- except for Andrew, who thinks this is part of an elaborate plot Bill let him in on that seems to change with each telling by Andrew. The cast had trouble getting through parts of this one -- tape had to be stopped due to the cast breaking down in tears in a few parts. The episode serves as a dual tribute to both Bill the character, and Phil Hartman the actor -- whom the episode is dedicated. At one point, the gang reads letters Bill left for them. Khandi Alexander makes a one-shot re-appearance as Catherine. In the next episode, Dave is persuaded to hire an often-fired radio DJ, Max Louis (Jon Lovitz) as Bill’s replacement -- also, the idea of Y2K (remember that??) wreaks havoc at the office. The episode “Jail” (1) introduces the character of Johnny Johnson, played by Patrick Warburton. In “Clash of the Titans” (3), Adam West guests as himself. In “Boston,” Dave tries to tape a message for students at his alma mater. In “Stinkbutt,” Toby Huss -- at this point working with Stephen Root over at King of the Hill, guests as Jack Frost, In the episode “assistant,” Lisa’s new assistant -- played by Tiffani Thiessen -- turn Joe and Dave against each other, while Max whines (this is a trend) about the lack of a sofa in the men’s bathroom. Folks, there’s a reason there’s not a sofa in the men’s room -- we go in, do our business, wash up, and get out. We don’t sit around doing this that and the other, we just go in and take care of business.
Anyway, bathroom habits aside, in the 2nd half of the “Wino/Wedding” 2-parter, “Wedding,” Lisa gets married to Johnny. Yeah, what’s that Fonz, you want to schedule the jump for 4:00 tomorrow afternoon? OK, I’ll pencil you in. Finally, there are the last two episodes. In the first half, “Retirement,” Jimmy announces his retirement (who could have seen THAT one coming?), shocking the entire staff. He winds up resting and relaxing up in New Hampshire, but, he’s lonely. This leads to the last episode of NewsRadio, ever, appropriately titled “New Hampshire.” In “New Hampshire,” Jimmy returns to WNYX to try to convince Dave to come to New Hampshire. Dave turns him down, and recommends Matthew, as he’s the one person he’d actually like to lose. One by one, everyone else decides *they’d* rather go to New Hampshire, and accept offers Jimmy makes them. At the end, everyone except Dave leaves for New Hampshire...until Matthew returns -- he didn’t leave after all. The show closes with just Dave and Matthew left at WNYX. Had the show gone to a sixth season, the show would have been retooled around the radio station and newspaper in New Hampshire, and presumably they would have found *some* way to move Dave and Matthew there.
Season five is the weakest of the series, but is still better than a majority of shows out there.
I absolutely hate this set’s packaging. I’m not mincing words -- it’s terrible. Another reviewer at Sitcoms Online has previously referred to this packaging style as the “black spindle of death.” For those of you who’ve never had the fortune to buy a complete series set of any of the shows outside of Sony’s A-tier, you’re in for a rude awakening. The packaging, while it is certainly a space saver, is cheap and flimsy, and will almost certainly result in a larger than normal number of scratched and broken discs if not put into your own packaging. The outer box itself is nice enough, I suppose. It features a black and silver design with the show’s logo at the top in front of a silver “NewsRadio” background. A cast photo from the first four seasons is in the center. The reverse side features silver, blue, and red artwork with the logo at the top, small versions of the package art from the four previous releases centered on an arc in the middle, and the sales text in the bottom. In order to open the packaging, you first have to grasp the cover and open it, revealing an opening panel and an opening in the side. To remove the black tub/spindle you then have to shake the packaging to get the holder to slide out. The discs are stored in *one* spindle inside a thick black disc holder. The artwork is identical to all previous seasons’ releases and retains the per-season episode numbering scheme.
Season One/Two’s discs:
Disc one feature Phil Harman, the second disc features Dave Foley, and the third disc has Joe Rogan on the cover. The first ten episodes and the special features are on disc one. Episodes 11-19 are on the second disc, while episodes 20-29 are on the third disc.
Season Three’s discs:
On the cover of case 1 is the cast standing in front of an old-time radio set, while on the second case the cast is climbing on/hanging off of a stone gargoyle on the “roof”. Disc 1, containing the first 9 episodes and majority of the special features [except for a few commentaries], has Maura Tierney on the disc art. Disc 2, containing 10-18, has Phil Hartman on the cover. The third disc has episodes 20-25 on it, and features Vicki Lewis on the cover.
Season Four’s discs:
On disc 1, the character in the foreground being Dave, again peeking his head around the side. On disc two, Matthew has his head peeking up from the bottom of the art, with the rest of the cast in various states of happiness/boredom behind him. Disc 1, featuring the first nine episodes, has Matthew on the front cover, up to his nose in paperwork. Disc 2, has Joe on the disc, standing next to an old-fashioned radio. This disc has episodes 10-18. Finally is disc 3, housing episodes 19-22.
Season Five’s discs:
Dave Foley’s on disc 1, Matthew’s on disc 2, and Max is on disc 3. Behind each disc on the inside of the cases is a photo from the season inside a “585AM NewsRadio” circle. Behind 1 is Matthew visiting Jimmy in Jail. Behind 2 are Max and Matthew talking with Dave standing behind Max. Behind 3 is a photo from the Lisa/Johnny wedding. Oy. Discs 1 and 2 each contain 8 shows (1-8, 9-16 respectively), while disc 3 houses 17-22 plus the non-commentary features.
Menu Design and Navigation:
Well, if the discs are recycled from the individual season releases, obviously the menus will follow the same style. Luckily with only one menu style used, I don’t have to say the same thing four times, once will suffice.
Menus on all discs are somewhat basic. Each disc’s menus feature a different color scheme. Main menu on all three discs is a shot of a radio microphone with the NewsRadio logo in front. Episode selection menu is a set of earphones on top of a radio sound board, with a still image from each episode in a gold-light border, and the episode title below it. Special Features menus feature a shot of the outside door of WNYX. Commentaries are a close-focus shot of a desk. There is no music during any of the menus.
Video and Audio Quality:
90s TV series are always the tricky ones to describe the audio/video quality on, as something seemed to occur around the mid to late 90s that caused the video quality for series from all studios on all networks to suddenly jump. I’m not sure if it’s the point that studios realized that keeping their master elements in top condition for future use might be a good idea, or if something in their tape/film stock’s composition changed that allowed for improved picture, or what -- but over the course of the late 90s there seems to be a jump in VQ in most shows. Video starts out slightly grainy and washed out --consistent with early 90s television shows. By the end of the run VQ has improved notably. Audio is consistent across all five seasons, and does its job well without being anything particularly special. Portuguese subtitles are available for no apparent reason. Chapter stops at the end each act. I would have preferred scene-level stops, but I’m not going to argue -- minimal ones are better than none.
While the pilot and first season clock in around 22:00 to 23:00, by the final season the runtimes have decreased to 21:30 to 22:00. This is consistent with other shows from the era.
I was honestly quite impressed with the amount of commentary on the set. There’s commentary by various crew and cast (different on each track) on TWENTY of the twenty-nine episodes, for a total of 455 minutes (approx.) of commentary. Such a high commentary total is almost unheard-of for a Sony set. They managed to get not only the various writers/producers the show had, but all the cast members from the first two seasons, with the obvious exception of the late Phil Hartman, contribute audio on at least one episode. Not only that, there’s a gag reel from the second season, which runs 11:36, but there’s a behind-the-scenes featurette, produced in the show’s first season, that includes interviews with the entire cast including Phil Hartman, who reveals, among other things, that he auditioned as an announcer on The Price is Right in early 1986, right after the original announcer, Johnny Olson, passed away. Had he gotten the gig, he wouldn’t have gone on to do Saturday Night Live starting that fall, and...well, you get the picture. The featurette runs 12:01. There’s also a Filmography feature for each member of the cast -- it’s a series of clickable graphics, take at your own pace. Total special features runtime is around 478 minutes, mostly commentary. Still, excluding Seinfeld, that’s more total time spent on extras than just about any other Sony release. This is something that everyone over at SPHE should take pride in, and work on doing for other sets. The Filmographies menu consists of a close-up shot of a radio dial, with the WNYX logo on the dial, and each cast member’s name off in a circle with an arrow pointing to a different location on the dial.
Season 3 Gag Reel: Various Clips and bloopers from the third season of NewsRadio. Actually has an extended video version of the NewsRadio opening credits. 16:45
I’m not going to summarize the commentary: I could, but what would honestly be the fun in that?
Arcade: Writer/Producer Joe Furey, Writers Al Higgins, Lew Morton, and Sam Johnson, and actor Stephen Root. 22:31
Daydream: Executive Producer/Creator Paul Simms and Actors Dave Foley, Stephen Root, Andy Dick, and Vicki Lewis. 22:31
Stocks: Paul Simms, Dave Foley, Stephen Root, Maura Tierney, Vicki Lewis, and Writer/Producers Joe Furey and Josh Lieb. 22:31
Christmas: Joe Furey, Al Higgins, Sam Johnson, Post Production Assistant Todd “Spider” Chambers and Script Supervisor Robert Spina. 22:33
The Trainer: Paul Simms, Dave Foley, Stephen Root, Joe Furey. 22:20
Rose Bowl: Joe Furey, Al Higgins, Lew Morton, Sam Johnson, Stephen Root. 22:32
Our Fiftieth Episode: Joe Furey, Al Higgins, Sam Johnson, Todd “Spider” Chambers, Robert Spina. 22:32
Sleeping: Dave Foley, Stephen Root, Andy Dick, Vicki Lewis, and Joe Furey. 22:31
Mistake: Paul Simms, Dave Foley, Andy Dick, Josh Lieb. 22:33
Space: Joe Furey, Al Higgins, Lew Morton, Sam Johnson, Todd “Spider” Chambers and Robert Spina. 22:32
Now THIS is different. Normally Sony’s idea of a featurette is some still-graphic thing that doesn’t really add much. Here on the other hand, well, take a look:
“Space”: From table read to Film--With OR Without Commentary. Video clips shot behind-the-scenes of the entire production process of the episode Space. Commentary is by Joe Furey, Writers Al Higgins, Lew Morton and Sam Johnson, Script Supervisor Robert Spina, and Stephen Root: 14:24 x2 [with/without commentary]
Filming Episode #323: Mistake: Like the above, but centered more on the filming process. Also has commentary: Paul Simms, Robert Spina, plus Dave Foley, Stephen Root, Andy Dick, and Vicki Lewis. 10:26 x2 [with/without commentary]
A Visit to Andy’s Trailer: Same commentary crew as above. This is, uh, a trip to Andy Dick’s trailer. This is just...weird. Andy flipped off the camera in the first 20 seconds! It’s insane. 14:03 x 2
Joe Furey’s One Man NewsRadio: Basically, Joe Furey just performs an entire scene from an episode of NewsRadio -- ALL CHARACTERS -- by himself. This is one of the most unique special features I have EVER seen. Even has an alternate version of the open credits with Joe Furey in the place of every cast member’s name. 4:31 x 2
Commentary: At this point, I’m sacrificing commentary details for getting the review out a bit faster. NewsRadio commentaries are always good; go out and buy the set NOW to find out for yourself.
Jumper: Executive Producer/Creator Paul Simms, Script Supervisor Robert Spina, Post-Production Coordinator Todd “Spider” Chambers, Writer/Producer Joe Furey, Maura Tierney, and Second Assistant Director Michael Risner. 22:24
Planbee: Paul Simms, Todd “Spider” Chambers, Joe Furey. 21:54
The Public Domain: Paul Simms, Writers/Producers Joe Furey, Al Higgins, and Lew Morton, and Actor Stephen Root. 21:54
Super Karate Monkey Death Car: Same crew as above. 21:53
Catherine Moves On: Paul Simms, Robert Spina, Todd “Spider” Chambers, Joe Furey, and Vicki Lewis. 21:59
Chock: Paul Simms, Robert Spina, Todd “Spider” Chambers, Joe Furey, Dave Foley, and Vicki Lewis 21:55
Who’s the Boss Part II: Paul Simms, Associate Producer Julie Bean, and Writers/Producers Joe Furey, Al Higgins, and Josh Lieb. 21:54
Copy Machine: Paul Simms, Todd “Spider” Chambers, Joe Furey, Vicki Lewis. 21:44
Sinking Ship: Paul Simms, Robert Spina, Todd “Spider” Chambers, Joe Furey, Vicki Lewis, and Michal Risner. 21:46
Season 4 Gag reel is...well...a gag reel. There’s 20 minutes even of bloopers.
One Man NewsRadio: Here we go again. Joe Furey playing every role in a scene. Interesting to say the least. 4:26
Commentary on “Lucky Burger” (21:59) by Exec. Prod. Paul Simms, Stephen Root, Writer Josh Lieb, and Script Supervisor Robert Spina: And we have problems. After turning the commentary on, I had to then select “episodes” from the commentaries menu, select the episode, then go to OK.
Commentary on “Flowers for Matthew” (21:58) with the same gang as above.
Commentary on “Jail” (21:58) with the above plus Post Production Coordinator Todd “Spider” Chambers: I’m definitely not liking this navigation system for the commentary.
Commentary on “Spooky Rapping Crypt” (21:57) with the above: NBC apparently threw a fit about Stephen Root’s little beard/goatee thing he had going, and made him shave it.
Commentary on “Stinkbutt” and “Towers” (both 21:59): Paul Simms, Andy Dick, and Robert Spina. Breaking the monotony here -- Andy Dick is always an interesting person to have around for 22 minutes, and Paul and Robert keep things running smoothly--nothing really to report from either track.
Commentary on “Freaky Friday” (21:59) with Paul Simms, Stephen Root, Todd Chambers, and writers Sam Johnson and Chris Marcil: If you’re watching this on a computer, you can see everything that’s on the full shot, while on regular TV you miss things. Then they go onto a discussion about a hidden crew member throwing firecrackers while watching 24 Season 1 on DVD on their HDTV.
Commentary on “New Hampshire” (22:00) with Paul, Stephen, Sam, and Robert: The last commentary on the last episode, on the last DVD. When they were writing this, they were trying to set it up to either end the show OR transition to season six, where they confirm the show WOULD have moved to New Hampshire. They suggest that Sony put the MTR panel from right after this where no one knew they were going to get canceled -- onto the DVD. Obviously Sony ignored them.
Commentary run-time: 171:51
Now the rest are all on Disc 3:
Fifth Season Gag Reel (22:49): Lots and Lots and Lots and Lots and Lots of Bloopers. Cathartic is a big word for a pie-eyed drunk.
One Man NewsRadio (3:59): I appreciate the effort that apparently goes into this, but I *really* don’t like this feature. Definitely would have rather seen the MTR panel interview.
One Man NewsRadio: The Lost Episode With or Without Commentary (1:42): The first one of these. This actually was filmed during the downtime, they were bored, and so we got this. And ultimately this got on the DVD somehow. Joe thanks for explaining what I’ve been watching through all these, though. I DO appreciate THAT. Wait, the Box Said there were Deleted Scenes. Oh well, there weren’t any last time. Must just be a misprint. Oh well.
Total Run Time of Special Features: 1230 minutes
In reviewing past reviews, it’s interesting to notice how my opinion on One Man NewsRadio shifted over time. In retrospect, it’s a pretty nifty idea.
If this review seemed like a rehash of previous content thrown into one smaller package -- well, that’s a handy simile to describe the DVD set. It’s all the old stuff, nothing new, in cheap packaging, but available for a cheap price.
This is a WONDERFUL show -- though it suffered without Phil Hartman. The humor can be a BIT absurdist, so you may want to investigate the show further before buying this DVD, but in my estimation it’s well worth the money. NewsRadio is one of the funniest sitcoms ever, in my opinion, and it’s great to own the entire thing. I was a fan of the show beforehand; I love the show even more now. The DVD set’s a must for any fan of the show or for any fan of any of the particular cast members, or for anyone just looking for a hilariously funny show. If you already own the season sets, don’t waste your money. If you don’t, though, by all means buy this set today!
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 3.5/5
Special Features: 5/5
Final Score: 4/5
-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 10/28/08
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