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NewsRadio - The Complete First & Second Seasons



Release Date: May 24, 2005 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
MSRP: $39.95
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 29
Running Time: Approx. 659 Minutes
Total Run Time of Special Features: Approx. 478 Minutes. (455 min of which are commentaries!)
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Subtitles: Portuguese
Closed Captioned
Special Features:
• Season Two Gag Reel
• Behind-the-Scenes Featurette from 1995
• Commentaries by various cast and crew members on 20 episodes
• Filmographies of the Cast Members

My Thoughts:

The first and second seasons of the hilariously funny NewsRadio are now on DVD in one set! Dave Nelson (Dave Foley, “Kids in the Hall”) is the new news director at New York City radio station WNYX. Making his job stressful are the various people working at WNYX, including on-air talent Bill McNeal (Phil Hartman, “Saturday Night Live”) and Catherine Duke (Khandi Alexander), street reporter Matthew Brock (Andy Dick, “Less than Perfect,” “Get Smart (1995),” “The Ben Stiller Show”), his secretary Beth (Vicki Lewis), electrician Joe Garelli (Joe Rogan, “Fear Factor”), Dave’s boss Jimmy James (Stephen Root, “King of the Hill”), and station writer Lisa (Maura Tierney, “ER”), who thought SHE was in line for the news director spot…and who Dave just happens to be seeing romantically.

I honestly can’t sit here and recommend specific episodes for this show,­ 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.”

On to the technical aspects: The two discs are each held in a slim case that goes into a holding box. The front-cover has a cast shot of the show. The reverse cover has Phil Hartman sitting on an antique radio on the right, info text on the top left, a box of the special features in the middle of the left side, and two photos (Dave Foley and Maura Tierney, and Phil Hartman and Dave Foley). The first two discs are held in the first slimcase, with the cast crammed through an elevator door opening. The third disc is in the second case, the case with the cast in front of an open elevator. Disc one features 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.

Menus are somewhat basic. Each disc’s menus features a different color scheme (1: Yellow, 2: Blue, 3: Red). Main menu on all four 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 (Disc 1 Only) is a shot of the outside door of WNYX. Commentaries is a close-focus shot of a desk. 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.

Episodes run approximately 22:30 to 23:00. There’s a bit of minor grain present on the pilot, and tiny bits occasionally elsewhere, but overall, it’s nothing major. Also, with 9-10 episodes per disc, you’re going to see some compression pixelation, but overall, the video’s not bad. Chapter stops are at each fade to black (where commercials would normally be inserted). Considering the number of scene changes, this is probably the best solution. Audio is a Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 track. I noticed a fairly good balance between the left and right channels, with the vocal and main sounds being on both channels, with the other sounds/music split. Overall, it sounds about as nice as a 2.0 track CAN sound.

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.

Overall, I’ve got to say, I loved this set. I was a fan of the show before, and 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. The only thing I’d probably suggest Sony do for the third season’s set is to make sure there’s NEVER more than 8 episodes/4 Hours of content per disc. 4 Hours is the generally accepted “line of quality/quantity,” at which you’ve gotten the most material on the disc before visible pixelation sets in. Also, I’d consider possibly setting up the theme to run in the background during the menu. Other than that, honestly, I’d just encourage Sony to make the 3rd season set how they made this one. It’s just that good.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Special Features: 4.5/5
Menu Navigation/Design: 3/5
Overall: 4/5

Seth Thrasher Seal of Approval

-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 05/11/2005.

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