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NewsRadio - The Complete Fifth Season



Release Date: March 20, 2007 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
MSRP: $39.98
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 22
Running Time: approx. 482 Minutes.
Total Run Time of Special Features: approx. 203 Minutes
Audio: English
Subtitles: Portuguese
Closed Captioned
Special Features:
* Gag Reel
* One Man NewsRadio
* Commentaries by Cast and Crew


One of the best things in the television world is the ability to re-shoot a scene if you don’t like the way the first one turned out, or more relevant, if something happens to cause the destruction of the first take. Why am I blathering about this? Because this is actually the 2nd take of my NewsRadio review. I forgot to save the first copy, so it’s lost to memory forever. You’re really not missing anything other than I’m being slightly less harsh towards Brynn Hartman in this one.

Why did I waste a paragraph talking about that? Because, it’s important to know when something is changed from the original, or if things are just wholesale not the same as they were before. That’s an apt metaphor for NewsRadio Season 5 with the death of Phil Hartman. With Phil gone, things were just not the same – something was missing. This was, even moreso than after Khandi left, no longer the original NewsRadio. Max was no Bill, and Jon Lovitz is not Phil Hartman. That’s not to say Jon Lovitz didn’t bring his own special talents to the show – just that it’s not the same. I’m a huge fan of Jon Lovitz – the first TV DVD I ever bought was The Critic – Complete Series – so naturally I was happy to see him join NewsRadio. But with all the respect in the world for Mr. Lovitz, Phil – and the Bill character – was simply a perfect match for the show, while Max seemed a mesh of some of Bill and Matthew’s quirks.

Still, an “off” season of NewsRadio is better than the “best” seasons of a LOT of shows. The final season of the show stars Dave Foley (Dave), Maura Tierney (Lisa), Stephen Root (Jimmy), Jon Lovitz (Max), Joe Rogan (Joe), Vicki Lewis (Beth), and the always-interesting Andy Dick as Matthew.

Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

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.


If everything from here onwards sounds familiar, it should. Not only did I just write this all 24 hours ago, but the packaging is extremely similar to the previous seasons’ packaging and the menus…well, you’ll just have to read THAT section yourself). Packaging is the same style Sony’s been using for the majority of the releases that it’s began in the last 2 years--outer box, 2 slimcases inside. Outer box contains the 7 cast members lined up, with Max in front of the microphone, and Beth holding the disconnected jack, meaning the mic isn’t wired into anything. They’re standing in front of a New York City skyline. This is consistent with other releases, but I preferred the first version shown a LOT better – same poses, but standing in front of the portrait of Bill/Phil Hartman. Outer box contains another pose, with Max sitting on the row of photos near the bottom, Lisa resting against the back of the photo line looking puzzled, and Dave laying on the photo row. The front covers of the two slimcases feature two more photos of the cast doing other random things, again, in front of the sky line. Back cover’s a light blue to dark blue gradient, with the episode titles and descriptions in small text, in a disc breakdown format – this is what they should have used for Maude. Dave’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. Eeesh. 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:

It’s the same thing you’ve seen before in the previous three releases, so I’m going to go with the shortest word count possible--same graphics, new color arrangement. Main menu has the old-style microphone, options to the top-left. Episode selection features stills of each episode with the title behind them, in front of some headphones and a soundboard. Background for the subtitles menu is still an old-fashioned radio. Disc 1 menus are colored purple, Disc 2 menu colors are green, and Disc 3 color is blue.

Video and Audio Quality:

Getting to watch the show on TBS, and on Nick @ Nite for the seemingly 2 weeks they ran it, I’ve gotten to see how their versions look and sound, and I can compare to an extent with the DVD versions. Audio’s a respectable Dolby Digital 2.0 track. Laugh track seems to overpower the vocals to an extent – the laugh track should never overpower a show’s vocals. Other than that there are no glitches or defects, just that one minor little gripe. Video is fine, the colors are warm without being oversaturated, and there aren’t really any compression or grain issues. 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.

For a show chronically on the brink of cancellation, the runtimes being in the 22 minute ballpark in 1998-99 is about right.

Disc 1:
Bill Moves On: 21:33
Meet the Max Lewis: 21:55
Lucky Burger: 21:59
Noise: 21:58
Flowers for Matthew: 21:58
Jail: 21:58
The Lam: 21:59
Clash of the Titans: 21:59

Disc 2:
Boston: 22:00
Spooky Rapping Crypt: 21:57
Stinkbutt: 21:59
Apartment: 21:59
Towers: 21:59
Hair: 21:42
Assistant: 22:03
Wino: 21:58

Disc 3:
Wedding: 22:00
Ploy: 22:00
Padded Suit: 21:59
Freaky Friday: 21:59
Retirement: 21:55
New Hampshire: 22:00

Special Features:

Despite the fact that they only list deleted scenes and the gag reel on the box, there are also commentaries and my least favorite special feature around, One Man NewsRadio.

Disc 1:
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.

Disc 2:
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.

Disc 3:
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 Running Time of Special Features: 203 Minutes, 6 Seconds.*

Final Comments:

And that’s that. Four DVD sets over 2 years, and the entire series of NewsRadio is on DVD. It’s great to have the whole thing – now I don’t have to keep hoping TBS doesn’t pull it – I’ve got them all, in DVD quality. Sony’s biggest fault in DVDs is their menus. They’re shoddy and uninspired. I can, in all sincerity, make better menus than what Sony is putting on their commercial DVD releases. Surely one of the world’s largest entertainment companies can do better than menus which haven’t been cutting edge, style-wise, since 2001. That’s easily my biggest gripe with this set – that and I wish they’d stuck with the original packaging design. Also, I have to give Sony some credit. They’ve gone from a 9-9-4 episode breakdown per disc to the more sane 8-8-6, and it DOES produce an increase in VQ.

This is a WONDERFUL show. The humor can be a BIT absurdist, so you might want to screen an episode or two on TBS before buying the 4 DVD sets, 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. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 2.5/5
Special Features: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

Seth Thrasher Seal of Approval

-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 03/08/07

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