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Newsradio aired from March 1995 until July 1999 on NBC.
All-news radio station WNYX in New York was the setting for this fast-paced situation comedy.
Boyish, enthusiastic Dave Nelson ( Dave Foley)had just been brought in from Wisconsin as the latest in a string of news directors by overbearing station owner Jimmy James( Stephen Root). Confused and somewhat inept, Dave was determined to make the most of his big break.
Members of the radio station included: Bill and Catherine ( Phil Hartman, Khandi Alexander), the self-centered, mostly supportive on-air anchors; Maththew( Andy Dick), the hypersensitive reporter; Joe( Joe Rogan), the "I've got a deal for you" maintenance man and Beth( Vicki Lewis), the gumcracking, savvy secretary.
Causing more problems for Dave was newswriter Lisa( Maura Tierney), who was talented and smart - and knew it. She thought she should have gotten the news director's job instead of Dave. Despite their rocky relationship, her and Dave found themselves attracted to one another with an off-and-on romance that became the talk of the office.
Stories delt with little incidents and jealousies around the office, with an occasional " fantasy" episode. In one WNYX was blasted into space, in another the cast did a takeoff on the hit movie Titanic ( sweet Lisa was pursued by Dave, while Joe tried to use duct tape to plug holes in the sinking ship).
The tragic murder of Phil Hartman in May 1999 almost spelled the end of the show, but his character was replaced by pathologically insecure on -air personality Max Lewis-a man who had held 37 jobs in the past 20 years. Ironically actor Jon Lovitz had appeared before in a 1997 episode as a man who threatened to jump from a ledge outside Dave's office unless he was allowed on the air. In a memorial episode, Bill McNeal was said to have died of a heart attack while watching tv. Everyone cried except for clueless Matthew, who thought he had gone to Afghanastan.
In the series finale ( telecast on May 4, 1999), Jimmy sold the station and tried to get the staff to relocate to New Hampshire. They all agreed except Dave and Matthew who stayed in New York.
A Review from The New York Times
TELEVISION REVIEW; When a Midwest Newsman Makes It to the Big Time
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: March 21, 1995
NBC's "News Radio" is off to an enticing start. And with good reason. The sitcom's credentials are definitely A-list, at least in television's universe. The producers are Brad Grey and Bernie Brillstein, whose credits include HBO's "Larry Sanders Show." The creator is Paul Simms, formerly a writer for Garry Shandling and David Letterman.
And the stars are dripping in contemporary hip. Dave Foley of the comedy troupe Kids in the Hall plays Dave, the baby-faced man from Wisconsin who hits Manhattan to be news director of all-news radio station WNYX. Phil Hartman, formerly of "Saturday Night Live," is bringing his delicious sultan-of-smarm manner to the character of Bill, the oily news announcer. And Andy Dick, who has worked prominently with Ben Stiller and Mr. Letterman (he plays Donnie, the fawning page), is Matthew, the hypersensitive apprentice who's sure he is going to be fired for things like his unfortunate on-air mispronunciation of Buttafuoco.
Round out the cast with instantly likable performers: Stephen Root as Jimmy, the gruffly out-of-phase station boss; Maura Tierney as Lisa, who thought she was next in line for news director; Vicki Lewis as Beth, the terminally attitudinal secretary; Khandi Alexander as Catherine, the unamused object of Bill's infuriatingly silky affections, and Joe Rogan as Joe, electrician and street-smart office manager.
Put them all together and place judiciously in the blockbuster time slot between "Wings" and "Frasier," and what you have is an exceptionally promising candidate for success. Maybe.
Tonight's premiere is indeed delightfully clever as Dave arrives on his new job only to discover that it's up to him to fire his predecessor, big Ed Harlow (Kurt Fuller), who suffers from back seizures and confides that "this job is the only thing that keeps my mind off the pain."
Mr. Hartman's Bill steals the show, dizzily assuring Wisconsin Dave that it's a great country up there and he loves cheese. When Lisa learns that she is not going to be news director, Bill asks solicitously, "Are you going to cry right here, or are you going to save it for the cab ride home?"
Next week's episode wanders dicily into obvious territory. The Buttafuoco routine is nothing more than an adolescent effort to slip a certain four-letter word onto network prime time by stealth. Certain television writers and producers cannot resist the rather childish temptation to be naughty. More questionably, Dave and Lisa, intense competitors, wind up very quickly "doing it," as they say, which is supposed to evoke echoes of Tracy and Hepburn but only suggests the pathetic fumblings of Joey and Amy.
Still, this cast, these writers, those producers: "News Radio" bears watching. NEWS RADIO NBC, tonight at 8:30. (Channel 4 in New York) Created and written by Paul Simms; directed by James Burrows; produced by Jon Spector; edited by Leslie Dennis; music by Mike Post. Marco Bario and Bruce Rand Berman, associate producers. A Bernstein-Grey Communication Production. Brad Grey, Bernie Brillstein and Paul Simms, executive producers. WITH: Dave Foley (Dave Nelson), Stephen Root (Jimmy James), Andy Dick (Matthew), Maura Tierney (Lisa Miller), Vicki Lewis (Beth), Joe Rogan (Joe), Khandi Alexander (Catherine Duke) and Phil Hartman (Bill McNeal).
An Article from The New York Times
April 9, 1995
TELEVISION; A Precocious Sitcom Freshman
By ANDY MEISLER
YEARS BEFORE THEY submit their first script, most aspiring television-sitcom writers are already steeped in the genre. Thousands of hours of television watching has burned hundreds of plot lines and characters into their brains. They are fluent in the language of sight gags and snappy comebacks, teasers and tag lines, sly topical references and quick moral lessons. And so, such aspirants may think themselves well qualified to write and even produce their own half-hour comedies -- until they meet Paul Simms.
Mr. Simms is the writer, creator and executive producer of "News Radio," the new NBC sitcom that had its premiere in March and has been extended by the network for at least six more episodes on Tuesday nights at 8:30. A tall, thin graduate of Harvard, he is an American who was raised in third-world countries. Deprived of early exposure to "I Love Lucy," "The Brady Bunch" -- indeed to most of the sitcom canon -- Mr. Simms seems to have had to depend for inspiration primarily on the real world, including his own quasi-immigrant experiences.
He is, nonetheless, a certified comedy Wunderkind, a veteran at 29 of two of the most critically praised comedy shows of recent years: NBC's "Late Night With David Letterman" and HBO's "Larry Sanders Show."
"News Radio," which is set in New York City inside an all-news radio station peopled by attitudinally supercharged neurotics, is the first broadcast-network sitcom that Mr. Simms has worked on, much less created. It is a show clearly shaped by his distinctive perspectives and sensibilities.
On a recent afternoon, inside the Hollywood sound stage where "News Radio" is filmed, Mr. Simms stood up and faced several dozen broadly smiling actors, writers, crew members and network representatives. (The show's best-known cast members are Phil Hartman, formerly of "Saturday Night Live," and Dave Foley, until lately of the "Kids in the Hall" comedy troupe.) They were gathered for the initial "table reading" of the script for the seventh episode of the show. The first episode had been broadcast the previous night.
When asked how the show performed, Mr. Simms looked down at the table, embarrassed, and flipped aimlessly through some papers. "Um, we won our time slot or something," he said. For a moment the idea seemed confusing, perhaps even depressing.
"Actually," he added, looking up triumphantly, "it's all a bunch of numbers no one really understands."
"News Radio" relies primarily on the mix and match of its regular characters' egos and manias as they climb up the greasy pole that is the 90's career path. On its first two broadcasts the show was watched by about 20 percent of all audiences watching television those nights, improving on its lead-in, the NBC stalwart "Wings," by a percentage point. And it has beaten its competitors -- including the new "Under One Roof," on CBS, and "Thunder Alley," on ABC -- in its share of the coveted 18- to 49-year-old audience.
Most reviews have been favorable. " 'News Radio' is off to an enticing start," John J. O'Connor wrote in The New York Times. "The sitcom's credentials are definitely A-list, at least in television's universe."
Warren Littlefield, the president of NBC, while stopping short of announcing that "News Radio" will be renewed for the fall, has said of the show, "This is another signature comedy for NBC," alluding to other network successes like "Frasier" and "Mad About You."
"Paul has found some terrific voices," he added.
MR. SIMMS IS CLEAR About the voices he wants in his show. "I didn't want it to be about an office full of wacky loonies," he said over soup and french fries at a restaurant near his home in Brentwood, Calif. "I wanted it to be people who all are ambitious and want something.
"You know, 'Seinfeld' is probably the best show on television right now," he continued. "But all those shows trying to imitate 'Seinfeld' are just about people hanging around and talking and picking over the minutiae of pop culture. I myself don't have a lot of sitting-around time. That's just not my life.
"When I started thinking of the show," he said, "I thought in terms of the stories that I was interested in. The very first thing I wanted was for it to be about work -- not just showing people at work but about work. About working for a living, what all my friends do 12 or 14 hours a day."
Mr. Simms had no problem revealing that the show's central figure, the station news director Dave Nelson, is in many respects himself. "This is a story about a guy who's not naturally a boss," said Mr. Simms, who had come to this interview wearing jeans and a Led Zeppelin T-shirt.
Dave, played by Mr. Foley, is a Midwesterner out of place in New York and pointedly young for such a responsible job. His shyness and politeness are constantly at war with his repressed feelings -- primarily anger and lust -- and his sense of irony about the absurd situations he finds himself in at work. He spends as much time trying to "manage" himself as the idiosyncratic characters around him.
These include Bill McNeal (Mr. Hartman), an egomaniacal, effortlessly manipulative news anchor; Jimmy James (Stephen Root), the eccentric radio station owner; Lisa Miller (Maura Tierney), an ambitious reporter who openly covets Dave's job while engaging in a secret romance with him; and Beth (Vicki Lewis), his wisecracking secretary. They are all types Mr. Simms has met along the way.
Born in California, Mr. Simms is the son of schoolteachers. When he was 3, his parents decided to take teaching jobs at the American School in Karachi, Pakistan. "Most of the television programming was in Urdu, which I didn't speak fluently," said Mr. Simms. "This was before VCR's. Once a month the local station would show an episode of 'Star Trek.' Once every few weeks we'd watch a movie."
When he was 7 the family moved to Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia. There he saw some syndicated American fare on local television and films imported from the West with all the kisses edited out. (He did manage to subscribe to Mad magazine.) When he reached high school age, he was sent to a boarding school in Santa Barbara, Calif. "I was a completely blank slate," he said. "I mean, I knew nothing about being a real American kid."
SO WHERE DID MR. Simms get the experience he needed for a show set in a frenetic American workplace?
At Harvard he won a spot on the staff of The Harvard Lampoon, a breeding ground for people who later became comedy writers for television. Mr. Simms's experience there would put him right into the television-comedy pipeline.
But before he went into television he did a stint in New York, between 1988 and 1990, at Spy magazine, then at the height of its fame for its caustic style. "He had a kind of chronic but very appealing outsider-dom," recalled Kurt Andersen, a founding editor of Spy and now the editor in chief of New York magazine.
In addition to his duties as a staff writer, Mr. Simms worked on two Spy television specials and wrote "Spy Notes," a Cliff Notes-type satire of several Generation X novels.
In 1990, encouraged by one of the many ex-Lampoon staff members writing for David Letterman, he left the magazine world to work for the Letterman show. Mr. Simms specialized in writing and producing the television host's out-of-studio "remotes." He specifically recalled one segment he produced in which Mr. Letterman pretended to murder, then bury, the show's announcer, Bill Wendell.
Although he understandably refused to be specific, Mr. Simms acknowledged that he used some of his experiences at "Late Night" at "The Larry Sanders Show," whose setting is a dysfunctional late-night talk show. There, from 1992 to 1994, he worked his way up to head writer under the show's producer and star, Garry Shandling.
Last year Brillstein-Grey, the producers of "Larry Sanders" and "News Radio," signed Mr. Simms to a development contract. His first project was "News Radio." NBC, which had originally ordered just a pilot episode, commissioned six more shows after seeing the first script.
A decision on whether the series will be renewed will come next month. ("I probably shouldn't tell anyone this," said Mr. Simms, "but this is really the only show I have in me.") Meanwhile he is determined to keep the shows focused on his own reality: "Not, you know, world peace but bigger issues. Like how do I fire somebody I'm replacing? Or, I've just slept with somebody in the office and I'd rather not have anybody know about it. Is that right or is that wrong?" The Gruff, the Fatuous, the Competent.
An Article from Entertainment Weekly
Published on January 12, 1996
DON'T TOUCH THAT DIAL
FORMER SKETCH-COMEDY ARTISTS PHIL HARTMAN AND DAVE FOLEY LEAD THE CRACK ENSEMBLE THAT HAS TRANSFORMED NBC'S 'NEWSRADIO' INTO A PERFECTLY TUNED SITCOM HIT.
By Ken Tucker
THERE'S A LOT of pure pleasure to be gleaned from NEWSRADIO (NBC, Sundays, 8:30-9 p.m.). This sitcom set at a New York City radio station has been around only since last March, but its fine cast has already jelled as an ensemble -- in fact, right now, only The Simpsons can boast a better one.
The series features Dave Foley as Dave Nelson, the news director of all-news radio WNYX; Dave is the head of a workplace that functions like the type of surrogate family first exemplified by The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Among NewsRadio's dysfunctional brood is a pompous anchorman (Phil Hartman), a dignified anchorwoman (Khandi Alexander), a nervous Nellie of a reporter (Andy Dick), an intelligent, neurotic newswriter (Maura Tierney), a wacky yet prickly secretary (Vicki Lewis), the grim eccentric who owns the station (Stephen Root), and some technician guy who seems to be there just to remind us of Tony Danza (Joe Rogan).
One reason the NewsRadio cast so quickly established itself as a distinctively idiosyncratic crew is that three of its crucial members come from not-sedated-for-prime-time, kamikaze comedy troupes: Foley (a once-and-future Kid in the Hall), Dick (you may not remember The Ben Stiller Show from a few years back on Fox, but it won an Emmy, and Dick and Janeane Garofalo were both on it), and Hartman (Saturday Night Live, which since his departure has gone from kamikaze to merely suicidal). Each of these performers has been able to integrate his uniquely quirky style into the context of NewsRadio.
Foley's character is the most interesting. His Dave Nelson is fresh from Wisconsin, and frequent jokes have been made about his bright-eyed, 12-year-old-boyish look. Any other fish-out-of-water show would have made Dave an instantly recognizable TV type: a lovable hick, or an amiable doofus. Instead, Dave is complicated. Yes, he's enthusiastic and idealistic, but he's no naif; he's fully aware of how he's perceived, and uses that knowledge to his advantage.
As a result, Dave is an uncommonly good manager who ends up running WNYX in a way that even his self-absorbed, bottom line-minded boss, Jimmy James (the frequently brilliant Root), appreciates. Dave is also appreciated by newswriter Lisa (Tierney), and it's one of the smarter twists in NewsRadio that this couple's romance isn't presented as a furtive tryst -- everyone in the office knows about it and has to deal with it, which adds layers of comic tension.
Among the key players, Hartman's Bill McNeal and Dick's Matthew have carried the most weight. Hartman's interpretation of Bill's vanity is subtle, from the buttoned-up, English-tweed cut of his clothes to the flashing, vapid grin that Bill thinks fools everyone into believing he's sincere. If Hartman steals the show with leers and asides, Dick has handled some of the season's best plots: Matthew gets a new desk, which makes everyone jealous; Matthew gets a promotion but doesn't realize that it's just a meaningless lateral move. The character is a compendium of insecurities. The way Bill, Matthew, and Jimmy (the deceptively complex boss) have been shaped by the writers and producers, it's impossible to say which way they'll go from one week to the next.
Which brings us to the final reason why NewsRadio is so good: creator/executive producer Paul Simms. Simms, a former writer for both The Larry Sanders Show and Late Night With David Letterman, is one of the few young satirists to have found an equally creative home in network prime time without compromising his sharp-edged attitude. This is a clear reason why prime time need not be a place for us to surrender our standards for both strong irony and strong belly laughs. NewsRadio: A
An Article from The New York Times
Comedian Phil Hartman Is Shot to Death in His Home
By JAMES STERNGOLD
Published: May 29, 1998
Phil Hartman, the versatile comedian known for his roles on ''Saturday Night Live'' and ''Newsradio,'' was shot to death in his home this morning, apparently by his wife, who then took her own life as officers ushered the couple's two children from the house, the police said.
Police officers at the scene, in the leafy suburb of Encino, said that while they believed the case was a murder-suicide, they had not determined what the motive might have been for Mr. Hartman's wife, Brynn, 40.
The couple's two children were at the house when the shooting occurred, the police said, and were distraught.
Several close friends of the couple said Mrs. Hartman had a history of drug and alcohol problems and had been in and out of rehabilitation programs. They said they did not think Mrs. Hartman's substance abuse problems explained the actions this morning.
The police would not comment on whether there was a suicide note or provide any explanation for the shootings.
Officers said they received a call about 6:20 A.M. from a neighbor who reported having heard a gunshot from Mr. Hartman's gated house, on a street of large houses in the San Fernando Valley community, just off busy Ventura Boulevard.
The police arrived a few minutes later with sirens blaring and found the front door open and the two children just inside, said Lieut. Anthony Alba of the Los Angeles Police Department.
The officers took the boy, 9-year-old Sean, to their cars and then went back to get the daughter, Birgen, 6. While they were trying to get her out the door the officers heard a gun shot from the rear of the house, Lieutenant Alba said.
When the police went to the master bedroom they found Mr. Hartman lying on the bed, apparently dead for some time. Ms. Hartman was lying dead elsewhere in the room, the police said.
Friends of the couple said the news was a shock. Tony Penn, the manager of the Buca di Beppoa restaurant nearby, said, the Hartmans ate there often and that Ms. Hartman had had dinner on Wednesday evening with a female friend and had seemed friendly and calm.
The actor Steve Guttenberg, a friend of Mr. Hartman, said, as many other of Mr. Hartman's friends did, that Mr. Hartman had been a remarkably well-liked actor who was talented and enjoyed his success.
''He loved every moment of his life,'' said Brad Grey, a friend and the chairman of Brillstein-Grey, the company that managed Mr. Hartman's career. ''He was tickled by his success and he was grateful for it. He was one of the good guys.''
Mr. Hartman, 49, was known for his impersonations of President Clinton on ''Saturday Night Live,'' and his roles in a number of movies, like ''Jingle All the Way,'' as well as for his voice on animated shows like the ''Simpsons.''
Mr. Hartman was born in Brantford, Ontario, and was reared in Connecticut and Southern California, becoming an American citizen nine years ago. He had two brothers and five sisters. He studied graphic design at California State University at Northridge and initially built a career designing album covers for rock groups like Poco, America and Crosby, Stills & Nash.
But he loved doing stand-up comedy and he made the leap to acting full time in 1975, when he joined a local improvisational comedy troupe called the Groundlings.
''That was the beginning of the beginning,'' Mr. Hartman said in a television interview several years ago. He said he almost gave up before receiving his big break in 1986, when he became a cast member of ''Saturday Night Live.''
He quickly established himself by playing happy go-lucky losers and through impersonations. ''I sort of fell into this middle ground, average schmo kind of guy,'' he said in the interview, adding that he broke free by inventing personalities. ''My greatest strength is my versatility.''
Allison Kingsley, executive director of the Groundlings Theater, said: ''Phil was one of the more remarkable talents that has come from this theater and he certainly never forgot where he came from. He was always an inspiration to others who were starting out here.''
Though a late bloomer by show business standards, Mr. Hartman was well regarded for his remarkable ability for conjuring up an array of voices and characters. He impersonated Jack Nicholson, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Saddam Hussein and Barbara Bush, among others.
One of Mr. Hartman's friends from the Groundlings was Paul Reubens, better known as Pee Wee Herman. The two men wrote the successful movie, ''Pee Wee's Big Adventure.''
Mr. Hartman also has a role in a children's movie, ''Small Soldiers.'' which will be released later this summer.
Although he was not a major star, he earned well over a $1 million a year through his performances on ''Newsradio,'' in movies and in television commercials for clients like M.C.I,, McDonald's and Cheetos. He owned a boat as well as an airplane and several luxury cars, friends said.
Ms. Hartman was born Vicky Joe Omdahl, said Stan Rosenfield, a spokesman for her brother, Gregory Omdahl, who is the executor of her estate. She had two brothers and a sister and had worked as a model, friends said. She had expressed some interest to friends in acting and writing, but had not worked recently, the friends said.
Mr. Hartman had been previously married and divorced twice and Mrs. Hartman had been married and divorced once.
An Article from Time Magazine
The Most Happy Fella
Monday, Jun. 08, 1998
By JOEL STEIN
Behind all of Phil Hartman's characters lurked the same guy: uptight, inflated, slightly annoyed, but just self-aware enough to be in on the joke. In his personal life too, the longtime cast member of Saturday Night Live and NewsRadio seemed to be one of the few who appreciated the humor of celebrity, keeping his life in balance and low-key: a home in the unglamorous San Fernando Valley, a position as honorary sheriff in his town and a steady income from his TV show, small movie roles and voice-overs. So what happened early last Thursday morning--the day after the comic tested a new speedboat--did not fit the role everyone was used to: Hartman, 49, dead on his bed, in boxers and T shirt, shot twice in the head around 2 a.m.; his wife Brynn Omdahl then killing herself as their kids (Sean, 9, and Birgen, 6) were being taken from the house at about 6 a.m. by an as-yet-unidentified male friend who had called in the police for help.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Brynn, 40, an ex-model who was Hartman's third wife, had first fled to the male friend's house and fallen asleep there after talking incoherently of murdering her husband. After removing a gun from her purse, the friend took Brynn back to her home at dawn. But as the kids were carried out, she locked herself in the bedroom with a second gun and shot herself in the head. The Times quoted a lawyer who handled Hartman's 1985 divorce as saying the couple "had a pattern of arguing at night, and he would go to sleep and everything would be fine in the morning." Not this time.
There was almost immediate speculation about Brynn's violent possessiveness and past substance abuse. Even as family members denied the rumors, friends began talking about the fault lines in the marriage as well as Brynn's troubled history with controlling her anger. "They had a really nice, well-put-together family," says Andy Dick, Hartman's co-star in NewsRadio. "For nine years, Brynn was sober. She had her addictions in check, and she was getting help and everything was great. I can only assume that Brynn relapsed. I know Brynn when she was sober, and the sober Brynn is not capable of what supposedly happened."
Hartman's friends never expected him to play the victim in a murder-suicide, and even after news broke of the deaths, they invariably used the word happy to describe him. For good reason. He had the summer off to spend with his family at a Malibu vacation home he was about to rent; his sitcom, NewsRadio, was renewed two weeks ago; and the film Small Soldiers, in which he has a sizable role, is due out in July.
Was happiness a facade? Says SNL producer Lorne Michaels: "I'm not sure how well people really knew him. There was much more to him than appeared on the surface. I don't mean he was hiding anything as much as he was always very cool and pro." For someone known for his smirking Jesus, Hartman had a surprising piety. As he dealt with his father's death from Alzheimer's disease in April, he told the Catholic News Service, "Our faith prepares us for what lies ahead and tells us that it's a mystery to us, and we tremble before that mystery."
Last week the media mystery of choice was Hartman's private life. But the gated house in Encino provided few clues, except to Hartman's groundedness. "I'm kind of surprised someone of his stature lived over here," said the owner of a nearby shopping mall after the murder. "This is the wrong side of Ventura Boulevard for a celebrity." The perspective pervaded his late-blooming career. After leaving SNL in 1994 and despite landing a deal with NBC to star in his own sitcom, Hartman chose to join the underrated ensemble show NewsRadio in 1995, a project he continually championed and protected. At the time he said, "I have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams--financially and the amount of fun I have in my life."
His goal, he said, was to be the comedic Gene Hackman, playing subtle roles that bring class and reality to projects. In a chat on America Online last year, Hartman said, "I'm kind of at an intermediate level of celebrity, where pretty much everybody knows who I am but I haven't had the big breakout role that will take me to the next level. Sooner or later it will happen." Instead, it happened in real life, in the kind of melodramatic role that Hartman had always avoided.
--With reporting by Cathy Booth/Los Angeles and Dan Cray/Encino
An Article from CNN
It's official: Jon Lovitz to join 'NewsRadio' cast
Monday, July 06, 1998
HOLLYWOOD (Reuters) -- Actor-comedian Jon Lovitz will join the cast of the NBC show "NewsRadio" next season in an attempt to get the show back on track after the death in May of cast member Phil Hartman.
As former "Saturday Night Live" colleagues, Lovitz and Hartman were close friends, and Lovitz had appeared as a guest on "NewsRadio."
Lovitz for weeks weighed the decision on whether to join the cast full-time before deciding Friday to move forward with the deal.
"I'm doing this for Phil," Lovitz said. "There's nothing more to say."
Lovitz also has signed an exclusive deal with "NewsRadio" production company Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, where he's expected to develop his own series.
There was no question Lovitz wanted to work on a network comedy. Earlier this year, he starred in his own ABC pilot, which didn't get picked up for a series.
Lovitz also was the voice of the former ABC/Fox series "The Critic," and he's guest-starred in sitcoms such as "Friends," "Seinfeld" and "Married ... With Children."
His film credits include "City Slickers II," "A League of Their Own" and "Three Amigos."
'An old friend'
"He's an old friend of mine and I think we can do a wonderful show with him," said Brad Grey, chairman of Brillstein-Grey.
"While we all regret the circumstances from which this was born, Jon is one of the funniest people I've had the privilege of working with, and we look forward to his joining 'News Radio.'"
Hartman was found shot to death in his Los Angeles home on May 28 in what police said was a murder-suicide committed by his wife, Brynn.
Lovitz's new character
Entering its fifth season on NBC this fall, "NewsRadio" is a situation comedy about the day-to-day running of an all-news radio station in New York City.
Details of Lovitz's character have yet to be finalized, but he's expected to work in the newsroom, and he may play an old friend of station owner Jimmy, or a fired TV anchorman.
He'll also likely play an old friend of Bill McNeal, the self-indulgent news anchor played by Hartman.
"NewsRadio" producers are considering having Hartman's character pass away to explain his abscence.
An Article from The New York Times
A Hard Job to Accept: A Slain Buddy's Show
By BILL CARTER
Published: October 7, 1998
To Jon Lovitz, Phil Hartman was more than a longtime comedy partner on ''Saturday Night Live'' in the 1980's, more even than a friend so close they often spent Thanksgiving and other holidays together.
''He was like my older brother,'' Mr. Lovitz said, a sentiment he repeated many times in a choked voice during an interview.
For Mr. Lovitz, the anguish of Mr. Hartman's death last May, when, according to the police, he was killed in his home by his wife, Brynn, who later shot herself to death, was compounded by an emotional conflict when he was asked to replace Mr. Hartman as the star of the NBC series ''News Radio.''
He joins the series Oct. 7 in its second episode of the season. The first episode dealt with the rest of the cast's reaction to the death of Mr. Hartman's character, Bill McNeal. Mr. Lovitz joins the staff of the fictional New York radio station WNYX as Max Lewis, who will be described as a close friend of Bill McNeal.
While Mr. Lovitz now says he believes his joining the show is ''comforting to me and the rest of the cast,'' the decision did not come lightly.
''The day after Phil died I was at a friend's house,'' Mr. Lovitz said. ''Everybody was devastated and really in shock.'' Somebody in the group noted that Mr. Hartman left behind some continuing roles, including his starring role in ''News Radio.'' Mr. Lovitz turned to Brad Grey, his manager and one of the executive producers of ''News Radio.''
''I said to Brad: 'They better not come to me to replace Phil,' '' Mr. Lovitz said. ''The show wasn't doing that well, and I just thought me joining it would be manipulative. I thought I'd be profiting from his death. And I didn't want to face the fact that he was gone. So I said it to Brad, never thinking they would offer it to me in a million years. I didn't even think they should continue with the show.''
But the offer did come, in a discussion with the show's creator, Paul Simms. ''Paul just said to me: 'I don't know what to tell you. You're his friend. It feels right. Everybody in the cast wants you.' ''
The harsh reality was that Mr. Lovitz was looking for a new television role. Only weeks earlier he had starred in a pilot for an ABC comedy, one in which Mr. Hartman showed up for his guest appearance a day after his father died despite Mr. Lovitz's assurances that he could be replaced. When ABC did not order a series from the pilot, Mr. Lovitz said he had decided to ''hook up on a show on NBC.''
This was hardly the way he wanted to join a show, he said. ''At first I thought people are going to say he's only there because Phil got murdered -- and now let's be funny!''
Mr. Lovitz discussed the idea with friends in and out of show business, people like Herb Sargent, the ''Saturday Night Live'' writer, and the family of Lisa Kudrow, from the NBC series ''Friends,'' whom Mr. Lovitz grew up with in suburban Tarzana.
''I asked Mrs. Kudrow, and she said, 'You're not profiting from his death.' She's like the most moral person I know. I thought, if she's saying it, then I'm not. And Paul Simms said, 'Because Phil was murdered, I don't want the show murdered.' That made sense to me. That got to me.''
Finally at a memorial service, Mr. Hartman's mother approached Mr. Lovitz. ''His mother said to me, 'Thank you for picking up the flag.' When she said that, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.''
Mr. Lovitz met Mr. Hartman in 1984, when they were members of the Los Angeles improvisational comedy group called the Groundlings. ''Phil had been there for like 10 years,'' Mr. Lovitz said. ''He was the king of the Groundlings.''
Among other things, the two began working together on sketches centering on one of Mr. Hartman's signature characters, Chick Hearn, a 1940's-style detective. Mr. Lovitz loved the speaking style of old movie characters and, in fooling around with another friend, developed his signature character, the Liar.
The character helped him win a spot on ''Saturday Night Live'' in 1985. ''It was the biggest break I ever had,'' Mr. Lovitz said. He remembered walking into the show's offices and seeing photos of prospective cast members piled in knee-high stacks. ''And I thought: How did I ever get out of those stacks?''
His entire time on the show, Mr. Lovitz said, he found himself full of doubt. ''People would ask and I'd say, 'Oh, I'm on ''Saturday Night L . . .' I couldn't say 'Live.' I just couldn't.''
But his Liar character, which he performed in 13 sketches in his first season on the show, was an instant national phenomenon.
''I couldn't believe it,'' Mr. Lovitz said. ''One Sunday my father called me and said, 'Look at Doonesbury.' And Doonesbury had done a whole cartoon about the Liar. I was like, 'Oh my God!' People came up and said, 'Ted Kennedy is doing the Liar on the Senate floor!' ''
After that first season, Lorne Michaels, the executive producer of ''Saturday Night Live,'' asked Mr. Lovitz to recommend new cast members. He pushed for Mr. Hartman, of course. ''I remember Lorne saying, 'He's been in the Groundlings 11 years. Don't you think there's a reason why? I told Lorne: 'If you like me, you've got to like him. He's better than me. He's a genius.' ''
Mr. Michaels did offer Mr. Hartman a spot, but he proved to be reluctant, Mr. Lovitz said. ''He liked doing his Groundlings scripts and living in his house in Encino.''
Mr. Hartman turned the job down, only to be talked into reconsidering by Mr. Lovitz and other friends. ''Phil was very laid back. He wasn't competitive,'' Mr. Lovitz said. ''Once he got there, of course, he was great for the show. He could do anything. It was really great having him there. We wrote a lot of things together.''
After five years, Mr. Lovitz moved on to films (''A League of Their Own''); Mr. Hartman stayed on at ''Saturday Night Live'' for four more seasons. The two men remained close. Mr. Lovitz was one of few people invited to Mr. Hartman's wedding in 1988. He remained an intimate friend throughout the marriage, which is one reason Mr. Lovitz said he was upset by news coverage after Mr. Hartman's death that included interviews with people who identified themselves as friends of the Hartmans.
''There were all these people dredging up dirt.'' Mr. Lovitz said. ''I can tell you I've never seen any of these people in the 14 years I knew Phil and the 10 years I knew Brynn.''
''Real friends don't talk about any of this. These people are just profiteers on murder. They're trying to get famous over this.''
Mr. Lovitz says he wants Mr. Hartman's memory to be celebrated by friends and fans and that's ultimately why he joined ''News Radio.''
''If people are going to compare me, I can't please them all,'' he said. ''I don't care. I'm the first to say I'm not as good as Phil. I'm different from him. I can't do what he did. So I'll just do my thing.
''What's more important is this is a group of people, and they decided to continue the show, and not quit, in his honor.''
Mr. Lovitz said he insisted that his character be written as one of Mr. Hartman's character's closest friends so the recollections of him would be heartfelt, for character and actor.
''I'm really happy to be there and everything,'' Mr. Lovitz said. ''And then I see a box with his clothes in the hallway or a picture of him. They had taken this picture of him down and I told them, 'Leave it there.' I'd give up everything to have Phil back. It's like the most horrible thing. Now I want everybody to look at me in the show and just think it's him.''
An Article from Entertainment Weekly
Published on April 23, 1999
''Newsradio'' struggles to stay on the air -- Despite a a cult following, the popular NBC sitcom starring Jon Lovitz remains unsure of its fate
By Bruce Fretts
Can NBC's NewsRadio snatch renewal from the jaws of cancellation one more time?
After taping what might be NewsRadio's sign-off installment, creator Paul Simms takes a seat on the L.A. set and waxes philosophical: ''If this is our last episode, it seems somehow perfect that it's our 97th. That's emblematic of our whole NewsRadio history just a little bit short.''
Even though it's been one of TV's most consistently hilarious sitcoms, the show Simms jokingly refers to as ''the longest-running failure in network history'' has been a perennial ratings underachiever. Of course, NBC certainly didn't further the series' cause by moving it nine times in four years. ''We were able to build an audience two or three times,'' says the show's droll star Dave Foley. ''We got into the top 20 on Tuesday and Sunday. But then Wednesday killed us.''
This season, NBC returned the series to Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. ironically, the same slot in which it premiered and it has built on its lead-in, 3rd Rock From the Sun (another victim of incessant schedule shuffling). Still, NewsRadio ranks only 75th overall, so the company had to wrap another season unsure if it'll be their last. ''We've shot what we thought would be the final episode four or five times before,'' says Simms, a Larry Sanders Show veteran. ''But there's so much more uncertainty this year.''
The waiting seems even more excruciating for Simms because he's excited about a concept that could completely reinvent the show for next fall. In this season's two-part finale (airing April 27 and May 4), WNYX owner Jimmy James (the deeply funny Stephen Root) leaves New York City to run a small AM station in New Hampshire and tries to persuade his employees to come with him. If NewsRadio is renewed, the entire staff will trade the concrete jungle for the Granite State. ''It'll give us a whole new environment and a new set of problems,'' says Simms.
It'll also take NewsRadio out of the urban office-sitcom market, which has become overcrowded in recent seasons with such inferior product as Suddenly Susan and Working. Vicki Lewis has even wondered aloud about the eerie similarities between her NewsRadio character and Kathy Griffin's wacky redheaded coworker on Susan (''She plays a character named Vicki I guess that's a coincidence''). But Simms isn't charging plagiarism: ''I can't claim that anyone copied us when most evidence points to the fact that no one ever saw us.''
To distinguish itself from the pack, NewsRadio has lately become less grounded in the gritty details of workplace life. ''Once so many other shows started mining the same territory, we abandoned it and tried to get more fanciful and outlandish,'' explains Simms. The surrealism only increased this season as larger-than-life Jon Lovitz joined the cast following the death of fellow SNL alum Phil Hartman.
NewsRadio survived that tremendous loss, and it still has a shot at seeing another season (NBC probably won't decide until new entertainment president Garth Ancier starts work in May). But if this is the show's sayonara, how will NewsRadio ultimately be remembered? ''I'd like it to be remembered every night at 11 o'clock on a local station in every town in America,'' says Simms, happy that his sitcom went into syndication this season. ''I'd like people to look at the show and say, 'Hey, how come I didn't see this when it was on?'''
To watch clips of Newsradio go to https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=newsradio+tv+show
For Tim's TV Showcase go to https://web.archive.org/web/20080527091753/http://www.timstvshowcase.com/newsradio.html
For Website dedicated to Newsradio go to https://web.archive.org/web/20011223015332/http://www.tibbysbowl.com:80/newsradio/
For a website dedicated to Newsradio go to https://web.archive.org/web/20020124154701/http://www.geocities.com:80/Hollywood/Academy/8183/
For a look at Newsradio's perfect pilot go to http://www.vulture.com/2015/07/looking-back-at-newsradios-perfect-pilot.html
For some Newsradio-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/newsradio
For a great Review of Newsradio go to https://web.archive.org/web/20080803073919/http://www.televisionheaven.co.uk/newsradio.htm
� Date: Mon June 23, 2014 � Filesize: 90.1kb � Dimensions: 700 x 574 �
Keywords: Newsradio Cast (Links Updated 8/1/18)