Newsradio ran for five seasons. Four seasons gave us some of the best work of excellent comedic legend Phil Hartman, but the beginning of the fifth season marked a sadness period from which the show was never able to recover, as Hartman was shot to death by his wife, who committed suicide immediately following. It was the kind of tragedy you still can’t believe – even today – if you knew Hartman or his work. Luckily, season three offers some of his best moments, as well as the comic genius of the undera…preciated Stephen Root. Root will be known to many office workers as Milton from Office Space, but here, he plays Jimmy James. James is more egotistical and outspoken than Milton, but he’s no less funny. Last but not least, Vicki Lewis brings a surprising humor and sexual vitality to her role (I had only known her previously from her small part as George’s secretary on Seinfeld, and was shocked to see her out of that bookish mold).
But as much positive as there is to say about Newsradio, there are two drawbacks, which frequently slow the laughs and drag an otherwise high-quality show through the proverbial mud – and their names are Joe Rogan and Andy Dick. Neither has improved in the years since the show’s run ended, and the inclusion of either in more prominent roles only served to stifle the work of Root, Hartman, and Lewis. Joe Rogan is Joe Rogan, no matter what kind of show he’s in. He never acts; he just “is.” Andy Dick constantly overdoes it, and brings an obnoxious whininess to every scene he’s in. The rest of the cast just sort of watches the two extremes unfold with nothing significant to add – but then, they don’t detract either. Of course, some people are able to look at Rogan and Dick and see the charm – I am not one of them. But if that’s the case, then you should have no complaints regarding this season.
The 1.33:1 presentation is clear and consistent – unlike the strange fluctuation of Sex and the City discs, but it is also very bland. The picture quality hasn’t improved a lot since the original airing of episodes, but at least it has been preserved in the sturdiness of a digital format. There isn’t anything wrong with it; there just isn’t anything right about it either.
Presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, the speakers remain balanced enough, though beyond the deceptive genius of Root and the incessant brownnosing of Hartman, there’s little to demand of them. I suppose it gets points for pushing a nice full laugh-track down our throats, but the fact is, a show like Newsradio just doesn’t require grandiose effort, and will probably never receive it. The track is just right for the needs of the release with full volume and strong dialogue, and that’s all one can expect and ask for.
The ten episodes featuring cast and crew commentaries are the only features worthy of note. The featurettes are just enough to gloss over the basics, and the gag reel is short, repetitive, and boring. I am disappointed with this aspect of the release. It’s unfortunate so many shows like Newsradio are not treated to more in-depth bonus materials, when they clearly have a strong base of supporters. It is, unfortunately, a show on the cusp of being more than just good, but it never manages to get over the hump, and it never garners enough respect for further detail from Sony’s release squad.
Newsradio has its share of laughs and endearing characters – enough so, that it will attract a loyal following from some viewers. While it didn’t suit my particular tastes, I found enough laughs not to totally disqualify its effectiveness. The video lacks a certain punch, but the audio serves the needs of the show to perfection. Only a ho-hum job on the bonus materials, but still, for fans of the series, Phil Hartman, and Stephen Root, this set is a must own.
Special Features List
- 10 Cast and Crew Commentaries
- Gag Reel