NewsRadio was a situation comedy about a fictional New York radio station, WNYX. The show was aired on NBC between 1995 and 1999. Starring Dave Foley (from Kids in the Hall) and Phil Hartman (formerly of Saturday Night Live), the show was well-liked by critics and was initially popular with viewers, but eventually fell victim to a combination of low ratings and network politics.
As with most sitcoms, the plot was uncomplicated. Dave Nelson (Foley) moves from Wisconsin to New York to become the news director at WNYX. Dave tries to run the station while dealing with a variety of odd characters including arrogant anchorman Bill McNeal (Hartman), reporter/producer/love interest Lisa Miller (Maura Tierney) and billionaire station owner Jimmy James (Stephen Root).
The Cast of Characters
Dave Nelson has the unenviable task of keeping the station running smoothly, and his employees don't make the job very easy. He's mellow, unassuming and gets teased for looking like a little boy. Foley has toned down his performance from his years on The Kids in the Hall where he was a loony among loonies, while on NewsRadio he is the calm in the eye of the storm.
Bill McNeal is in possession of the golden voice that keeps people listening to WNYX. Unfortunately, he also owns the egocentric personality that makes life impossible for Dave and the rest of the staff. Phil Hartman was always a funny and talented actor, and he fitted right in on NewsRadio.
Lisa Miller is arguably the most intelligent employee at WNYX. She is hard-working, competitive and often obsessive. Lisa can do anything required of her, including Dave's and Bill's jobs.
Jimmy James is the very eccentric owner of WNYX, and other countless enterprises. He loves to participate in the day-to-day activities of the station, usually distracting the staff with wild stories and unintelligible advice. Incidentally, Jimmy James was named after the first song on the Beastie Boys album Check Your Head.
Matthew Brock (Andy Dick) is the office freak. Incapable of performing his duties as a reporter, he instead spends his time falling down, running into things and trying to keep his job. If you have ever seen an interview with Andy Dick, you know that he is not much different in real life - he's just plain weird.
Beth (Vicki Lewis), who apparently has no last name, is WNYX's secretary. She specializes in wild fashions and avoiding her secretarial duties. She also has a lovely singing voice and a severe lack of spending money. Beth was also named after a song, in this case the eighth song on the Kiss album Destroyer.
Joe Garelli (Joe Rogan) works as the station's electrician and general fix-it guy. He hates purchasing equipment for the station, preferring to improvise instead. Joe also has a strong belief in conspiracy theories, especially when they involve aliens.
Catherine Duke (Khandi Alexander) serves as the on-air talent opposite Bill. She is competent, professional and a rather snappy dresser. She also has an intense rivalry with Bill, often leading to childish pranks and name-calling. Unfortunately, Khandi was never given much screen time, so she left during the fourth season.
Max Louis (Jon Lovitz) joined WNYX as the new anchorman during the final season of NewsRadio, following the departure of Bill McNeal (see below). Although he appears confident, and at times acts as arrogantly as Bill, Max is in fact a very insecure person. This may explain why he had 37 jobs in the 20 years prior to signing on with WNYX.
NewsRadio was never the same after Hartman was shot and killed by his wife in May 1998. Hartman was the backbone of the show. Without his support, it was unable to survive. He was killed between the fourth and fifth seasons of NewsRadio, and Jon Lovitz took his place for the final season. It's hard to blame Lovitz for the show's demise, considering that it had been on thin ice for several years, even with Hartman. Lovitz was funny at times, but the show's writers didn't seem to know what to do with him, and he failed to fit in. Replacing Phil Hartman was an impossible task, and he'll always be missed.
NewsRadio should have been a hit television show. It had great actors, excellent writing and a favourable debut time slot in NBC's Tuesday night lineup between Mad About You and Frasier. The show did well at first, generally placing in the top 20. But NBC then began playing The Time Slot Shuffle, moving the show at least six times. The show was moved to Sunday, to Wednesday, to a different time on Wednesday, back to Tuesday, back to Wednesday and finally to Tuesday one more time. Fans couldn't keep up with the changes and gradually lost track of the show. The final move came in May 1999, when NewsRadio was officially cancelled.