"Newsradio" stands out, in my opinion, as one of the most underappreciated sitcoms of the 90's, and maybe ever. The series took a little while to get going, but once it did, the show's incredible ensemble, which featured a set of comedians with their own styles, really became remarkably funny. The series ran from 1995-1999, but suffered a loss with the tragic death of Phil Hartman.
The pilot episode had Dave coming to New York from Wisconsin to take over the position of news manager at WNYX. He faces some problems, though: billionaire owner Jimmy James (Stephen Root, in a classic performance as a boss who does whatever he wants because he has so much money he doesn't know what to do with it) has not told the staff that Dave is coming to work there as their boss. He also expects Dave to fire the man that he's going to be replacing. "Newsradio" started in 1995 as a mid-season replacement, with a total season of only 7 episodes. By the time the opening run had wrapped up, the series had begun to come together, with the cast getting into their roles and the writing getting sharper and funnier.
While I thought the show's first and second seasons started to get rolling as they went on, it's the third season where "Newsradio" makes the jump from wonderful to brilliant. Despite never gaining the ratings that it deserved, the show was somehow able to keep going under-the-radar for the few years it was on (probably one of the last shows to be able to do so - today it wouldn't get a chance), which appears to have resulted in more creative freedom than the average sitcom.
The biggest example of this would be the masterpiece "Space" episode, which starts off with an introduction from Phil Hartman wondering what the series would be like had the setting for the show been...space. The result is a sitcom classic, centered around repairman Joe (Joe Rogan) refusing to call in a specialist and trying to figure out how to fix the ship's volatile core with his now-primitive tools. With a series of brilliant throwaway bits (the events of "Star Wars" are discussed in the day's news), this is one of a number of great episodes this season.
Another highlight is the season opener, "President", which has billionaire owner Jimmy James (Stephen Root, in a classic performance as a boss who does whatever he wants because he has so much money he doesn't know what to do with it) deciding that, seemingly for the hell of it, he'll run for president. He'll stop if the staff figures out any dark secrets of his. which he thinks he has locked away tighter than a vault. When one of them finally stumbles upon it, it's a moment handled flawlessly - it's sad in a way and yet the timing is so brilliant you can't help but laugh.
There's so many other great moments here, including: "Arcade", which has Dave hooked on an arcade game from his childhood brought in to make money in the breakroom; "Office Feud", where the staff is irritated by the noise made by a non-profit just moving in upstairs; "Our Fiftieth Episode", where Bill gets thrown into a mental hospital and Jon Lovitz guest stars; "Stocks", where Beth turns to Jimmy for investing advice; "Airport", where Bill and Dave get stuck in St. Louis while traveling; "Complaint Box", where Jimmy's new policy covering harassment backfires; "The Trainer", where Bill thinks he's been cheated by his new health club and "Movie Star", where James Caan visits.
29. 3- 1 18 Sep 96 President
30. 3- 2 25 Sep 96 Review
31. 3- 3 2 Oct 96 Massage Chair
32. 3- 4 23 Oct 96 Arcade
33. 3- 5 30 Oct 96 Halloween
34. 3- 6 6 Nov 96 Awards Show
35. 3- 7 13 Nov 96 Daydream
36. 3- 8 20 Nov 96 Movie Star
37. 3- 9 11 Dec 96 Stocks
38. 3-10 18 Dec 96 Christmas
39. 3-11 19 Dec 96 The Trainer
40. 3-12 8 Jan 97 Rap
41. 3-13 15 Jan 97 Led Zeppelin Boxed Set
42. 3-14 29 Jan 97 Complaint Box
43. 3-15 5 Feb 97 Rose Bowl
44. 3-16 12 Feb 97 Kids
45. 3-17 19 Feb 97 Airport
46. 3-18 12 Mar 97 Twins
47. 3-19 19 Mar 97 Office Feud
48. 3-20 2 Apr 97 Our Fiftieth Episode
49. 3-21 7 May 97 Sleeping
50. 3-22 7 May 97 The Real Deal
51. 3-23 14 May 97 Mistake
52. 3-24 21 May 97 Space
53. 3-25 5 Jun 97 Injury
VIDEO: "Newsradio" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Video in 1.33:1 full-frame. Despite the fact that 25 episodes are presented across three discs (with extras, as well), the picture quality here actually was quite good. Sharpness and detail were above average throughout the episodes, with only slight occasional softness. Some minor shimmering and a few traces of pixelation are apparent briefly on a few occasions, but the picture is generally up to broadcast quality, if not slightly better at times. Colors remained bright and vivid, with nice saturation and no smearing.
SOUND: The stereo soundtrack was perfectly fine, with crisp dialogue.
EXTRAS: Commentaries from the most of the main cast and crew are included on ten episodes in the set. As with the first set, the commentaries are a great deal of fun, as the cast members joke about behind-the-scenes stories and working on the episodes. Everyone shares favorite lines and moments, and has a great deal of fun looking back on the episodes after several years.
The season three gag reel is a great deal of fun and runs for several minutes. Additionally, we also get a series of featurettes: "Space: From Table Read to Film", "Filming Episode 323: Mistake", "A Visit to Andy's Trailer" and "Joe Furey's One Man Newsradio". All include optional commentary from the cast and crew. The two "making of" featurettes are great, as they provide a good look backstage - especially in the "Space" featurette, where we start off viewing moments from the table read with cast and crew.
Final Thoughts: "Newsradio" had two great opening seasons, but the third season is a leap over the prior two, offering some absolutely stellar episodes. The DVD set offers fine audio/video quality and a very nice helping of supplements. Absolutely highly recommended.