Newsradio was the office comedy about a New York radio station, WNYX. Newsradio was first shown in 1995 on NBC and ran until 1999.
Newsradio was the vehicle for Phil Hartman after he left Saturday Night Live. Along with Phil Hartman many other well-established actors joined the cast. Every character of the cast had their own motivations and the episodes were well written that showed the true belief's intentions and thoughts of the characters.
The news director of the staff was Dave Nelson, played by Dave Foley. Dave Nelson was never given the respect that his position normally demanded. He was normally the straight man for the other actors to play off of but he also had his share of funny lines. During an interview, one of the writers once said that many of Dave's lines are ad-libs and almost every ad-lib makes it onto the screen. In addition his orders were rarely followed by the staff.
The owner of the station was Jimmy James, played by Stephen Root. The extremely eccentric Jimmy James had many plans. Each new plan grew weirder than the last. Jimmy while being a billionaire always tried dozens of new ideas. Often his plans involved the station, and he normally spent more time at the station then anywhere else. One of his major plans was to find a wife, except Mr. James went about it as a business merger. Mr. James actually came close a couple times but gave it up. He even ran for president in a way to meet woman. Mr. James was almost a cross between Ted Turner and a frat boy as he loved to do low class activities such as betting and so on even while he had a large sum of money. He once was quoted as saying “I have cut millions off of deals by eating baked beans with my hands.”
Andy Dick played the zany Matthew Brock. Matthew was the comic relief for the show. He was WNYX's resident weird guy. Matthew was a puzzle or enigma most of the time. More then once Matthew was topless or naked at the office. He often confused or annoyed the other workers and produced no work, but was kept on for some reason. During the fourth season, Matthew was fired. Matthew showed that he actually went to school to be a dentist and could be one but wanted to be back in the newsroom so bad that it was all he could think of. Luckily Matthew was rehired and the office was complete again.
Lisa Miller was the main female role, portrayed by Maura Tierney. Lisa was the straightwoman and the sexy coworker. Soon after the show was started Lisa started dating Dave, but after a couple seasons they broke up. Lisa created a lot of sexual tension with Dave after their break up. She was an efficient worker. While Dave was the boss, Lisa was normally the leader of the people. Dave was often working in his office and when he was doing something else Lisa filled in his role for the show. Lisa was extremely smart, as well as being success-oriented, almost a fish out of water in the WNYX news room. At one point Lisa became the manager and switched jobs with Dave and she struggled through it though hated the whole experience.
Vicki Lewis played the red-headed sexpot Beth. Beth was Dave's secretary. Unfortunately for Dave, Beth never really helped him. She often caused him to do more work then he should have had to. She often dressed in odd looking clothing. Beth normally hung out with Joe Garelli.
Joe Garelli was the station's electrician. Joe Rogan was cast as Joe Garelli after the pilot. In the pilot the electrician was named Rick. Joe was summed up pretty well one when Dave said Joe knew "more about imaginary flying saucer technology then a simple light switch." Joe was a conspiracy theorist and an electrician who would normally jury rig anything before buying it. He also made was rumored to make his own tape, calling duct tape "a rip off."
Khandi Alexander played the third female on the show, Cathrine Duke. Cathrine was an African-American radio broadcaster who worked with Bill McNeal. She worked extremely close with Bill and often they would snipe at each other. In 1997 Cathrine Duke left WNYX to go to a new satellite news station.
Evelyn Bill McNeal or rather Bill McNeal was played by Phil Hartman. Bill McNeal tied the show together in that he was the comedian who truly made the show work. One should hesitate to call him the leading man as he normally was in less scenes the most actors but his scenes are the most memorable. Bill was played by Phil Hartman. He was a smoking news broadcaster who loved to manipulate Matthew, annoy Dave, hit on Lisa, flirt with Beth, suck up to Jimmy James, and send the office into disarray especially if he can weasel more money for himself because of the confusion. Unfortunately Phil Hartman died in 1998 and Bill McNeal died of a supposed heart attack in between the fourth and fifth season.
Jon Lovitz joined the cast after Phil Hartman's unfortunate demise. Jon actually had played three different characters. Jon's first character was "Ulysses S. Grant, 18th president of the United States" or Fred, a mental patient at a hospital who was also a air traffic controller. Jon's second character was a suicidal jumper named Mike Johnson. After Phil's death, Jon Lovitz was given his third character the main character of Max Louis. Max was a broadcaster hired to replace Bill, but he was unfortunately nowhere near the quality of Bill McNeal but created his own kind of chaos.
During the fifth season, Jimmy James was jailed and a man named Johnny Johnson came to the station. Johnny Johnson, played by Patrick Warburton, tried to take over Jimmy's "empire". Johnny was loved by almost everyone at the station until they realized what his plan was, but Dave was never fooled. Later after Johnny was ruined by Mr. James, Matthew found him at a subway station and he returned to marry Lisa Miller. Lisa and Johnny were married but immediately after Johnny was arrested for stealing the wedding ring.
Most Newsradio episodes had two plots and sometimes three. Most episodes involved all the actors having a piece of the story. A few stories were reoccurring such as Bill's smoking, Mr. James' wife search, and the Johnny Johnson saga. Each story moved quickly but was written well enough so you wouldn't notice it. Background on the story was given so it was not like you are jumping head first into new water but also allows the viewer to rewatch an episode multiple times.
Newsradio was never that far from cancellation but after the loss of Phil Hartman and the addition of the much weaker Jon Lovitz, the show lost its edge. There was no longer a leading man as Dave Foley had his fill and his position couldn't truly be expanded with out damaging the flow of the show. Andy Dick's role as Matthew was perfect but the character could not be the leader. Joe Rogan's character would not be seen to much as he was the electrician. So in the end with the lost of the main character and with Jon Lovitz's weak character, death was imminent. Luckily the show does not seem to have left the airwaves since.
One wonders what might have happened if Phil didn't pass on, as the show appeared strong at the end of the fourth season. The final episodes involved Mr. James selling all his assets and moving to New Hampshire and taking the cast with him, except for Matthew and Dave.