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October 7, 2015

NewsRadio: Pilot

by Bob Sassone, posted Jun 10th 2006 7:59PM
NewsRadio(S01E01) I overheard someone the other day say that they had never seen an episode of NewsRadio. And this wasn't someone who didn't watch much television, it was a big TV fan that had somehow missed this show. He asked what it was like and the answer was "as smart as Arrested Development, but with a more basic sitcom format," and I thought that was a good description.

This first episode focuses on Dave Nelson, a young news industry professional from the Midwest, who comes to NYC to be the new news director of WNYX. When he gets there, he finds out that not only are the other employees an "interesting" bunch, but he also has to fire Ed Harlow, the current news director.

One of the things I like about this pilot is that we are introduced to all of the characters, and they are immediately memorable and the actors have their parts down already. Except for two of them, which we'll talk  about it a moment. Dave Foley plays Dave Nelson, the new news director; Maura Tierney plays Lisa Miller, a hard worker who expects to be named news director; Phil Hartman is Bill McNeal, the veteran, arrogant broadcaster; Andy Dick is Matthew Brock, who is...peculiar; Vicki Lewis is Beth (no last name ever given), Dave's secretary, who doesn't seem to do a lot of work but chews a lot of gum and wears funky clothes; and Stephen Root is the eccentric owner of the station, Jimmy James, who is either crazy, brilliant, or a little bit of both.

There are two other actors as well, but they won't be around for long. Ella Joyce plays Catherine Duke, Bill's partner in the booth, but she doesn't have many lines (if any), and she will be replaced by Khandi Alexander in the next ep. And there is no Joe Garrelli character, so Joe Rogan isn't on the show yet either. Instead, the station electrician is named Rick and is played by Greg Lee, from Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? And as we've all heard, the original actor to play the electrician was Ray Romano, who just didn't work out and was let go after the table read. As Romano himself says on an ep of Dinner For Five, his agent called him at 6am the next day and told him. I'm sure Romano is glad he didn't get it now.

Dave has to fire the current news director, Ed, who has a bad back and is a bit of a jerk. This might be a test by Jimmy, to see if Dave has the guts and smarts to do it. But it won't be easy. Ed is so ticked off at the job that he quits, and Dave thinks that this gets him off the hook. He even helps Ed pack his things and bring them to the elevator. Ed leaves, and Dave tells Jimmy that Ed quit. Jimmy sighs and explains to Dave that Ed quits a few times a week, and right on cue, Ed comes back.

Meanwhile, Lisa thinks that she's going to get the news director gig, but then Matthew blabs to everyone that Dave, who up to now has been posing as the "new sports guy" is the new news director. To cover for Lisa's embarrassment, Dave tells everyone that Lisa was offered the job and turned it down.

When Dave doesn't do well on the air as the sports guy, Ed fires him, and Dave laughs and asks Ed if he knows the meaning of the word irony. Dave takes Ed into his office and fires him. The other employees are glad, Ed leaves and says he's going over to another station across the street, but Rick tells Dave that station went out of business months earlier. Bill tries to coerce Dave into giving him the Al Gore interview, but Dave shows he has balls by standing up to Bill  and giving the interview to Catherine.

This is a fine intro episode, as it introduces the characters. It's a little more hectic than other eps. As Foley and Root say on the DVD commentary, it's like they never stopped moving around the whole episode. Some of the camera angles are a bit different than we'll see later, and the breakroom isn't a breakroom in this ep, it's a production studio. It's also amazing how young Foley looks (if you've seen him on Celebrity Poker Showdown you know what I mean). Foley even mentions this on one of the commentaries.

The opening scene is supposed to be the lobby of a NYC office building, but for some reason it's not very convincing, even if there is a Con Edison truck parked outside. Creator Paul Simms mentions on the DVD that they were going to refilm the opening scene later, but just never did.


Paul Simms wrote the characters of Dave and Matthew specifically for Foley and Dick, but Foley almost didn't get to do the show because he was going to be hired for another sitcom. When that show didn't work out and Foley got NewsRadio, an exec from the other network started calling around Hollywood and badmouthing Foley to everyone.

The last person hired for the show was Tierney. Many people auditioned for the Lisa role, but Simms went with his gut and hired her. She also impressed Foley in their scenes together.

The last scene, where Lisa thanks Dave for covering for her, was filmed three months after the rest of the episode, and was put in to show more of the Dave/Lisa relationship.


"Make it fast...I'm in the middle of telling some guy what makes him special to me...no, no, it's work related." - Jimmy, to an associate over the phone, about Dave.

"Ed quits three times a week...hell, sometimes he comes in on Saturdays just to quit without any distractions." - Jimmy, to Dave

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It would be wonderfull if we can see more "pilot episode" from RadioNews
I saw this one and I enjoy it.

August 10 2006 at 4:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This was a pilot episode for sure. The break room is a production room. Joe is not even in the epidode. It has that guy from some CBS show I forget what it is called. Matthew did not fall from his chair. Dave is the one dropping things.

Keep these NewsRadio posts up.

June 11 2006 at 1:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This was a very under-valued show, both by viewers and NBC. It was consistently funny and the only vehicle to showcase, and really utilize, Phil Hartman's exceptional comedic talent (at least since SNL). I never missed this show, even when NBC did their usual shit and moved it around. I even stuck around after Hartman's death, but Jon Lovitz could never really replace Hartman. It was a smart and funny show with a great ensemble cast.

June 11 2006 at 12:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Aaron M

Good choice for retrosquad. Best Sitcom Ever. (Well, at least until Hartman's tragic end.)

June 10 2006 at 9:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hey, if you think Dave looks young in *this* pilot, in the S1 commentary for the Kids in the Hall, one of the other Kids (I think it's Mark McKinney) says that back then in their 1989 pilot, Dave looks like he's about to be sacrificed in the beginning of The Name of the Rose.

I've actually always wondered why Dave's looks have changed so dramatically over the past decade, as none of the other Kids look quite so appreciably different today (an unacceptably small control group, I realize). Genetics aside, I guess that divorce took a lot out of him, poor chap.

In any case, my own comment (circa '95) on Dave's impossibly-youthful appearance was this: "Politically Incorrect tonight features little David Foley--the smartest boy in the entire fourth grade!"

Heck, if folks saw me like that, I can see how growing a goatee and gaining weight might be an option...erm, if I wasn't a girl, that is.

June 10 2006 at 9:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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