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DVD review: NewsRadio, season 4

by Bob Sassone, posted Jun 28th 2006 12:30PM
Khandi AlexanderSeason three of NewsRadio is the best season of the show. Having said that, season four has quite a number of gems too. You can see that this was the season that they started to tinker with the show: they brought in new cast members, they switched around the jobs of a few characters, they fired Matthew, introduced more of story arcs over several episodes, and they started to have more surreal moments. Not all of it works (I, for one, was a fan of the Dave/Lisa romance, and breaking them up and then having them switch jobs put the show out of whack in a way), but this set is a lot of fun.

There are more commentaries on this set than on season three, but there aren't as many cast members doing commentaries this time. Vicki Lewis does more than usual, Stephen Root does a couple, but Dave Foley and Maura Tierney only show up one episode each. Joe Rogan, Andy Dick, and Khandi Alexander don't show up at all, which is a shame (especially Alexander - it would have been nice to hear her take on her farewell episode). Behind the scenes people like Paul Simms and Joe Furey pick up the slack, and they're great on commentaries. It just would have been great to get the cast together more too.

There are some great episodes here, starting with the season opener "Jumper," one of my favorite episodes in the whole series. Jon Lovitz (in one of three roles he played during the show's run) plays a suicidal man on the ledge outside Dave's office who threatens to jump unless he can read something on the radio. The scene where Joe jumps out the window with the cable is priceless. "Planbee" introduces Lauren Graham's (Gilmore Girls) character, an efficiancy expert brought in by Jimmy to fix the station. She's a nice addition, actually, even if she does disrupt things and fire Matthew (to find out that Matthew was not only a dentist before he started work at WNYX but a great dentist - that's hysterical). The subplot in "The Public Domain" involves Bill getting a piano and doing Mark Russell-type political humor songs in the elevator (like I said, more surreal moments this season). It's one of the funniest B plots in TV history.

Of course, this season has Phil Hartman's last episode, the eerie Titanic sendup "Sinking Ship." I agree with what Stephen Root and others said on an earlier season commentary, that it's so weird that he's gone that it's almost like he isn't gone. Thankfully we have all the DVDs of NewsRadio and SNL to remember him. I often think of what he'd be doing now if he were still alive, and it would have been great to hear Hartman on these commentaries.

I dread reviewing the fifth season set, because I think that season is rather terrible. Brining on Jon Lovtiz to take Hartman's place was...well, let's just say a bad decision. Not only was the character annoying (without redeeming qualities), but you don't have anyone take Hartman's place, even if it was a good friend. The fifth season is a mess even beyond that, but...OK, I'll wait til the set comes out to get into all that.

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Arnold, the reason "The Injury" is on the season three disc is that, although it was filmed in season two, it was broadcast in season three, owing to a delay with NBC standards over the subplot (involving Bill's repeated use of the word "penis" in his on-air editorial). Here's what Wikipedia has to say: "One episode, 'The Injury', was produced early in the second season, but did not air until the summer following the third season, due to excessive use of the word 'penis.' The writers admit that they were trying to see how many times they could use the word on-air in response to NBC's relaxing of standards for other shows. The episode remained in the censorship offices for nearly two years, and the number of times the word was used was cut down in the footage to three. 'The Injury' appears on both the Season 2 and Season 3 DVD releases, but does not include two additional uses of the word that showed up only in the syndicated airings."

June 29 2006 at 4:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

yeah i cant wait for season 4, i also really love the episode where they have the talent show, and joes talent is punching things. absolutely hysterical!!!

On a serious note though, i have purchased the season 3 dvds from best buy, and for some reason the last episode of the season on the disc 3, after "newsradio in space" , is the last episode from season 2 entitled "the injury". does anyone elses dvds have this problem. Am i missing the real last episode of season 3. please let me know. thanks

June 28 2006 at 8:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was surprised to see the gag reel on the 3rd disc is a full 20 minutes. That's like unheard of on a DVD set. They're usually only like 5 mins, tops. At times it felt like it went on too long, but it was still enjoyable. If only it was unbleeped...

June 28 2006 at 2:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I love Newsradio. One of my all-time favorite episodes of the series is "The Public Domain".

Didn't they film a season cliffhanger that revolved around Bill's character which they sadly had to lose after Hartman's death? I never have seen that episode and wondered if it would be on that season's DVD (which I assumed would be this one).

June 28 2006 at 2:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Now, be fair... At least review season five with an open mind. It has some of the show's best moments: Jimmy James put on trial for the crimes of DB Cooper, Patrick Warburton as Johnny Johnson, Lovitz's whiny sycophant... Losing Hartman was a tragedy, but the writers made a remarkable effort, and didn't just regurgitate things from past seasons.

That said, you ignored my favorite episode, Super Karate Monkey Death Car, containing perhaps one of the most surreal subplots ever. It even has a cameo from Ron Jeremy! What's not to love?

June 28 2006 at 1:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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