DVD Review: NewsRadio: The Complete Fifth Season
I think it can be universally agreed that the fifth season of NewsRadio - the final season - was by far the worst season of the series. Not only was Phil Hartman killed during the hiatus, but another cast member (Jon Lovitz) came on board and just didn't fit in to what the rest of the group had built over the previous four seasons.
The season kicks off with the "Bill Moves On" episode, where the gang has just returned from Bill's funeral (he died of a heart attack), and everyone mocks Dave's 2 hour eulogy. Matthew doesn't really believe Bill is dead, everyone thinks Lisa is drunk, and Catherine (Khandi Alexander) returns to the show for one episode. This is one of the better episodes of the last season, because it's important to the show's history and (as is revealed on one of the commentaries), they didn't really rehearse it or do any run throughs. It was hard enough getting through it once on tape night. The tears you see are real. It ends with everyone taking an item off Bill's desk to remember him. Jimmy takes the whole desk. A nice tribute.
Speaking of commentaries, the ones featured here are pretty good, though it's really too bad more of the cast wasn't available to do them. The only actors who appear with producers and writers are Stephen Root and Andy Dick. It would have been really great to have the entire cast gathered for "Bill Moves On," but maybe they couldn't all get together for it and they decided not to do one at all rather than have just a few cast members chatting (or maybe it would have been too hard). Though the "Lucky Burger" commentary does have a confirmation from producers and Stephen Root that Jon Lovitz's rhythm just didn't fit with everyone else's.
Episode-wise, their seems to be a weird vibe to this season (because of Lovitz and other factors), but there are some good episodes here and there. The episodes revolving around Matthew, the one where he is given a smart drink by Joe and becomes intelligent and the one where he becomes a punk rocker because he feels he's getting old, are classics. But that whole plot with Johnny (Patrick Warburton) taking over the company from Jimmy and romancing Lisa and then becoming homeless and then actually marrying Lisa...ugh. It infects the whole season and was a really bad decision.
Thankfully, for the final ep, they get away from that plot and focus on the retirement of Jimmy and his move to New Hampshire. He comes back to convince everyone to come with him, and they all agree and leave the station. All except Dave, of course, who thinks they're being ridiculous. The last show has Dave sitting in his office, and he suddenly sees Matthew hiding under his desk. Matthew is going to stay behind with Dave and the two of them can run the station together.
There was actually a chance that NBC was going to renew the series, and the next season would have had the gang (including Dave and Matthew) living in New Hampshire. Sort of a reboot for the show. I have no idea how that would have been, but it never happened.
NewsRadio is one of my favorite shows of all-time. I really didn't like the surreal bent the show took in the last two years though. I prefer the first three seasons, when it was more grounded in reality, with splashes of odd bits, and when it seemed to have a heart and it wasn't just all craziness. But even so-so NewsRadio is preferable to the best of many other sitcoms.
Other extras include a loooooong gag reel and those "One Man NewsRadio" spots.