Sony // 1995 // 2184 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kristin Munson (Retired) // November 5th, 2008
Jimmy James (on the phone): "Make this fast. I'm in the middle of telling a guy why he's so special to me. No, it's work-related."
If the UK version of The Office introduced me to the painfully awkward reality of the workplace, then NewsRadio showed me what a wondrous working world it would be if the weird kids ran the office.
Somehow, the show's writers took something as boring as a station broadcasting a constant loop of news, traffic, and weather and managed to turn out five seasons of ridiculously off the wall stories with just enough reality to make the absurdity believable. Of course, the billionaire business owner has time to hang out with the guys at the station and of course, the staff's willful insubordination never gets anyone fired. If big fat slobs can consistently land hot sassy wives then, truly, anything is possible in sitcom valley.
With references to Looney Tunes, Citizen Kane, D.B Cooper, and political songwriter Mark Russell, the show is simultaneously smarter and more slapstick than most other sitcoms. After hooking up the main characters in the very second episode, sparing viewers years of obnoxious stories about sexual tension, NewsRadio proved it was a show that played by its own rules and not the studio execs'.
By populating the cast with sketch comedy vets and character actors rather than pretty faces, the weirdo (Andy Dick), the eccentric boss (Stephen Root, King of the Hill), and the sassy secretary (Vicki Lewis, Mouse Hunt) became the sort of characters I wanted to share an office with. As office blowhard Bill, Phil Hartman made egomania into an art form. Episodes where he gets main storyline are some of the series best, even when they're as featherweight as "Bill Buys a Cane."
NewsRadio: The Complete Series, along with the Sanford & Son and Good Times full series releases arriving in stores the same day, is just the original discs from the separate season releases, repackaged in a lightweight tray that slides into an even flimsier container the weight of a cracker box. The inside flap gives episode titles, but no synopses or indication of which discs hold special features, and anyone who's had a bagger wedge their Triscuits in the narrow crevice betwixt milk and OJ knows the terrible fate that's befallen that box by the time it's reached the kitchen. It's not the sturdiest presentation, or even a terribly attractive one, but it keeps the price crazy low. So low, that the 12 disc, 97 episode series is cheaper than most single season sets.
A/V is a basic, if slightly spotty, full frame and a 2.0 stereo and no new extras appear on the set, but it's hard to see where they could fit them in, given the overwhelming number of roundtable commentaries from writers, actors, and directors on every disc. Sometimes it gets frustrating to turn on the track to a favorite episode and get self-indulgent chatter instead of info but that same personal chemistry livens up even the most uninteresting featurettes. Watching home video of Andy Dick getting really high and penning a musical about a lesbian named George is kind of funny but listening to his reaction and his coworkers razzing many years later is even better. There are also three different 'making of' featurettes and some skits filmed when the writing team had too much time on its hands. The only thing missing is a tribute to Phil Hartman but, since the first episode of Season Five was a bittersweet send-off of the actor and his character and the commentary for "Lucky Burger" also addresses his murder, I can overlook it.
If you don't mind playing guessing games with disc content and can put up with the easily mangled exterior, NewsRadio: The Complete Series is a bargain, one made solely to entice the casual fans who couldn't afford the separate sets and curious blind buyers. People who've already picked up the older releases can move along; there's nothing to see here.
Great DVDs at rock-bottom prices? For not taking an opportunity to shaft the buying public, Sony is Not Guilty.
Review content copyright © 2008 Kristin Munson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 2184 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Cast and Crew Commentaries
* "One Man NewsRadio" shorts
* "Filming Episode 323: Mistake"
* "A Visit to Andy's Trailer"
* "Space: From Table Read to Film"
* Gag Reels