Characters / NewsRadio

Dave Nelson (Dave Foley)

The news director at WNYX. A Naïve Newcomer in the pilot episode, he quickly realizes the kind of place he's dealing with.

  • Benevolent Boss: Most of the time. He's somewhat embittered by the end of his tenure.
  • Book Dumb: He's intelligent and has a good vocabulary - enough for his "big words" to sometimes annoy the other characters - but almost all of his cultural references come from movies and TV. In conversation with Lisa he reveals that the last book he read was Goober in a Nutshell, the autobiography of The Andy Griffith Shows George Lindsey.
  • Canada, Eh?: In "The Trainer," the other characters find out he was born in Canada and react accordingly. This is an Actor Allusion. (In one outtake, Dave Foley really does tack an accidental "eh" onto the end of a line.)
  • The Cassandra: Dave is a terrific news director. He's tough, has foresight, good instincts and a lot of common sense, and is a BS detector. Despite this, nobody at the office ever believes his warnings and his authority is roundly dismissed, as much of the staff see him as just a killjoy.
  • Character Development: While the other characters were pretty much Flanderized in typical sitcom style, Dave had more of an arc: first he was alarmed by the craziness of his coworkers, then he got used to them and learned to manage them, and in the final season he simply got sick of it all until he didn't want to make the move to New Hampshire in the series finale.
  • Closet Geek: Stargate Defender. Also, when Matthew buys him a sword, he waits until he's alone in the office and then pretends to be Obi-Wan Kenobi.
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • Hidden Depths/New Powers as the Plot Demands: His continually growing list of secret talents was a mild Running Gag (though mostly contained in the episode "Stupid Holiday Charity Talent Show"). He speaks Spanish, can tapdance, was involved in 4H, starred in Grease in high school, sang in an a cappella group in college, and can throw knives and his voice.
  • Kawaisa: Dave is an in-universe example of cuteness, much to his frustration and chagrin. He's rarely taken seriously as an authority figure because of his inexperience, idealism and boyishness — the others largely agree that he looks like a fourteen-year-old in a business suit. A child visiting the station once calls him "the little boy in the blue suit".
    • In one episode, Bill calls a 911 dispatcher to pretend that Dave is his "little boy Davey" and had just made a prank call. When Dave calls back, he has to tell them, "I am not a bad little boy!"
    • In episode 57, Dave tries to fool Andrea's polygraph test to make her think he's got a criminal record, but the test reveals he's never even thought about shoplifting, and Andrea calls him the cutest thing. He snaps back, "I am not the cutest thing!" and the polygraph goes off. Jimmy enters as Dave storms out, then Jimmy says to Andrea, "Ain't he the cutest thing?"
  • Minnesota Nice: Wisconsin. Despite the revelation of his technical Canadianness, there were many more Wisconsin jokes from the other characters over the course of the show.
  • Must Have Caffeine: When trying to get Bill to quit smoking, Dave gives up coffee at the same time to prove the point. They both fail.
    • Also an Actor Allusion; Dave Nelson's massive quantities of coffee consumption are based on Dave Foley's own.
  • Nice Guy
  • Not So Above It All: He does become unhinged occasionally, notably in "Security Door."
  • Only Sane Employee
  • Straight Man
  • Team Mom
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With Bill, according to the letter in "Bill Moves On"
  • Workaholic

Bill McNeal (Phil Hartman)

The star anchor and a constant thorn in Dave's side.

Lisa Miller (Maura Tierney)

A reporter who believed she was headed for Dave's job until he came along. Also his on-again-off-again love interest.

  • The B Grade: She has this attitude toward actual grades and toward life in general.
  • Brainy Brunette
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Played for Laughs; she has an extensive criminal record, but it's all connected to her overachieving. She had to steal that car to get to the SATs on time.
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • Go-Getter Girl
  • Good with Numbers: A trait that gets brought up repeatedly. When the characters need to win Bill back because Jimmy Lost Him in a Card Game, they choose to teach Lisa the rules of poker rather than send someone who already knows how it works.
  • Hot Scoop
  • The Lancer: To Dave.
  • Only Sane Employee: She belongs to the cast of wacky characters Dave has to manage, but only through being a neurotic perfectionist and hardworking to a fault, which makes her about a mile saner than the next sanest employee.
  • Sleeping with the Boss: Has an on-going relationship with Dave.
  • Workaholic
    Lisa: There's more to life than work!
    Dave: No there isn't, and I wish you'd stop pretending you're any different about that than me!

Jimmy James (Stephen Root)

The Eccentric Millionaire who owns WNYX and sure seems to devote a lot of his time to it. He enjoys playing God with the station and is often responsible for whatever Zany Scheme or Secret Test drives the episode, but also clearly cares for the people who work there.

  • Affably Evil: Has shades of this. He swings wildly between this, Big Fun, and on the rare ocassion Faux Affably Evil, usually depending on the writer.
  • Alliterative Name, Repetitive Name
  • Benevolent Boss: He tries, anyway. On one occasion, after realizing he got everyone really crappy Christmas presents, he tries it again a bit more personally, but apparently runs out of steam after giving Matthew some tapes of Fibber McGee and Molly and just buys everyone else brand-new Mazda Miatas; in a Double Subversion, it turns out that in addition to the tapes, Matthew got the rights to the show. He also sometimes appears to actively seek his good-boss reputation, by making Dave make the unpopular decisions for the company.
    • In Jimmy's defense of the caps, he genuinely thought they were cool (and even had one made for himself) until he tore the patch off and saw that it said "Jimmy James, Incorporated"- and agreed that would suck if he wasn't Jimmy James.
  • Big Fun: Usually. However, there are episodes where he can display a mean streak that would lead one to question if he was this or really just Faux Affably Evil.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He might be literally insane, but you can't fault his business instincts.
  • Catch Phrase: GOOD!
  • Cloud Cuckoolander
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The shady nature of his business dealings and political connections is a Running Gag. If he had turned out to be D.B. Cooper, would anyone have been surprised?
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Jimmy James is not only deceptively intelligent but deceptively spry. When an ex-employee denounces him on-air, James dives across Dave's desk to hit the kill-switch button (done off-screen).
    Lisa: (stunned) I have never seen you move that fast before.
    Jimmy: I save energy for times like this.
  • Large Ham
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Johnny Johnson certainly underestimates him.
  • Southern-Fried Genius
  • Talks Like a Simile: With varying success.
    Dave: Lisa has decided that she wants to have a baby, but that she doesn't want to get married. Now I know that if you were awake you'd probably say something like, "Well, son, why milk the cow when you've got a fridge full of steaks?" And I would probably say, "That makes absolutely no sense, sir," and then you would say, "Well, it sure sounded like it made sense when that guy Chuck Connors said it in that movie Chinatown," and then I would be forced to say, "Sir, Chuck Connors wasn't in the movie Chinatown..."
  • Team Dad: Or Team Cool Uncle.

Beth (Vicki Lewis)

Dave's assistant.

Matthew Brock (Andy Dick)

A reporter.

Joe Garelli (Joe Rogan)

The station's electrician.

Catherine Duke (Khandi Alexander)

Co-anchor with Bill until she leaves for a London radio station in season four.

Max Louis (Jon Lovitz)

The new anchor who replaces Bill in season five.

Johnny Johnson (Patrick Warburton)

A business rival of Jimmy's who takes over the station while Jimmy is briefly in jail in season five.