(left to right) Catherine, Matthew, Jimmy, Bill, Dave, Lisa, Joe, and Beth.
An octopus-black satire and Work Com
airing on NBC
from 1995-99, set at a news-talk radio station and starring Dave Foley (as news director and Only Sane Man
Dave Nelson), Phil Hartman (playing Small Name, Big Ego
anchorman Bill McNeil), Andy Dick (Matthew Brock, The Ditz
), Vicki Lewis (Sassy Secretary
Beth), Stephen Root (Eccentric Millionaire
station-owner Jimmy James), Joe Rogan (Joe Garelli, a Conspiracy Theorist
electrician with a propensity for Homemade Inventions
) and Maura Tierney (neurotic overachiever Lisa Miller). Khandi Alexander played Sassy Black Woman
Catherine Duke for three seasons before leaving for a bigger role on ER
(which Tierney also joined the cast of following this show's cancellation). Though critically acclaimed, NewsRadio
never got the recognition or ratings
it deserved, in part because NBC apparently scheduled it by rolling dice each week.
After Hartman's death, Jon Lovitz signed on as a Suspiciously Similar Substitute
This show provides examples of:
- Aborted Arc: Nearly all forced on the writers by the network.
- A Cappella: The episode where Dave was visited by the other three members of his A capella group.
- Accidental Misnaming: Max Louis is initially incapable of learning anyone's name; he repeatedly calls Dave "Doug" and everybody else by a summary phrase (such as "brown-haired journalism woman" for Lisa). The first time he does call Dave Dave, he soon thinks he's made a mistake and apologetically uncorrects himself back to Doug.
- One of the plotlines for the episode "Inappropriate" involves Matthew worrying about getting fired and landing WNYX in trouble with the FCC after committing this, repeatedly, during an on-air "Where are They Now" segment about Joey Buttafuoco explanation . Dave informs him of this blunder in this exchange:
Beth: Matthew, I think you mispronounced that guy's name a few times.
Dave: No it isn't, Matthew. It's "Buttafuoco". "Buttafuoco".
Matthew: What did I say?
Dave: Well, Matthew, of all the possible mispronunciations of that name, you seem to have stumbled upon absolutely the worst one.
- Addiction Displacement: Bill tries to take up chewing tobacco in order to quit smoking.
- Adoring the Pests: The gang befriends a rat that is roaming the station. Dave doesn't know about this and sets traps for it, which the others set off to keep the rat safe.
- Alien Autopsy: Joe, Beth, and Matthew once act out a fake alien autopsy (with Matthew as the alien) in front of a 24-hour webcam for the radio station's website.
- Joe also claims to possess a tape of a genuine alien autopsy. In the Halloween episode, his costume is "alien autopsy surgeon".
- The Alleged Boss: Type 2. Station owner Jimmy James. While he occasionally comes down for serious business, most of the time he just hangs around and shoots the breeze.
- Alphabet Architecture: Jimmy James planned to construct two J-shaped towers in a bid to have his name on something that will live on after he's gone.
- April Fools' Plot: "The Song Remains the Same" has Jimmy pulling April Fools' pranks on the staff...in February.
- Ash Face: One time, Bill tries to escape down the stairwell when fire breaks out in the building, but the stairwell is full of smoke and he comes back covered in soot. Dave then makes a quip referencing The Jazz Singer ("I think talking pictures will destroy Hollywood").
- As Himself: Bob Costas, James Caan, Jerry Seinfeld, George "Goober" Lindsey, Adam West, Chuck D.
- Averted with Scott Adams. He does show up in an episode in which Matthew becomes obsessed with Dilbert, but just as a surly guy in a crowd. The "Scott Adams" who Dave introduces to Matthew is an actor played by an actor.
- Attractive Bent-Gender: Dave, in the Halloween episode, laments that he looks better as a woman than a man. Lisa gets mad because she thinks he looks better in her dress than she does. This is also something of an Actor Allusion, as Dave frequently dressed in drag during his days with The Kids in the Hall, where general consensus was that he made the prettiest girl amongst all the troupe members.
- Author Catch Phrase: The producers found the word "gazizza" far funnier than the audience did.
- Variations on "That is the policy and it is enforced" are said by many different characters.
- Bachelor Auction
- Bad Bad Acting: Mr. James, when he knows he's being filmed by documentary crew.
- Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults: In "Bitch Session", Dave ducks under his desk for a moment to fix his phone cord. The others, seeing his office seemingly empty, decide to stage an impromptu gathering in his office to talk about him and make fun of him. This was based on a real incident among the writers.
- Batman Gambit: During the fifth season, Johnny Johnson manages to become CEO of Mr. James' company and doesn't intend to cede control back to him. Mr. James employs the Batman Gambit by convincing Johnny to let him take any one employee with him from the company. In the end, Mr. James announces his pick: Johnny, who he promptly fires.
- Be Careful What You Wish For
- The Big Board: Only Matthew cares about it, however.
- Burger Fool: Lisa in "Lucky Burger"
- Canada, Eh?
- Christmas Episode
- Clock Discrepancy: Done in a episode when Jimmy decides to sell the station. He's supposed to contact the buyer at midnight to finalize the deal. The staff spends most of the night trying to convince him not to sell. Five minutes before midnight, Matthew reveals he had set the clock back ten minutes and it was actually five minutes after and Jimmy has missed his deadline. Of course since This Is Reality, midnight was just a loose guideline and Jimmy can still go through with the deal.
Jimmy: I'm dealing with a corporation here, not magical fairies.
- Converse with the Unconscious: Dave to Mr. James in "Sleeping"
- Crazy-Prepared: Bill, in "Presence", always has his contract in an inside pocket of his suit, just in case.
Dave: Wait a minute. You carry around your contract with you?
Bill: At a time like this it doesn't seem so crazy, does it?
- During "The Real Deal with Bill McNeil", Bill has a pre-recorded sound effects for any occasion, including "Hey, good question!", "Hey, don't mention it!" and "Well screw you too!", and keeps extras in his pocket in case the producer takes the loaded ones out.
- Also, in the episode "Security Door", Dave gets fed-up with everyone not following proper security door protocol. Calling a staff meeting, he has an easel and a huge pad of paper with drawings of what to do and not to do while he gives his speech, covering fires, thieving burglars, propping open the door, earthquakes (even explaining that they mainly happen in the 'ring of fire' in the Pacific rim) and... Matthew's questions. They fit EXACTLY what he is saying, and even predicts what the staff will ask him. To wit:
Dave: Any questions?
Matthew: Yeah, I have a very serious question.
Dave: Of course, Matthew. [Flips paper over, revealing a picture of a man riding a flying Unicorn.] In the event that a wizard casts a spell on us...
- Cross Referenced Titles: Bored with coming up with titles for their episodes, the writers resorted to naming the last nine episodes of Season 2 after Led Zeppelin albumsnote . And then in Season 3, they randomly named one episode "Led Zeppelin Boxed Set". See also Idiosyncratic Episode Naming.
- "Catherine Moves On" in Season Four and "Bill Moves On" in Season Five.
- Curse Cut Short: From "The Trainer".
Matthew: Hey, what part of Africa are you from?
Catherine: Shut up.
Matthew: No, seriously! Say something in African.
Catherine: Shut the f- (show cuts to the next scene)
- Also happens in "Kids" when the teacher that Jimmy's dating insists he set a good example for a student to whom she's trying to teach good manners.
Teacher: Take your elbows off the table.
Jimmy: Oh. What the hell.
Teacher: And don't say "hell".
Teacher: And don't say "damn".
Jimmy: All right, but what the f- (show cuts to the next scene)
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: In "The Real Deal", Bill and Lisa try desperately to get Jerry Seinfeld to appear on their show so it won't get cancelled... which bears a suspicious resemblance to the real life situation that NewsRadio was in at the time.
- Dream Sequence: "Daydream."
- Drunk with Power: Matthew's promotion.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Many traits of the characters and setting weren't established until Season Two, making the Season One episodes a strange viewing experience to those who came to the series later on.
- Jimmy was rather stern in manner during the first season. It wouldn't be until Season Two that his eccentric side would take over.
- Season One contains no mentions of Joe's homemade inventions or his belief in conspiracy theories.
- In the first season, the room behind Matthew's desk is a recording booth. In the Season Two premiere, it suddenly becomes the break room.
- Matthew is still a ditz, but hasn't yet become the slapstick magnet that he would become in Season Two. He also behaves normally toward Bill instead of the fawning admirer he is through most of the series. Heck, Matthew actually goes on the air and is a semi-competent reporter in season one. This is in contrast to how he is portrayed the rest of the series- a computer solitaire obsessed Man Child who can only be described by Mr. James by "The damage he does is pretty minimal in the long run..."
- Exact Words: In one Christmas episode, Matthew receives a set of recordings of the old Fibber McGee and Molly radio show, and later gets pissed when he thinks everyone else got better gifts. But then it turned out Jimmy literally gave him Fibber McGee and Molly, as in, he gave Matthew the rights to the series.
- Eye Take
- Flanderization: Jimmy got goofier, Matthew got dumber, Bill got crazier, Dave got bitterer, Lisa got more neurotic, and Joe's fondness for inventions became Gilligan's Island-esque in scope.
- Fauxtastic Voyage: "Balloon"
- Feng Schwing: Bill's apartment, but later revealed to actually be his gigolo neighbor's place
- 555: Subverted, when Mr. James realizes he's been given a fake 555 number.
- Flowers for Algernon Syndrome: "Flowers for Matthew"
- Foil: Dave and Bill are an excellent example.
- Friend or Idol Decision: Not quite a straight example, as Mr. James is already a billionaire, but when an excellent offer for the new station is made (it's at least ten times what Dave thought was a fair price), James is caught between how much he enjoys the station and its people, and his business principles.
- The Gadfly: Bill, particularly to Matthew. Jimmy also engages in it from time to time.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: In one episode Joe (using a funny accent) managed to say shit by pronouncing it "chet."
- A God Am I: Played for laughs. Mr. James bets Bill in a poker game with another radio station. Bill pulls out his contract and says there is no way he has the right to do that. Mr. James then tells him to check the extraordinary circumstances section, saying that the contract does not cover instances of sudden illness, acts of God, etc. Again, Bill protests. Mr. James finally tells him to read his Act of God clause.
Bill (Shocked): "Jimmy James shall be referred to here and in all future instances... as God."
- Gratuitous English: Mr. James' book Macho Business Donkey Wrestler
- The Great Whodini: Dave was both the great Throwgalli and the Great Ventriloquodini.
- Heads Tails Edge: Mr. James trying to pick the new news director.
- Heroic BSOD: Mr. James has one of these when he loses Bill in a poker game.
- He's Just Hiding: Invoked in-universe with Matthew's reaction to Bill's death. Initially, at least. Later, Matthew admits that he knows Bill is truly dead, he's just using this trope so as not to alarm the others.
- Historical Character Confusion:
Bill: "Big Chief Custer? No, he scalped many palefaces that day."
- Historical In-Joke: Mr. James' claim to be the informant Deep Throat, not to mention a three-episode arc in which James is accused of being notorious skyjacker D.B. Cooper, who is ultimately revealed to be Adam West.
- Homemade Inventions: Joe's forte. In fact it's implied that Joe doesn't use ANYTHING he didn't just make in his garage. This often times applies to the individual parts as well, although he has cobbled together several frankenstein inventions.
- Human Popsicle: "Space"
- Hypno Fool: How Joe cures Mr. James of his fear of hippies.
- Hypocritical Humor: Bill complains about another broadcaster using the word "penis" on the air, saying that it's highly offensive and should not be allowed. But during his rant, he uses the word several times himself.
- I Know Kung-Faux: Joe Garelli is an expert in "Joe-jitsu".
- I'm a Man, I Can't Help It: What all of Beth's boyfriends told her. Not just that they are a slave to their sex drive, but that they get sick if they don't.
- Indulgent Fantasy Segue
- IN SPACE!: The episode "Space" is explictly introduced as "NewsRadio IN SPACE!"
Bill: What if the show wasn't set in a news station... but a space station? And what if we didn't deliver the news but the... space news.
- I Take Offense to That Last One: In "Mistake", Dave in a magazine interview refers to Joe as "a so-called electrician who knows more about imaginary flying saucer technology than he does about a simple light switch". Joe is far less offended by the personal insult than by Dave referring to alien technology as "imaginary".
- I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: In "Stupid Holiday Charity Talent Show", Dave's knife-throwing nemesis Throwdini is played by Dave Foley's former Kids in the Hall colleague Kevin McDonald. And in "Goofy Ball", Bill's stalker is played by Phil Hartman's former Saturday Night Live colleague Dennis Miller. Hartman was replaced by Jon Lovitz who was another former SNL acquaintace and who had interacted with Hartman playing guest spots on early shows of the series.
- Kick Me Prank: Bill puts a "Spaz" sign on Matthew.
- Knife-Throwing Act: Dave Nelson was once a knifethrower named The Great Throwgalli.
- Lampshaded Double Entendre: Oysters...
- Lampshade Hanging
- Lost Him in a Card Game: Bill in "Presence"
- The Main Characters Do Everything: WNYX is supposed to be a busy New York City radio station, but the eight main characters seem to do every job. The electrician sits in on story meetings and sometimes goes on the air. The show originally had Ghost Extras in the background to suggest that there were other employees, but eventually gave up on that.
- Lampshaded and Hand Waved in "Kids", when Dave calls Joe, Matthew, and Bill into his office to make them confess which one of them has been leaving porn magazines in the break room.
Dave: Look, guys, I'm asking you as friends. Please just tell me who it is.
Joe: Dave, did you ever stop to consider it might be one of the 15 or 20 other guys who work at this station?
Bill: Joe's right. How come every time there's a problem, you assume that it's one of us? What about them? What if it was... that guy whose name I don't know? Or the guy who sits by him? Or-
Dave: Because somebody gave those people the impression they're not allowed in the break room.
Bill: Well, Dave, I consider that room to be a private sanctuary where I can escape from all those horrid little people whose names I don't know!
- Something of a case of Truth in Television for people who have worked in radio. Most radio stations, especially those run by major conglomerates, tend to be understaffed Assuming that the station ran a few syndicated programs (which, again, most radio stations would), the visible staff of WNYX would be an entirely reasonable, realistic workforce, missing only a few part-timers, one or two people on the production staff, and the sales people who don't really count anyway.
- According to the first few minutes of the series, the "Business Offices" were across town, which is where sales people and the like would've been located anyway.
- Magic Feather: An interesting variation: When Matthew becomes smart enough to realize the drug he took was a placebo, the effect immediately wears off and he becomes a spaz again.
- Moon Landing Hoax: * The "Balloon" episode has Jimmy James pretending to fly a hot air balloon around the world, but he was filming the whole thing inside a TV studio. Lisa finds out and calls him out on it.
Jimmy: It's not like I was faking the Apollo Moon landings, now that was a big deal.
Jimmy: (Nervously) Nothing, I gotta go.
- New Job Episode: Matthew at the coffee shop
- Also, when Matthew is revealed to be a rather talented dentist
- New York Subway: "Crisis" - Dave struggles to get Matthew an access pass to a subway tunnel during a transit emergency.
- No, Except Yes:
Dave: Okay, listen up everyone. This door is to be kept closed at all times, all right? We have a security system for a good reason and I don't want people circumventing it.
Beth: Dave, we're not circumventing it, we're just trying to get around it.
- Nose Tapping
- Parody Episode: "Sinking Ship"
- Personality Swap
- Popular Saying But: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and then throw it in the face of the person who gave you the lemons until they give you the oranges you originally asked for.
- The Rashomon: "Catherine Moves On".
- Real Life Writes the Plot: After Hartman was murdered, his character Bill was made to suffer a fatal heart attack.
- Recursive Translation: Mr. James' biography sold so well in Japan, he had it translated back into English from the Japanese. As a result "Jimmy James, Capitalist Lion Tamer" became "Jimmy James, Macho Business Donkey Wrestler":
I had a small house of brokerage on Wall Street... many days no business come to my hut... but Jimmy has fear? A thousand times no! I never doubted myself for a minute for I knew that my monkey strong bowels were girded with strength like the loins of a dragon ribboned with fat and the opulence of buffalo... (turns page)
...Glorious sunset of my heart was fading. Soon the super karate monkey death car would park in my space. But Jimmy has fancy plans... and pants to match. The monkey clown horrible karate round and yummy like cute small baby chick would beat the donkey.
- A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma: Jimmy James once referred to himself, saying "I am a cipher—a cipher, wrapped in an enigma, and smothered in secret sauce."
- "Risky Business" Dance: Jimmy James does it at Dave's parent's house, where he is hiding from the police.
- Running Gag: Whenever Joe's last name is mentioned, someone (usually Bill) looks perplexed and says "Your last name is Garrelli?"
- Joe's close personal relationship with the Unabomber (Before Ted Kacynski was caught in real life).
- Jimmy's attraction to Dave's mother could also be considered a running gag.
- Jimmy having a heated argument in Dave's office, wherein Dave asks if it's a tough business deal, to which Jimmy responds with something innocuous like 'No that was your mother, lovely lady,' or 'Nah, wrong number'.
- As Beth's absurdly low salary.
- And Joe's fondness for conspiracy theories.
- The phrase "Super Karate Monkey Death Car" comes up a few times in different contexts.
- Matthew getting hurt.
- Secret Relationship: Dave and Lisa
- Secret Test of Character Jimmy is a fan of these. At one point, Lisa asks Jimmy if something is "one of your dumbass lessons".
- Series Fauxnale
- Shoo Out the New Guy: Andrea, the meddling, overly perky efficiency expert played by Lauren Graham. When the character met with an extremely tepid reception from fans, she was quietly and hastily dropped from the show.
- Shout-Out: Soylent Green in "Space". Wolf and Sheepdog in "Twins".
- Show Within a Show: Multiple radio segments, including "The Real Deal with Bill McNeal" and "This Day in History"
- Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Jimmy has off-screen rivalries with Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch, among others, and an onscreen rivalry with Johnny Johnson.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: Dave wryly mentions in one episode that rage is an aphrodisiac for Lisa.
- On "Led Zeppelin," Lisa tells Beth that she had to quit the debate team in high school because she was afraid she'd get pregnant.
- Something Completely Different: "Sinking Ship", "Space".
- Sound Effect Bleep: In "Complaint Box", the eponymous complaint box outside Dave's office makes a buzzing noise whenever a complaint is filed, leading to the following exchange when he investigates a complaint that Lisa is getting preferential treatment because she is sleeping with him:
Lisa: Name one thing I get from you the rest of the staff doesn't.
Dave: Well, for starters, there's my- [buzz]
Lisa: Besides that.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: Bitchcakes
- Suck E. Cheese's: Dave and Bill take Matthew to one in "The Secret of Management".
- Surrounded by Idiots: Dave being the sane man has this reaction a lot. Nicely summed up in "Lucky Burger":
"I want you to look around. Here we have Lisa, who today very nearly gave up a career in journalism for a life in the fast food industry. Over here we have Beth, who dresses like a barmaid from Blade Runner
. Mr. James, a millionaire who has spent the entire day eating food he knows for a fact to be spoiled. Joe, who has earned upwards of eleven dollars working as an amateur surveillance expert - albeit half of that is Monopoly money." (Matthew peeks out from behind his desk)
"And of course, Matthew, who appears to have taken the surveillance into his own hands."
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Max Louis for Bill McNeal.
- To be fair, Jon Lovitz agreed to join the cast because he had been very close with Phil Hartman dating back into the early 80s and he wanted to pay tribute to his friend in what could be considered a real life Crowning Momentof Heartwarming.
- Talent Double: In "Mistake", that clearly isn't Dave Foley tap dancing (note that we don't see Dave's face).
- That's What She Said: in "Led Zeppelin" when the rest don't know Dave and Lisa have broken up
Dave: I know it's a crummy story but someone has to do a piece on the Williamsburg Bridge renovation.
Lisa: Give it to me, Dave. I'll take it.
Joe: That's not the first time Dave's heard Lisa say that.
Dave: Give it a rest.
Bill: I'll bet that's not the first time Lisa's heard Dave say that.
Lisa: Look you really don't want to get into this.
Catherine: I bet Dave's never heard that one before.
Dave: Seriously, this is a very sensitive area.
Beth: That's what she said.
Lisa: Okay, I'm telling them.
Bill: And I'll bet that's not... Actually that doesn't really work, does it?
- Totally Radical (parodied, Gazizza, my dilznoofus!)
- "Seriously, everyone is totally bitchcakes today..."
- True Companions: Sometimes less than obvious, sometimes almost brutally reinforced. Mr. James goes into a Heroic BSOD after he loses Bill in a poker game.
- Most notable in the episode where Mr. James gets an offer for the station. It's painfully obvious that James does not want to lose the station, or his friends, but it is against his principles to let his emotions guide his business. The end of the episode features the characters sitting around for hours trying to come up with excuses or alternative offers.
- Viewers Are Morons (Super Karate Monkey Death Car)
- Video Wills
- Wacky Marriage Proposal: Parodied in "Our 50th Episode", played straight in "Wino"
- Way Past the Expiration Date: Bill buys stale sandwiches from an old sandwich vending machine, on purpose. He likes them because they remind him of his childhood.
- Welcome Episode: The pilot (Dave). Lovitz gets one too when he joins the cast.
- What If?: "Space" and "Sinking Ship"
- Wham Episode: "Bill Moves On", describing Bill's death-by-heart-attack following the real life death of actor Phil Hartman.
- Wham Shot: From that same episode, the final shot of Bill's empty chair, sitting in a darkened news room, is quite a gut punch.
- Will They or Won't They?: Subverted; see Writer Revolt in the trivia section.
- Wondrous Ladies Room: Jimmy turns the men's room into a luxe club after the guys find out how nice the ladies room is. Matthew ruins it by going to the bathroom.
- You Look Familiar: David Cross, Brian Posehn, Bob Odenkirk all appeared as different characters in different seasons.
- So did Toby Huss, Dave "Gruber" Allen, and David Anthony Higgins. Not to mention Jon Lovitz- Max Louis was the third character he played on the show.
- Zany Scheme: Lampshaded by Dave at one point: "Why is the solution to every problem around here some kind of covert plan?"
- Zero-G Spot: Dave's sexual fantasy is making love on the Space Shuttle...with a space prostitute.
- Although this may be true, he supposedly said this to make Lisa really mad, which is also one of his sexual fantasies.
- Zeroes and Ones: Joe claims to know how to read binary code.