Filmed in Los Angeles by Brillstein-Grey Communications. Executive producers, Paul Simms, Brad Grey, Bernie Brillstein; producer, Jon Spector; creator, Paul Simms; director, James Burrows; writer, Paul Simms; Judging by the pilot, there’s no reason to think any new sitcom territory will be charted, but it looks as though NBC may have a modest hit on its hands with the dyspeptic “NewsRadio.”
Being sandwiched between “Wings” and “Frasier” won’t hurt its chances.
James Burrows directs the premiere episode, written by creator Paul Simms (“The Larry Sanders Show”). Presumably, newsrooms (print, TV or radio) are popular sitcom workplaces because plenty of characters with above-average intelligence can be packed into a small, pressurized space. And there’s always something going on.
The ensemble at New York radio station WNYX includes news director Dave Nelson (David Foley), off-the-wall owner Jimmy James (Stephen Root), smarmy newscaster Bill McNeal (Phil Hartman), a news writer, a reporter, a secretary and a repairman.
It’s Dave’s first day on the job, and he’s got to fire his boorish predecessor (Kurt Fuller). Situation provides ample humor, although the writing generally indicates that the scripters believe brusqueness equals laughs.
A fairly weak prologue and ponderous first five minutes establish Dave’s character. Potential is realized in the second half when the ensemble gets going. In full stride, “NewsRadio” is on a high, if familiar, level. There’s just a semblance of a functioning workplace.
Foley (formerly a member of the Kids in the Hall) limns an earnest Wisconsin boy, easily discombobulated, whose behavior is borderline slapstick; series creators seem to be shooting for a puckish Dick Van Dyke. The character is a somewhat risky choice for lead because he doesn’t provide a strong center for the group. But this may not matter if a dynamic ensemble chemistry evolves, and Foley’s Dave proveshis mettle as the series’ Everyman, with much hinging on his foils.
Viewers may soon grow tired of Root’s rude station owner. Hartman (in his first post-“Saturday Night Live” series) has nailed the pompous newscaster, and, with some of the better lines, he’s the most realized and recognizable figure. Andy Dick is a howl as the hypersensitive reporter Matthew. There’s a stab at romantic tension between Dave and the competent news writer, Lisa (Maura Tierney).
Deadpan secretary Beth (Vicki Lewis) and repairman Rick (Greg Lee) get to fling obnoxious barbs, further evidence that the more uncooperative the character, the funnier.
“NewsRadio” features a group of caustic neurotics that many viewers will find entertaining. But nothing especially creative is introduced. There is a strong feeling of having listened to this station before — which could mean a long run.