‘NewsRadio’ stars look back in a new oral history

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1990s nostalgia has been popular lately. Variety reports that Craig T. Nelson (Parenthood) is reprising his role in a Coach sequel for NBC, Fox brought back the X-Files,  Netflix is turning Wet Hot American Summer into a series, and Showtime is bringing Twin Peaks out from the Black Lodge. It is only appropriate that another favorite nineties TV series is remembered, albeit in oral history form. Uproxx has interviewed the writers and stars of NewsRadio to find out how influential this sitcom was.

NewsRadio starred Dave Foley, Stephen Root, Maura Tierney, Phil Hartman, Andy Dick, and Khandi Alexander, and focused on characters who worked at WNYX, an AM News Radio Station in New York. Although NewsRadio aired for five seasons between 1995 and 1999, it changed time slots eleven times, and was considered a failure by Must-See TV standards. Executive producer and creator Paul Simms was known to lash out at NBC executives, making fun of their interference in many ways, such as seeing how many male anatomy references the show could make. Shortly after NBC canceled the series, and then renewed it for a fifth season, Phil Hartman was murdered by his wife, and Jon Lovitz was brought in to replace him.

Interesting notes from the interviews:

  • The series was picked up for six episodes during the taping of the pilot by Warren Littlefield (executive producer of Fargo), who was then the head of NBC.
  • Paul Simms went against studio executives, who wanted his main couple to have a “Sam and Diane” relationship, by having them hook up in the second episode.
  • The writers and actors would hang out together, which led to the contribution of many improvised scenes to the script.
  • Andy Dick was always weird.
  • If there was someone to blame for the show’s cancellation, it is Preston Beckman. There is a portion of the 1997 Rolling Stone interview referenced several times in the interviews.

I just had a huge argument with this guy, Preston Beckman, at NBC — the head of scheduling — who hates the show. I heard that he’d been bad-mouthing it off the record to reporters, so I confronted him. I said, “You just don’t see this show as ever having the potential to be a hit.” He said, “Well, I don’t know of a lot of hit shows where the characters are so mean.” First of all, they’re not mean to each other.

To understand what made NewsRadio such a memorable series, here are a couple of clips:

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