NBC (ended 1999)
In it's original run, I wasn't too crazy about the fifth season. However now I enjoy watching that season. It was definitly missing something without the great Bill McNeal. But I think Joe is his funniest in season five. I think Matthew has a lot of great moments from season five. Dave was at the height of his insanity (which was caused by being around that staff for four years, prior).
I loved the Johnny Johnson episodes. I also loved how the series ended. Even though it wasn't meant to be the series finale, I still love the episode. It kind of reminded me of the pilot. How Dave is nervous, running around the station talking to the characters individually. In the finale, Dave was nervous (once again) running around the station talking to the characters individually, trying to get them to stay.
I didn't like the Max Louis character at first but he was starting to get good right before the show ended.
In retrospect, I like season five more than season three, which I know puts me in the minority. But that's the way it is.
In Season 5 the series was definitely hurting for the loss of Phil Hartman and the show took a while to find its footing again. Max Louis was never quite a successful fit and the decision to have Lisa marry seemed more like an idea from the NBC boardroom rather than something that grew organically from the show, hijacking the the fire in the Dave/Lisa relationship. And sadly Matthew almost becomes a parody of himself.
All that said, there is a lot to recommend about Season 5. I loved the Johnny Johnson episodes and his three episode showdown with Jimmy James ended up being a great showcase for all the characters. I especially liked Jimmy characterizing WNYX as "the heart of the beast", Jimmy hiding out in Dave's old bedroom and Jimmy's masterful defeat of Johnny. "Lucky Burger" features some of Lisa's most characteristically neurotic moments and "Stinkbutt" is one of Dave Foley's best episodes. "Spooky Rapping Crypt" is a wonderful Jimmy and Beth showcase, with Jimmy's tearful confession that Beth is like a daughter to him, but as a boss he has no choice but to crush her in negotiations is one of my most vivid NewsRadio memories. Tiffani Theissen's guest role as Foxy Jackson was truly memorable and Dave becoming entranced by Joe's white noise machine in "Noise" is simply delightful. "Retirement" and "New Hampshire" are not only very funny, but remarkable in the way they turn viewers' expectations on their ears. Some amazing writing here. Beth and Joe really have opportunities to shine in this season, whereas Jimmy, Lisa and Dave continue to grow stronger in new ways. There is real comedy gold here.
However, I believe that bringing Jon Lovitz aboard was a mistake. Jon is a very talented and funny comedian, but his comedy is broad and visceral. He is always going to be playing overbearing losers and poseurs, people with low self esteem and little power. With the combined loss of Bill and Catherine, the void that needed to be filled was a high status, self empowered opponent for Dave and the rest of the staff. With Bill and Catherine gone there was no one to wrest power away from Jimmy or Dave, deflate Lisa, manipulate Matthew or challenge Joe. The power politics of the office were no longer in doubt and everybody ended up comfortably settling into their professional roles. This is why Johnny Johnson was successful, he shook the placidity of the office power structure. So maybe what Season 5 really needed was not the introduction of Max Louis, but the return of Catherine Duke.
| So maybe what Season 5 really needed was not the introduction of Max Louis, but the return of Catherine Duke. |
I've never understood why everyone has to hate on this season. Don't get me wrong, Phil Hartman was amazing and without a doubt the best person on the show. But he was never the only good actor on the show. People act as if he was it and once he died, the show did. Are you kidding me? This show had Dave, Maura, Andy, Stephen, and even Joe Rogan was pretty funny. Lovitz is no Phil but he definetely worked as a stellar replacement. Even without Phil, season 5 was top notch and by far the best show (creatively) on the NBC schedule that year. That's a testament to the great cast and writing staff. Matthew seemed to really step it up in the place of Bill with his episodes involving a smart drink and dressing up as a punk rocker. Along with those I would include the episode where Dave gets addicted to a white noise machine among my favorites. Johnny Johnson was terrific; they should have added him to the cast if not during the season then in a possible season 6. The wedding to Johnny was a bit disappointing however, it was obvious that NBC wanted it.