News Radio is a slightly underrated show. This probably has something to do with the most unfortunate way it ended, largely due to the murder of Phil Hartman. This left something of a bitter aftertaste. But a show should be judged on the merits of the script-writing, acting and directing that go into it. And the script-writing was innovative. True, it was not the first show to explore the possibilities of making a group of people work together at a radio or TV station (for instance we had 'WKRP in Cincinnati' in the late 70s), but it was a trendsetter in as much as it allowed for elements of real depth of character. Lisa is not just a funny character, she has an attractive and sometimes elusive kind of uncertainty to her, Dave is neither simply a nice guy nor a bad guy. He wants to do the right thing and he has a caring side, but he can also be a little mischievous. Jimmy, the station's owner, acts like a cool capitalist, but we soon find out that he, too, is very sentimental. Bill is totally impossible and overbearing, but there are those moments when you can tell he is just putting that up as a shield. Even Matthew, who is by and large the clown of the station and the series, is a character that manages to gain our sympathy even though we still laugh at his misfortunes and inadequacies. I think Kirk of Gilmore Girls fame owes something to him.
At any rate I think the show was one of the first to lead television comedy away from almost exclusively going for the fast laugh. 'Seinfeld', which preceded it by a few years, and 'Friends', which had started one year earlier and did not have to cope with any disater befalling a cast member, were more successful and thus probably had more impact on the industry, too, but let us not forget the performances of Bill Foley, Maura Tierney, Phil Hartman, Stephen Root, Andy Dick, Vicky Lewis, Joe Logan and Khandi Alexander. I still think 'News Radio' was the best thing Bill Foley has ever done. Maura Tierney and Khandi Alexander have since moved on to develop their art more than the others, and not giving Khandi enough opportunity to do something with her character was probably the biggest mistake Paul Simms and the other writers made. Still, it is a memorable series.