Thursday, May 2, 2013

Rise and Fall of NewsRadio, The

Briefly, I had thought and played with - and even written a post - on my 'Next' blog stating that I will start writing on there primarily, and do a sort of scale-back of this one while at the same time sort of discontinuing it.

But I don't know. The Next thing was a school multimedia effort, photography-based and focused, and I am unsure if I want to expand upon my personal life on it.
Also, it would take a very long time to go over every post I've written on here and decide whether or not I should remove it, which would also take a lot of consideration and thinking. There were over two-hundred posts in 2010 - which as a year was a very emotionally turbulant one. I just don't really have the energy or interest.

So I'll just move on from the past on here (the negative or unfiltered parts of it, not the positive posts or funny ones) and write what comes to mind that's appropriate and opinion-based, or story-based.

Over a time, whenever I got bored and went on Wikipedia, and ended up looking up articles related to The Simpsons, in terms of their guest stars and such, I repeatedly came across someone named Phil Hartman. He'd voiced a few characters on the show, particularly B-actor Troy McClure and an inept attorney named Lionel Hutz. The name sounded slightly familiar so I looked him up to see particularly images of the man; the best one I found at the time was a cast image of the show NewsRadio when I went to his filmography and clicked on a few of the titles or shows.

I would end up reading selected areas of that TV show on Wikipedia, particularly the characters section (where the cast photo appeared) and slowly found more familiarity in terms of who was in the cast: Canadian Dave Foley, whom I knew as a minor character in the film Blast From the Past and as a host of Thank God You're Here (he also did, to my interest, Kids in the Hall), Maura Tierney (whom I recognized as a guest character on a then-recent episode of The Office) Stephen Root (Office Space, Bill on King of the Hill, Dodgeball), and Vicki Lewis, whom I recognized as Lars's wife from Mousehunt. To my surprise, I also saw Joe Rogen, who I knew as the host of Fear Factor, though I'd always thought he was simply a host, not an actor. The only people I didn't recognize from other films or shows were Andy Dick and Kandi Alexander, though I probably saw them somewhere without realizing it (the latter was on ER, a show my mother watched, while the former was a guest star or minor character on some show or film I've forgotten now that I'd seen).

As for Phil Hartman, he was familiar because he'd played antagonistic characters in Jingle all the Way and Small Soldiers, films I saw as a younger kid and remembered him as such. He was virtually the same character in both films in my memory - an obnoxious, pretentious next door neighbour.

It was a Wikipedia article I came back to a few times, out of slight interest, though I never thought of actually watching it until it came up in my suggested viewing on Netflix. As soon as I saw that, I decided it would be neat to spend my empty time doing, especially seeing all these people I'd seen briefly elsewhere in a twenty-minute episodic format. That and the fact that it was a show starting in the mid-90s, so other than Hartman, every actor I'd recognized was probably younger or a lot younger than I'd last seen them in recent works.

I went through the first two seasons of the show extremely content and happy. I loved seeing these actors as these characters in the first episode for the first time, especialy Phil Hartman's first scenes as Bill McNeal ("we're going out for lunch to honor Cathy's birthday" though the Cathy character loathes celebrating her birthday and the entire staff had already celebrated it at the station - exactly the annoying character Hartman made himself out to be). I had a feeling of warmth and pride for that actor early on in the series particularly since he wouldn't live too much longer in that time, thanks to his wife. It may have happened fifteen years ago or so, but I don't think I'm late in appreciating him or his work or feeling anger towards his death simply because I am.

I also fell in love with Vicki's Beth character. While I do have an attraction for redheads, it was her wit and sultry personality that brought me around - and her seemingly eclectic, random clothing style. She basically set up a lot of great scenes early on in the show and could appear to be both witty and childish at the same time. I didn't see any of the greedy anger she throws at Lars in Mousehunt at all, which goes to show how talented an actor can be when he or she basically transforms into a completely different person.
Andy Dick's Matthew was the guy who spend his time falling on the floor or otherwise getting mildly injured...he seemed funny in the way that he could be completely competent at something but not care for it while bagging to be something or do something he'd be inept at. Joe Rogen's Joe character (difference is the Garelli last name, which no one on the show remembers) makes his own duct tape, which he uses for everything, and doesn't seem anything at all like he does on Fear Factor (largely due to how much younger he looks despite the mere five-year difference).
The show gave me a version of Stephen Root that isn't a bumbling, gibberish-speaking character that I saw elswhere. It was nice.

Dave and Maura's characters were the kind of people who ended up in an office relationship, which for some reason I liked despite the fact it was based on their shared sexual attraction to each other's anger.

The first and second seasons had the characters at their best...the plotlines were interesting and funny and I just loved the show as it was in its early stages, like you'd like anything interesting for the first time or early on. The downfall of the entire charade was, of course, Phil Hartman's impending death as I made my way through the third and fourth seasons, which slowly seemed to become more lunatic or unusual. The show seems golden from its start to through most of the third season if not all of it, and then the fourth season seems to become more absurd and hard for good plotlines. The ticking clock for Hartman was the thing that hung over me as I reached the end.

I didn't watch the fifth season except for the first episode, which I thought was sweet and gentle. I read that everyone had trouble keeping composure during the filming of the episode, and when they slowly lost it after Dave reads Bill's farewell letter, the emotions were definitely genuine and real. They weren't acting, they were really sad. I can completely sympathize.

The thing about this is that things undoubtedly change or fall away as time goes on. I enjoyed the show extremely when I started watching it, with high expectations and warm feelings for all of the characters, especially Hartman. But the show naturally matured and slowly got more silly as time went on, and people do die, whether naturally or unnaturally, so you lose or misplace things or feelings, elements. It's like a child you father and he's an enjoyable, bright, cute, loving thing when he's young and innocent, then he matures and reaches his sullen, self-involved teenage years and you lose a lot of what you had in the past, until he matures into a responsible adult and makes you proud with his accomplishments. The show was like that for me. It had a bright, happy, warm rise in the beginning which tapered off in the later years and abruptly ended with Hartman's death.

For me, it's kind of sad. You can not un-watch or un-experience something and start over from the beginning when it was new and fun and warm. I kind of wish I could do that with the show. It goes to show that nothing lasts forever, no matter what it is. The only exception, in my belief, is love.

Other than Netflix, NewsRadio is also available to watch on YouTube. I'd go and check it out.

Justin C.

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