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TV REVIEW : 'NewsRadio': Mirth Across the Airwaves

March 21, 1995|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

There's little news or radio in "NewsRadio." What there is in NBC's new comedy series, significantly, is goofy charm--about 50,000 watts worth, if your taste runs to somewhat bent humor slyly delivered by a sneaky-funny ensemble cast.

"Coffee, Dave?"

"Yes, please."

"Great. It's over by the booth."

Dave is Dave Nelson (Dave Foley), who encounters a slight snag tonight when starting as news director at all-news radio station WNYX in New York City. His cloddish predecessor hasn't been told he's being fired and thinks Dave is the new sportscaster. Then he fires Dave. And so on and so on, as the outgoing news director's sacking wittily consumes nearly the entire half hour.

"NewsRadio" creator-writer-executive producer Paul Simms was a writer and producer for that loftiest and smartest of comedies, "The Larry Sanders Show." Be assured, "NewsRadio" is no "Larry Sanders." Yet just like that HBO series, Simms' new one plays better than it reads. That's because the characters are imbued with amusingly quirky affectations that aren't necessarily visible in a script. And led by the fidgety ineptitude that Foley (from "The Kids in the Hall") applies to Dave, the clever cast layers on its own bits of business.

Stephen Root has something of an out-of-body experience as the spacey WNYX general manager. Andy Dick ties himself in knots as the neurotic reporter. Bill Murrayisms surface in Phil Hartman's glossily insincere anchor. As Dave's right-hand gal, Vicki Lewis in a flash establishes herself as sitcomdom's mouthiest and funniest secretary this side of Denny Dillon of HBO's "Dream On."

It's Maura Tierney's newswriter, Lisa Miller, who shares the most time with Dave, though, as Episode 2 finds them channeling their initial acrimony (she had expected to be named news director) into steamy romance. Although their mutual lust and physical attraction are a stretch (she's a looker, he's a gangly dork), they work in comedic terms, and by half-hour's end, Dave and Lisa are guiltily doing "it," even in his office, even during lunch break. Time to reassess their relationship.

Him: "Where do we go from here?"

Her: "News booth?"

Where "NewsRadio" goes from here is anyone's guess. If slightly offbeat comedy that makes you laugh is a gauge, however, it deserves to travel a long way.

\o7 * "NewsRadio" premieres at 8:30 tonight on NBC (Channels 4, 36 and 39). Also premiering on NBC tonight at 9:30 p.m. is "Pride & Joy," a comedy that was not made available for review.\f7

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