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The Previous Seasons Were Too Good...
on February 11, 2007
While S5 of NEWSRADIO is still better than most sitcoms, it falls well short of the standard set by previous seasons. Obviously, the loss of Phil Hartman was a big reason for that, but the show could've survived without him and S5 gets off to a good start. The farewell to Bill/Phil found the right mix of humor and sentiment. It was hilarious while still getting you choked up. The following ep was also a treat, with Joe's Year 2000 mishaps(he claims to have a birth certificate with Jesus' real birthdate).
NEWSRADIO was always weird, but S5 crossed over into the realm of ridiculous and absurd. Jimmy's irrational fear of hippies leading to Joe hypnotizing him; Matthew turning 30 and going punk; redecorating the men's room; Jimmy's imposter security expert; the "Freaky Friday" parody; everyone nonsensically moving to New Hampshire; Lisa's wedding to homeless Johnny(ugh!); and the 3-part D.B. Cooper saga...this was either the "Jump the Shark" moment, or it was the ramp and the actual jump was Johnny Johnson returning to marry Lisa. The whole story was crazy, and lazy when you consider how it's resolved(it's like the writer's got tired and used the first insane thing that came to mind), but it also suffered from too much Johnny Johnson and the story went on too long(since when does this show need a 3-parter?).
Johnny Johnson wasn't a bad character so much as he was overdone...unlike Andrea the efficiency expert and Jimmy's nephew Walt, who were around for multiple episodes but weren't featured too much. Also, the first 2 parts exemplified the way almost everyone was written out-of-character...these aren't the same characters that made the show so great.
Jon Lovitz wasn't a good choice to replace Phil Hartman because Lovitz can't act...he just does his "Jon Lovitz" schtick, which is fine for 1 or 2 eps but begins to grate on you. And it doesn't help that Max Lewis is too much like Matthew, and in some cases even weirder.
Other things...Beth stops dressing like The Gap and The Salvation Army had teamed up to create a clothing line, and that's disappointing; there are TWO different "b**ch-slapping" jokes; a litle too much self-awareness on the part of the characters; Tiffany Amber-Thiessen isn't funny; the cinematography is different, with the episodes looking dimmer/darker(although I think this was an NBC thing); and maybe it's just me but there are times where the actors seem ineffectual or exasperated, almost like they realize just how absurd the material is.
Of course there's a lot to like, even eps like "Towers" and "Freaky Friday" that are excessively weird and contrived but have plenty of laughs and tons of energy, but this isn't the same NEWSRADIO as seasons 1-4. I'm sure I'll buy it someday to complete the collection, but it just doesn't seem worth it right now.