of NBC Radio News presented as a regular multi-cam sitcom in the workplace, but a strong current of subversive weirdness always pulsed beneath the surface. The show could also be accused of subtly raising its middle finger at the heavy executives who moved it into the show eleven times despite the praise of the critics and the love of the public who was able to find it. For the third and fourth season endings, the show’s writers let their weird flag fly, first going into space and then sinking the Titanic.
Radio Newscreated by What we do in the shadows showrunner Paul Simms, was the little show that could even though the NBC heavyweights didn’t want it. The creative team was dealing with network interference, endless creative compromises. and a network mandate that the characters had to be nice. Apparently NBC has forgotten that it’s not that good and still relevant Seinfeld it was smashing for the network with an average of 30 million viewers per episode. Despite all its setbacks, the wit of the writers and the epic comedy ensemble (Dave Foley, Phil Hartman, Maura Tierney, Khandi Alexander, Vicki Lewis, Andy Dick, Joe Rogan and the incomparable Stephen Root) have produced a hilarious and layered production that deserves much more attention.
Seemingly out of nowhere, the writers decided to make the third season finale a What happens if… episode of the concept of style. Season 3, episode 24, “Space” opened with Hartman introducing the episode: “I’m sure you wondered the same thing I did: what if Radio News took place in space? What if instead of a radio station, our characters worked on a space railway station? What if instead of reporting the news, we report … the space news? Well, after tonight’s very special episode, all these questions will be answered. Or at least relieved and rejected. Now, some people might hear this idea and say, ‘Space? Because?’ I prefer to say … ‘Space? Because Not!’ And so, without further ado, we present to you: Radio News… in space! ” Subsequently, the spatial noises were reproduced on the opening credits as instrumental while the character of the closing credits became digital.
The gags are rampant throughout the episode, starting with an exterior shot of the “space station” which was literally the normal office building, only now it floats in space instead of a Manhattan block. Joe Garrelli was awakened from 83 years of hypersleep to repair the station’s atomic reactor and learned that humans have lost robot wars, humanity is nearly extinct, and those who are left alive are running away from alien slavers. So obviously Matthew Brock was dating a robot. But Joe only cares about who has won the last 83 World Series (mostly robots).
Yet, in all spaces, the focus of the show remained the same: relationships and budget problems. At this point in its run, Radio News it was constantly in the process of renewing itself, so both final concepts looked like potential series finales. As such, at the end of “Space” the writers killed everyone except Bill and Matthew, who had to figure out how to repopulate humanity … together. The show managed to renew itself and the first episode of the fourth season saw everything return to normal. Then came the season finale.
The cast and crew thought season 4 might be the end of their run. The ratings were average and the network preferred the more direct approach Friends. What does a show that feels neglected and undervalued do for a potential series finale? They blow as much NBC money as possible. The new remastered Titanic it was a hugely popular and extremely expensive movie at the time, so it seemed like a perfect mess with the net to parody it with season 4, episode 22, aptly named “Sinking Ship”.
The producers spent so much of NBC’s money on the Titanic-themed episode that at one point Dave Foley and Stephen Root broke the character. Foley murmured “Shouldn’t the ceiling collapse now?” to which Root replied, “Yes, but I think they used up most of the special effects budget in the break room scene.” The network even paid for a new opening title sequence and a different opening theme. The episode covered the station with period-style brassing and all kinds of old vintage naval accessories, transformed the bathroom into the engine room, flooded the break room, and let the water out of the elevator.
The pushback against a goal he did not support was obviously an ironic reason for throwing such a curveball goal to the public, but just as if not more so was the feeling that Radio News he probably wouldn’t be back for another season, so let’s go big and then go home. And just like the previous year, the episode ended with everyone but Matthew and Bill dead, abandoned together and wondering how to repopulate humanity. Both “Space” and “Sinking Ship” were ridiculous and surprising equal parts and shed enormous light on the subtextual punk rock spirit of a show about people in suits.
NewsRadio is currently streaming on Prime Video, Crackle and Pluto TV.