Welcom back to Sitcom Face Off! Today we will be taking two similar workplace comedies which aired on the same network at the same time (more or less) during the late 90’s.They both started as mid-season replacements and went on to be strong hit shows for NBC.

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During the 90’s NBC came out with these two workplace comedies which felt so similar almost like they were both created by the same people. But they weren’t, Steve Levitan created Just Shoot me while Paul Simms was responsible for Newsradio. They were both zany work place comedies centered around a unique group of people. But which was better?

   

 


 

Category 1:

Dave Nelson vs Maya Gallo

  

 

These two were the main focus of their shows so that is why they are paired up. Maya and Dave were very different in many respects. Maya was a smart reporter but she was also one not to take any crap from anyone. She is forced to work at Blush Magazine after getting fired for making an an achorcry on the air. Dave was smart to but in a quieter sense. In the pilot he seems like a pushover, until he finally stands up to Bill and we see that he is notone to be messed with. He commands respect among his employees, where Maya ismore mocked and made fun of. They are both uptight people but Dave tends to be more willing to let loose once in a while. Maya takes a lot more goading. Daveis also more comfortable with women is than Maya is with dating men. Maya is a competitive person, just look at one episode where she pitches softball and the way shegets carried away. Dave is more reserved but his little squabbles with Billwere enjoyed by both. It is easier for him to loose it as he does many times and of course he has a severe coffee addiction. Ok, so who wins? As Just Shoot Me went on Maya evolved in a positive way. She learned to relax more and be a stronger person. She also overcame the demons of her childhoodthat her father caused by being so neglectful. She was able to have a positive relationship with him. Dave, I hate to say, went the other way. The antics in the radio station really wore him down and he wasn’t even likable in that last year.  He went from being a wide eyed optimist to a, well, a jerk. So the winner is Maya for overcoming the weirdness rather than letting it destroy her.

 

WINNER=JUST SHOOT ME

 

 

 

 

CATEGORY 2-

THE CAST

   

So let’s discuss the supporting cast, minus two which I will discuss in more detail in the next category. Just Shoot Me had a small but very strong cast. I think this show really benefited from having such strong actors,they were all established pro’s and able to take what in reality were simple characters and make them complex. Elliot was the womanizing photographer, but he has a real soft side. Nina was this booze hound party girl stuck in the 70’s,but we could see that she had a lot insecurity issues. Jack Gallo was the owner of the magazine and as the series progresses we see him working to turn things around and be a better father to his new baby girl. However, Newsradio has the advantage of more characters to spread the wealth around a bit. Matthew is funny but we know there’s a real person in there who truly cares for his friends. The one thing Andy Dick has done I can stand! Joe is the well-meaning fix it guy who is probably smarter than most give him credit for. Beth is the secretary who comes off as crass but is really a sweet person underneath. Lisa Miller seems like a regular person but she has so many hang up’s she could give Maya a run for her money. Of course we also had Kathryn for a few years and she was just cool. Finally we have Jimmy James the rich owner of the radio station.Jimmy just lives in his own little world enjoying his vast wealth. He tends to just come and go as he pleases and while he truly cares for his employees he is careful how much he shows of that. I always wanted to see a crossover where Jimmy James and Jack Gallo met; I think they are both made of the same stock.Which cast wins? They’re both great, but while Shoot Me had strong actors to flesh out the characters it doesn’t change the fact that Newsradio just has a stronger,more well-rounded ensemble.

 

WINNER=NEWSRADIO

 

 

 

 

CATEGORY 3:

DENNIS FINCH VS BILL MC NEIL

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I kept these guys separate for a couple reasons. One is that they were played by former SNL cast members. The other is that these guys are kind of the face for each show. They stand out from the rest in a special way.In real life both these men would be hated and despised, but somehow on TV they are loved characters we can’t get enough of. Dennis Finch is a horny person who isn’t very nice. Bill McNeil is an egotistical person who isn’t very nice. Well, on the outside anyway. In truth both of these men are really nice guys who don’t like to show it, so they hide it behind snarky comments and arrogant behavior. Truth is they both care for their friends and co-workers.The original pilot didn’t have Finch and the show was re-worked when theyrealized there was something missing. And of course Phil Hartman’s tragic deathput a pall on the show and it never really recovered. More on that later. So which is better, David Spade’s learing Finch or Phil Hartman’s obnoxious Bill?Well as much as I loved David Spade he just can’t top Phil’s character because he felt like a real person more than Finch who felt fake (and in a way he was as was revealed in one episode). Phil Hartman was born to play that role and he just did a fantastic job with it. One of the many tragedies surrounding his death is the fact we will never know what he would have done with the character down the road. By the way, the first episode after his death was just a beautiful show.

 

WINNER-NEWSRADIO

 

 

 

 

 

 CATEGORY 4:ROMANCE

 

 

What would a work based sitcom be if they didn’t have two ofthe cast members lusting after one another? This happened on both of these shows. Dave and Lisa hooked up almost immediately, and though they tried to keep their relationship a secret it didn’t take long for the office to find out. They eventually broke up and then went off and on for a while. They never got back together but there was always the suggestion that they might. On Just Shoot Me, the relationship was much slower. Hints were dropped here and there and soon it became clear that Maya and Elliot had feelings for each other. At first they chose to not act on them. But eventually they gave in and went out for about a year until Ellioit’s fear of commitment finally drove them apart.After awhile they became friends again, and that was it. Their relationship was hardly spoken of again. So which do I prefer? Honestly I prefer the Maya andElliot one. Their relationship grew naturally over time, unlike Dave and Lisa who it seemed got together almost instantly. Also it felt like a more logical match up, honestly did you ever think Dave and Lisa together made sense? Also where Dave and Lisa seemed to argue more than anything, Elliot and Maya were actually good for each other. So since their chemistry was better and therelationship was more natural, I give this one to Just Shoot Me.

 

WINNER-JUST SHOOT ME

 

 

 

CATEGORY 5-THEME SONG

 

I love the song that they play over the end credits of JustShoot Me, but that hardly counts as a theme. Newsradio wins this one nocontest, they have a fantastic theme which is one of my favorites

 

WINNER-NEWSRADIO

 

 

 

 

CATEGORY  6-PREMISE

  

So which show told their stories better and was more enjoyable to watch? Just Shoot Me often did stories which were a bit out there. But the writing usually worked, especially in the early days. They did an episode where everyone gets stoned during the day, another in the style of a Woody Allen film, and a Christmas episode where Finch became the Finch Who Stole Christmas.The clever scripts were well done and pretty funny. The show would get silly but it always felt like the real world. Newsradio did many stories concerning the work place they all shared. One episode about Bill and his smoking, another with a suicidal person threatening to jump off the building, and one where they actually had a rat funeral in the office.  These episodes were also clever and well written, with all kinds of gags. However this show got downright silly, even the creators admitted it was cartoonish at times. So which show did I prefer?The big difference between the two shows is that Newsradio was focused on the environment,that news station. Every episode was another day in the office and sure there was character development the stories were also centered on the news station.Just Shoot Me focused more on the characters. The magazine they all worked was often in the background, and not the central focus of the story. I think that we got to know the characters on Shoot Me better because the focus was more on them and their lives and less where they worked. Yes Newsradio did that but that news station was always there. Take as an example the episode where Jimmy has a heart attack and rather than stay in a hospital he lays in the brake roomof the station.  Just Shoot Me also took more risks, just look at the episode where we discover that Elliot’s slow brother Donnie isn’t really slow after all. How many shows would dare to do an episode like that? The characters were more real and I cared more for them,maybe that I why I enjoyed the episodes of Just Shoot Me a little bit more.

 

WINNER-JUST SHOOT ME!

 

 

 

 

CATEGORY 7-JUMPING THE SHARK

 

  

So which show got worst toward the end? This may seems like an easy answer….nah, it’s an easy answer. Newsradio had a bad last season,but I think it deserves a huge break. There was no easy way to recover from Phil Hartman’s absence but they sure did try. Jon Lovitz was introduced as his replacement and I don’t think I have ever seen a vaguer, more inconsistent character. Was he a good guy or a bad guy? With Phil Hartman you knew even when Bill was at his worst he was really nice guy. Lovitz just couldn’t pull that off. The final episode was supposed to be a set up for the next season, which never happened. Thank goodness because relocating the setting to New Hampshire would not have worked. As for Just Shoot Me, what the heck happened? I know they lost some producers, but man did the writing go downhill those last couple of years. I tried to be a loyal fan but it got real hard. Then the show added Rena Sofer to the cast, and while I do like her she just didn’t fit in with this tight cast. No matter how hard she tried. The series finale was a really good episode. In it Jack Gallo retires and says goodbye. Maya finishes the journey she began in the first episode and everyone gets a teary farewell. It was  a really nice episode. But it can’t excuse the crap that came before it.Newsradio was still watchable that last season despite the bumps, and even if it wasn’t by their choice they still got out before they had really run dry like Shoot Me did which was plain horrible the last year or two. All in all,Newsradio was a stronger show with a stronger cast, and when this show was funny it was laugh out loud funny. So as much as I loved Just Shoot Me, the winner and better show is clear…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Thoughts-These shows were modest hits for NBC andprobably paved the way for later shows like The Office. They are both guiltypleasures that I enjoy.

By richb

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