Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by the week’s new releases or premieres. This week: With the Primetime Emmy Awards taking place September 20, we’re looking at “award shows”—episodes that depict award ceremonies, that is.
NewsRadio, “Awards Show” (season three, episode six; originally aired 11/6/1996)
One of the best of the “workplace-as-dysfunctional-family” sitcoms, NewsRadio had hit its stride by season three. Young Dave Nelson (Dave Foley), introduced in the pilot as the new director of the second most prominent news radio station in New York, had seen his share of uphill battles over the show’s first few years. Dave’s straitlaced efforts attempted to corral a ragtag bunch, which included such disparate personalities as egotistical, velvet-voiced broadcaster Bill McNeal (Phil Hartman) and goofy office oddball Matthew (Andy Dick), into a winning news team.
By season three, Dave thought that he had achieved success with WNYX, but not one member of his team, including his girlfriend Lisa (Maura Tierney) and his boss, Mr. James (Stephen Root), agreed with him. As the American Broadcasters’ Society Award (or ABSA, as Dave keeps insisting) banquet looms, Dave becomes more determined that WNYX should win some awards, even as everyone else in the office is sure that the station wouldn’t have a chance in hell.
In the most cynical possible outcome of NewsRadio’s “Awards Show,” WNYX sweeps every award category, even “Best Electronic Maintenance Technician” for tech guy Joe (Joe Rogan). Station veteran Catherine (Khandi Alexander) commends Dave for being exactly what the station needed. But Dave manages to feel even worse than he did before, as the 29-year-old award-winning news director now knows that being the underdog has its advantages, with few expectations. Now, as he tells Mr. James, there’s “nowhere to go but down.” Dave’s fears are confirmed when he sees his future in his WYXP equivalent Marty “The Party” Jackson, who, now at the same job for several decades, drinks until his liver is shot to relieve the stress.
This being NewsRadio, its bleak take on awards success is tempered by the sitcom’s usual raucousness, like Matthew’s attack by red ants, Mr. James’ frequent presidential anecdotes, and MVP guest star Bob Costas, who diagnoses Matthew’s ant bites, tells a few stories himself, and takes down Joe with one martial-arts flip of the wrist. It’s a game effort by the NBC broadcaster, adding weight to the ABSA event while offering that dash of surrealism that made NewsRadio one of a kind.
Availability: “Awards Show” is available on YouTube and on DVD.