Newsradio (Season 1, Ep 4): The Crisis

Welcome back to my episode-by-episode recap and reaction to Newsradio. Spoilers lie ahead for the following episode. You have been warned.

THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:

WNYX is covering a subway accident. Dave attempts to get Matthew access to the subway tunnels to provide live coverage. After hours on the phone, and no luck, Dave steals the tunnel pass from the NYC Transit Commissioner. All of the work is mostly for naught as Matthew’s coverage has little to say other than that the tunnel is dark, smokey, and that he is standing in three feet of water.

While the crisis unfolding, the staff learn that Dave has ordered Matthew a new work desk. Their resentment for Matthew’s new desk only grows when they learn he asked for the desk over dinner. Mr. James first solves the problem by ordering new desks for the entire staff. Dave returns all of the desks. The episode ends with an empty office in the midst of tracking down the old furniture.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP AND REACTION:

A subway catches fire and is subsequently stranded in a NYC subway tunnel with several passengers on board. Matthew is on the scene and Dave hopes that WNYX can be the first and only news outlet with an eye witness account of what is happening. Bill is skeptical that Matthew will be permitted access to the tunnels at all. He insists that their news will simply be himself saying, every eight minutes, “still no news on that disabled train,

While Dave is delivering assignments to cover this news crisis, the office staff becomes aware that Matthew has requisitioned and received a new work desk. As no one else has been provided a new desk, the news of Matthew’s desk is not well received. The new desk threatens to distract the news team from doing their jobs well.

Dave tries to help Matthew gain access to the tunnels by calling the NYC Transit Commissioner. He does not have a personal contact with said Commissioner so he is trying to reach him via phone directory. It is not going well.

Mr. James arrives. Beth tells Dave – and the audience – than he likes to walk around the newsroom during any news crisis. Today, Mr. James has brought a friend with him named Bob. He insists that Dave pretend they are not present while they sit on Dave’s office couch and watch Dave work.

Beth brings Mr. James and his guest some Oreos. Mr. James demonstrates to Bob his preferred way of eating an Oreo, then he begins interrogating Dave about the news cycle.. He asks if a transit employee was “wacked out on Mary Jane” and Dave replies that he is merely trying to get the Transit Commissioner on the phone. Mr. James is not impressed and asks if anything more exciting than that is going on. Dave tells them that Lisa is about to give an update and Mr. James ans Bob leave to “go check out that action.”

Bill comes into Dave’s office next, grabs an oreo from the table, and eats it in his own unique way. Dave preemptively tells Bill that Lisa is doing the news updates but that Bill can have the next crisis. Bill agrees because he is not interested in the subway crisis. He asks Dave about Matthew’s desk.

Beth enters the office, tells Dave that there is an important call on Line 3 that Dave needs to take alone. When Dave answers the phone, Beth closes the door behind Bill. She then hovers near Dave’s desk, smiling, and Dave asks if she wants a new desk, too. She nods her head yes.

Mr. James re-enters Dave’s office. He states that he wants to buy the staff lunch out of his own pocket.

Mr. James: You wanna phone that in for me Beth?
Beth: You got it.
Dave: But first get me the Transit Commissioner on the line.
Beth: You got it.
Mr. James: I applaud your misguided enthusiasm Dave but for now let’s focus on something within our grasp. Like lunch.

In the booth, Catherine can barely hide her disdain as she pitches “more on the subway train derailment, with Lisa Miller” to Lisa. Lisa proves Bill a prophet when she says “still no news on that disabled train, back with more in eight minutes.”

Matthew returns to the station. Beth asks if they let him into the tunnel and he says “no, of course not.” Beth then informs him that there will be free lunch today. Matthew sits down at his new desk as the rest of the staff stares at him.

Bill circles Matthew at his desk and feigns friendliness.

Bill: Yes, indeed, this sure is a real nice desk.
Matthew: You know it’s weird because I already kind of miss my old one, you know?
Bill: Oh, hahaha, so now he wants his old desk. Why don’t you talk to Dave, I’m sure you can have both. [whistles and walks away]

Dave puts on his coat and prepares to leave. He hopes to find the Transit Commissioner, in person, and make their case for tunnel access. Bill asks Dave on his way out the door how long Matthew has been lobbying for a new desk. Dave replies that there was no lobbying, Matthew just happened to mention it over dinner one night.

Bill: So… dinner and a desk. What’s next, you gonna get him a pony?

Dave tries to leave with Matthew to go find the Transit Commissioner. Before he can get out of the station, Bill tells him that there is a man holding on the line for him. When Dave picks it up, Bill tells him that it is Tony Palmer from Desk Emporium.

Beth cuts in that there is a man on the line, from a cell phone, who claims to be on the subway. Dave talks to him for a moment and tells him that he will put him on hold, and then put on the air with Lisa Miller. When Lisa picks up the line, instead of talking with Frank Sylveri, the passenger on the train, she finds that Dave has mistakenly put Tony Palmer on the air.

Mr. Sylveri is no longer on the line at all.

Dave calls everyone to the conference table. He asks the staff to get non-work issues out in the open so that they can get their focus back on work after the meeting.

Dave: Bill?
Bill: Actually I do have a thing or two on my mind but I’d much prefer to discuss them over dinner some night. Unless Matthew has you all booked up?

Lisa sticks her head out of the booth and give them an actual news update. Dave tells her “not now” and informs her the office is upset that he has had dinner with Matthew. She states that this does not seem like a big deal because she has had dinner with Dave twice.

Bill: THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE!

Dave is still attempting to leave the office to go and find the Transit Commissioner face to face. On his way toward the elevator, Mr. James, holding a plate of food, asks Dave to join him “in the can.” Dave then follows him into the restroom. While eating shrimp from a plate on the bathroom counter, he asks Dave about the “morale problem” in the office. He brings up Matthew’s desk, dinner with Matthew, dinner with Lisa, and then another dinner with Lisa.

Dave: Okay, I made three or four small errors in judgment.
Mr. James: Oh, they weren’t errors, Dave. They were just decisions and that’s your job. No, the only uh, error I see is that you’re letting your people push you around and second guess your decisions.
Dave: Of course, you’re right.
Mr. James: And now you’re lettin’ me do it. You want my advice?
Dave: Yes.
Mr. James: Well, I’m not gonna give it to ya.

Dave returns to the station from a visit to the Transit Commissioner’s office. Just beyond the elevator, he runs into Matthew and Beth. Dave relays that he was uanble to get WNYX tunnel access, however, Dave shares that he stole the commissioner’s tunnel pass, from his desk, before security escorted him out. Dave gives the pass to Matthew and tells him to go.

In the main part of the office, Dave walks in and sees a bunch of new desks.

Dave: Where did these come from?
Bill: Scandinavia.

Mr. James tells Dave he ordered the desks and that he credited Dave with ordering them. Dave asks Mr. James to speak with him in his office. Inside Dave’s office, he tells Mr. James that ordering the desks is not how he wanted to handle the situation. Mr. James says that he loves the fire in Dave’s eyes. Dave starts to say “if you come into my office and undermine my authority” when Mr. James interrupts him and tells him that he does not love the fire in his eyes that much.

As Mr. James leaves, Matthew enters Dave’s office. Dave asks him why he is not in the subway tunnel. Matthew says that he feels very uncomfortable about the desk situation and the rest of the staff believing him to be Dave’s favorite. Dave is clearly angry that Matthew is not in the tunnels and tells Matthew, “right now you are really not my favorite.” Matthew suggests that he and Dave have a fake fight in front of the staff. Dave, actually angry, shepherds Matthew through the station bullpen, and in increasing volume, tells him to go. Matthew is unaware that Dave is actually angry and tells Dave that he believes the staff bought their fight as he gets on the elevator.

On his way back through the office bullpen, with everyone staring because Dave had just been yelling at Matthew, Dave announces to everyone that they need to clean out their desks because all of the new desks are being returned.

After all of the work to get Matthew into the subway tunnel, we see most of the station’s staff standing around a radio and listening to Lisa interview Matthew. He tells Lisa, on the air, that there is not much to see, the tunnel is pitch black, that he sees some men with flashlights some distance away, and that there is not much to tell.

Bill: Well look at it this way. If something explodes down there Matthew will be right on top of it.

Walking back through the desk free bullpen, Bill asks Dave when they will get their old desks back. Dave replies that he is trying to track them down. The furniture gag continues as Dave enters his own office and finds that his own desk is gone, too.

Later, we see Dave and Beth sitting on the floor of his office. She is sharing with Dave a schedule of dinner dates that he now has with the station staff. Exhausted, Dave says he is looking forward to going home. The elevator doors open. Mr. James and Bob are there and Dave is invited to dinner. He resignedly agrees to go.

In the post-credits scene, we see Matthew in the subway tunnel. He is on the phone with Beth. He drops his phone in the water. The episode ends with Matthew yelling for help.

REACTION:

Well, after three great episodes to start this series, I felt like “The Crisis” was a bit of a step back. It has some funny moments but overall the episode did not really work.

While “Smoking” built toward its best moment, slowly, with Dave and Bill struggling to kick their habits. Those tension of those efforts build until they culminate in both men hilariously screaming at Matthew. “The Crisis” never quite built to anything. I think the main issue was that the primary plot just did not work. There was no great payoff for Matthew finally getting into the tunnel. The phone calls between Dave and the transit commissioner were relatable but not funny – at least in my opinion. The scene with Dave’s “fake fight” with Matthew felt like it should have been that culmination moment. But the episode did not build the direct tension between Matthew and Dave to set that up sufficiently. I wonder if the episode would have worked better if “Matthew’s new desk” had been the primary plot rather than the subplot.

Bill continues to be the primary force of personality preventing the office from running smoothly in the way that Dave would like. Lisa is Dave’s ally. Beth is something like a liason between himself and everyone else. Bill is a bit of a foil. The office (namely Dave) had to bend around Bill in “Smoking” when the state of New York passed a no-smoking ordinance. Likewise, in “The Crisis,” Bill is the primary force driving the office-wide anger over Dave’s decision to provide Matthew with a new desk. Most of the best humor from this episode comes from that Bill-driven tension with Dave. Not surprisingly then, he had my favorite lines in the episode:

Two dinners!? Unbelievable!

His anger above sets up his later triumphant glee nicely.

Dave: Where did these come from?
Bill: Scandinavia.

Newsradio has a penchant for doing oddball things subtly. Dave’s coffee mug tends to chart a ping pong course through the office during any given episode. In “The Crisis” the major oddball events both involved Mr. James and food. First we see him demonstrating to Bob how he eats an Oreo. This sets up Bill’s even more elaborate method of Oreo eating when he finds them in Dave’s office. Later, we see Mr. James nonchalantly eating a shrimp dinner on the bathroom counter. What makes the scenes work is that the dialogue draws very little attention to the actions. We sort of expect a character to say “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” and without that, the tension created by the strange behavior is not released. Comedy – good comedy at least – relies on build up of tension.

Anyway, this was not a bad episode. It just did not quite feel like it had its timing down. We will check back in for episode 5 soon.

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