A Whole Lotta Kids in the Hall

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Dave: The Associated Press (August 16, 1997)
'NewsRadio' Stays on NBC

This article is property of its writer and publication and is reprinted here without permission.


LOS ANGELES (AP) - Throughout its brief history, the NBC sitcom "NewsRadio'' has faced double jeopardy in audience ratings - or more precisely, the lack of them.

1. Fictional radio station WNYX, filled with so many dysfunctional employees it's a wonder any show gets on the air, is short on advertisers and listeners.

2. Even more threatening were the real-life ratings of "NewsRadio,'' which came perilously close to extinction last season.

When it began in 1995-96, the show enjoyed an impressive run in a bulletproof time slot between "Mad about You'' and "Frasier'' on Tuesday nights. But in the 1996-97 season, it was cast adrift, leading off Wednesday nights at 8 p.m.

"Last year was a bit rough,'' says Dave Foley, who plays beleaguered news director Dave Nelson on "NewsRadio.''

"When we started the show, it was finding its legs, and it was exhausting. The show began running smoothly, but we ran into a real problem with the Wednesday time slot. It was our fourth time slot in two years. The problem was: Nobody knew we were still on the air,'' Foley recalls.

"The show came very close to cancellation. But in a complete turnabout, NBC is supporting the show, really advertising it. Now we're back in our original time slot, between 'Mad About You' and 'Frasier.'

Foley says there was an underlying sadness when "NewsRadio'' seemed doomed: "Mostly because we wouldn't be able to hang out together every day.

"There was a lot of gallows humor going around. One of our writers, Lew Morton, used to come down to the table-reading every week with our latest standings written in huge black letters on a white shirt. When he showed up with `No. 84,' we knew that was where we dropped to in the listings.''

Foley's schedule away from the series has been hectic, including roles in three film and cable productions.

He appears in the film "Hacks,'' about a bunch of TV writers, and went on location in Florida as astronaut Al Bean in the Tom Hanks-produced HBO series "From the Earth to the Moon.'' He also spent time seeking a distributor for a completed film he co-wrote: "The Wrong Guy.''

Foley, who looks about 15 years younger than his 34 years, grew up in west Toronto, but you can't detect much Canadian in his speech.

"My father was extremely strict about diction and pronunciation,'' he explains in a phone interview from Toronto, where he was visiting his family. "And my mother was English. The combination of a working-class Canadian dad with aspirations and an English mum gave me sort of a neutral accent. Kind of a Katharine Hepburn style.''

Looking for academic credit in high school, Foley enrolled in a creative writing project. He developed a comedy routine: "I was always funny in school, not so much the class clown as the class social commentator.''

For six months, he entered amateur nights at comedy clubs.

"I only bombed one night,'' he says, shuddering. "That was dreadful. Not a single laugh in the entire time onstage. I was sick about it. But it turned out to be a good thing, because I decided to get some improv training.''

That led to his association with Kevin McDonald and formation of "The Kids in the Hall'' comedy ensemble. In 1987, "The Kids'' had their first comedy special on HBO and the Canadian Broadcasting Company and that led to a five-year series and a movie.

How did he get lured to Hollywood?

"Work,'' he declares. "As opposed to the absence of work. That is prevalent in Canada, and not as appealing as it might sound.

"I had known Paul Sims from my trips to L.A. He called me out of the blue and said he had written a show for me, and he had a deal to make six of them. I said, 'Well, that sounds like a good gig.' That was 'NewsRadio.'

AP-NY-08-16-97 1301EDT



 Trista Lycosky

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