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This Week in Sitcom History - May 21st-27th
Thanks to Chris Meservey for researching this week’s significant sitcom happenings.
May 23rd, 1997: NewsRadio Goes Where No Sitcom Has Gone Before
The official season three finale of NewsRadio, “Space,” was the first of a series of fantasy episodes where the show explored a “what if” premise, like “What if WNYX was actually the Titanic?” and other crazy things like that. In this episode, instead of a radio station, WNYX is a space station in the distant future. The station is run by voice commands that rarely work, Matthew (Andy Dick) has an android girlfriend, Dave (David Foley) and Mr. James (Stephen Root) go over the books using virtual reality, and there are plenty of cheeky references to sci-fi movies and TV shows, like Alien, Star Trek, and The Twilight Zone. My favorite part is when Bill (Phil Hartman) smokes a glowstick instead of his usual cigarette. I don’t know why. Something about it always cracks me up.
The episode ends with everyone climbing into suspended animation pods except Bill and Matthew, and of course, Matthew trips over a cord that disables all the pods and kills everyone inside, leaving Bill and Matthew alone in space together for the foreseeable future (which any NewsRadio fan knows would have hilarious consequences).
“Space” aired on May 23rd, 1997, but the network aired another episode, “The Injury,” about a month later. In this episode, Bill receives complaints for excessive use of the word “penis” on the air. Ironically, the network had previously held back the episode because of excessive use of the word “penis.” Do they have any self awareness?
May 24th, 2000: Michael J. Fox Says Farewell to Spin City
Michael J. Fox starred as Mike Flaherty in Spin City for four seasons before Parkinson’s disease forced him to leave the show. His final episode, “Goodbye,” aired on May 24th, 2000. In this episode, some convoluted mix-up with Nikki’s (Connie Britton) new boyfriend makes it appear as if the mayor has connections to organized crime, and Mike comes to the conclusion that someone has to take the fall and it has to be him.
Personally, I think it makes no sense. Throughout his four seasons, Mike regularly refers to the need for the “killer instinct” in the political sphere, which is what makes him so good at his job. Yet, when he has to give someone the axe for a political scandal, he chooses himself? That’s not like Mike at all. He could’ve fired Caitlin (Heather Locklear), which he had wanted to do since she showed up. She even volunteered!
Also, Mike’s the deputy mayor, the closest person to the mayor. If he was involved with the mob, I think most people would conclude that the mayor was, too. And why would someone have to take the fall anyway? Couldn’t he just explain that it was all a big misunderstanding? Or “spin” it, as the show’s title says, and sweep it under the rug like he did with everything else? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like they could’ve given Mike a better exit, like maybe he got a job working for the president or someone else high up in the government and had to move to Washington, DC. Now that I would buy.
Anyway, as the credits roll at the end of “Goodbye: Part 2,” we see Fox in Mike’s trademark Fordham jacket bidding goodbye to the rest of the cast and the audience while Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” plays in the background. It ends with his waving to the crowd in slow motion. It’s a sad scene that always gets me choked up, but it’s a nice sendoff for the show’s loveable star.
May 27th, 1982: Mork & Mindy Move On
“The Mork Report,” which aired on May 27th, 1982, wasn’t meant to be the series finale of Mork & Mindy—or even the season finale, for that matter. Season four was supposed to end with the three-part finale, “Gotta Run,” in which Mork (Robin Williams) is forced to tell the world that he’s an alien in order to save the planet from an evil Neptunian named Kalnik (Joe Regalbuto). It ended with Mork and Mindy (Pam Dawber) travelling through time with Kalnik chasing them like they’re in Turtles in Time. Their fate, then unknown, was to be revealed in season five, in which they would travel to a different time period in each episode. Sadly, it was not to be, and the network canceled the show after season four was shot.
“The Mork Report” was supposed to air before “Gotta Run,” but the network chose to air it last to give the show a better ending. In this episode, Mork recounts his life with Mindy to his boss, Orson (Ralph James), as a way to explain the key to a happy earth marriage and earn himself a promotion. It completely ignored all of the events of “Gotta Run,” but nobody seemed to mind.