Article first published as NEWSREADERS Review Season 2 on Seat42F.
NEWSREADERS is back on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim this week for a second run! For those unfamiliar with the series, a semi-spin-off of Childrens Hospital, the name tells you pretty much exactly what it is. It’s a parody of a 60 Minutes-style news magazine, but delivered with tongue-in-cheek humor, sort of like The Onion. Basically, it’s very funny, so you should check it out.
The first episode back is called “F- Dancing, Are You Decent?” and is divided into several segments, despite its roughly ten-minute running time. In the first part, Amir LaRussa (Kumail Nanjiana, Portlandia, Franklin & Bash) examines a new trend sweeping teen pop culture of people actually having sex while dancing. In the second, a correspondent (Lost’s Harold Perrineau) proves people are racist, and when those walking by don’t reveal that ugly side of themselves right away, goes to extremes until they have a reaction that he can pervert into classifying as racism. There’s also a commentary from popular ‘old man’ Skip Reming (Ray Wise).
These segments are much the same as fans of the first season have come to expect. They go after a topic like a normal news reporter would, but then skew it far to the extreme, often with a weird twist few would think of, and milk it for it’s worth. All of the participants are in on the game; this isn’t just a ‘gotcha’ hidden camera show or a Daily Show-esque interview that some people could mistake as real. Instead, it’s completely scripted for maximum effect, and it lands.
The most obvious change in season two is that host Louis La Fonda (Mather Zikel) is sadly gone, though his replacement, Reagan Biscayne (Alan Tudyk, Suburgatory, Firefly), is a worthy successor. Reagan may not share Louis’ Kate Walsh obsession, but he does a fine job keeping the train on the tracks, introducing the various parts of the episode.
A level of social commentary pervades NEWSREADERS. When looking at “F- Dancing,” the trend is not all that far off from the way teenagers actually act. This lends an authenticity that allows the audience to relate to the joke, even if the particular way things are presented would never happen. They then take it a step further, showing what happens when the older generation joins in, and extending the commentary.
Now, the racism stuff is more poking fun at the way CNN and other news networks treat their reporting on racism, not actually pushing forth a political viewpoint as to whether racism is over or not. NEWSREADERS is clearly meant to make people laugh, not to effect change in our culture. It avoids judging anyone or anything real, setting itself in a crazy, fictional world.
The quality of the writing is apparent, and the talent attracted to this project further lends it gravity. Besides those listed above, Reno 911’s Tom Lennon and others appear in the first episode, with a rotating cast over the weeks, allowing many familiar faces to pop in for a spell. The way NEWSREADERS is shot allows a flexibility to include people who might not otherwise be available, given busy work schedules.
It’s difficult to evaluate a single episode of NEWSREADERS on its own. Perhaps if a bad one were ever aired, it would stick out, but instead, the program is consistent and full of small bits, not delivering a cohesive story, but not needing one. “F- Dancing, Are You Decent?” is as good as other installments I have seen.
The premiere episode of NEWSREADERS is available now on Adult Swim’s website, and fresh installments will be airing Thursday nights / Friday mornings at midnight on Cartoon Network.