Is Jon Lovitz the right substitute for Phil Hartman on "NewsRadio"?

By Josh Wolk
Updated July 07, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT
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“NewsRadio” will keep its “Saturday Night Live” lineage alive as Jon Lovitz joins the cast next season to fill the gap left by the late Phil Hartman. No details have been announced about Lovitz’s character, but if his past two cameos on the show are any indication — he has played a mental patient and a disgruntled employee threatening to jump from the radio station’s ledge — he won’t be the sanest member of WNYX’s staff.

Lovitz and Hartman worked together at “SNL” for four seasons (1986-1990), but their comic personas couldn’t have been more different: Hartman specialized in brash egotists while Lovitz is the master of the whiny loser. Though “NewsRadio”‘s producers probably did the right thing by avoiding a Phil Hartman clone, not everyone believes that Lovitz is the ideal substitute. “Jon Lovitz makes a wonderful guest star, and I like him in small doses,” explains EW senior writer AJ Jacobs. “But every week is too much of a good thing, to put it politely. He’s just a little too shticky and gimmicky.”

Even so, curious viewers tuning in this fall to see Lovitz should boost the show’s ratings. And those who aren’t Lovitz fans could be won over by the strong ensemble cast. “Hartman was a key player among a number of key players,” says Jacobs. “It isn’t the same as if John Lithgow left ‘3rd Rock From the Sun.’ ‘NewsRadio’ can survive Hartman’s replacement.”

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