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Worst to First: The True Story of Z100 New York (2022)

New York radio is the biggest in the world, with stations ranging from Spanish music to talk radio. The reality is that competing in this venue is nearly impossible, but in the 1980’s Z100 decided that this is the place for them. This documentary showcases the many voices and talents behind the now popular Z100 as they take the journey from Worst to First: The True Story of Z100 New York.


This is a vibrant documentary, as full of life as I’ve seen before in a film of this genre. Just a few years ago a documentary came out called Class Action Park about the infamous Action Park in Vernon Township, NJ. That cast was full of vigor and energy, and they refused to hold anything back–making it incredibly successful and entertaining. In this tell-all documentary, which interestingly follows a story originating in New Jersey, the cast reminds me of the former as they refuse to censor themselves or let anyone tell them how to act. Honesty is key in Worst to First: The True Story of Z100 New York, as hosts, executives, and famous artists express the things that actually went down on the air and behind the scenes of this radio station.


Regardless of the content, there can often be a gap between viewer and documentary as a result of who the film employs as interviewees. Beyond the unfamiliar faces of the radio station, Worst to First: The True Story of Z100 New York sees individuals such as Debbie Gibson, Jon Bon Jovi, and Joan Jett take the veritable stage to speak their minds and reel in viewers. These individuals look and seem larger than life, but the fact that viewers everywhere know who they are, have heard their music, and have likely formed an opinion on them motivates those viewers to pay attention to Worst to First: The True Story of Z100 New York. Understanding that these musicians–who are likely busy for a number of reasons–were willing to take the time to be a part of this documentary speaks volumes not only to what the filmmakers are capable of doing, but also to how relevant and important Z100 was, is, and will likely continue to be.


As previously mentioned, there is sometimes a gap between the interviewees in a documentary and the viewers–because viewers don’t always see the merit present in those individuals. It becomes clear, however, in the opening seconds of Worst to First: The True Story of Z100 New York that everyone involved is full of life–and that helps bridge that potential gap.


Being from New Jersey and seeing Z100 develop in Secaucus is an added benefit for me (and everyone else who lives in the Garden State). That alone isn’t enough to drive a documentary for everyone to care about. The content itself is incredibly interesting. I’d never really analyzed the development of a radio station, and, honestly, I’ve never really cared. Worst to First: The True Story of Z100 New York has given me a reason to care and the ability to see all the intricacies of radio development. It’s fun, lively, and far more difficult than I had ever expected–but the truths of the business come out in Worst to First: The True Story of Z100 New York.


You don’t often come across documentaries that are necessarily fun–but rather emotionally riveting or informative. Worst to First: The True Story of Z100 New York is actually fun, though. The characters on screen, the use of language, and the fact that the entire cast and crew are unwilling to pull any punches are inviting–and they kept me interested from beginning to end.


Written & Directed by Mitchell Stuart.


Starring Scott Shannon, Elvis Duran, Jon Bon Jovi, Nile Rodgers, Clive Davis, Debbie Gibson, Joan Jett, Taylor Dayne, Tony Orlando, Joe Piscopo, etc.


⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/10


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