WKRP in Cincinnati was one of my favorite shows and finally it’s available on DVD. Hubby and I watched with glee — six episodes in the first night — and sang along with the theme song with the beginning of every episode too.
Everyone remembers the cast: Gary Sandy as Andy Travis, Richard Sanders as Les Nessman, Howard Hesseman as Johnny ‘Dr. Fever’ Caravella, Gordon Jump as Arthur ‘Big Guy’ Carlson, Loni Anderson as Jennifer Elizabeth Marlowe, Tim Reid as Venus Flytrap, Frank Bonner as Herb Tarlek, and Jan Smithers as Bailey Quarters. And of course everyone remembers the infamous Thanksgiving episode, where Mr. Carlson decides that he’ll handle the WKRP promotions and give-away free turkeys by dropping them from a plane — “Oh, the humanity!”
But what surprised me watching the episodes, was the number of things I had not remembered.
Did you remember the episode where a baby is left for Johnny at the radio station? Or when the station books ‘Scum of the Earth’ for a concert? How about Vietnam, or the generation gap?
Maybe I was just a bit too young to get it all then… I just remembered all the classic comedy moments.
Watching the episodes again, I was reminded of all the serious topics the classic sit-com covered.
In “Les on a Ledge,” the news reporter is devastated to discover he’s not going to be allowed to continue his locker room access when a ball player misunderstands another reporter’s comment, “He’s a queer little fellow.” When best friend Herb discovers the rumors, he of course panics.
Andy: Some jerk accused Les of being a homosexual.
Herb: A homosexual?
Andy: That’s right, and you know Les.
Herb: Apparently not.
But remembering his friendship, he rushes to support his friend.
Herb: If you’re gay, you’re gay, it doesn’t matter. But if you’re not gay, then people shouldn’t go around saying you are.
Comedy and a few choice lines replace the after-school-special lectures.
In many ways, WKRP was as much ahead of its time as it was a product of it. Proof that WKRP was ahead of its time, re-runs of the “Les On A Ledge” episode are edited for the part where Johnny tells Herb that “the beautiful Jennifer Marlowe, is a result of the most cunningly successful sex change operation in the United States!”
As Pop_Tart wrote:
On the surface, it seems odd if not impossible, that these seemingly one-dimensional characters could produce 30 minutes of anything other than a grimace or at best some slap-stick comic relief to political & social issues such as these. But no.
This was television in its finest moments.
Amen. And I’ll say it again: WKRP was as much ahead of its time as it was a product of it.
Some have complained that the re-runs of WKRP lack the original music — and even the DVD admits to the fact that the fees for use prohibited them from being on the discs. (Even the doorbell to Jennifer’s apartment has been changed from “Fly Me to the Moon” to “Beautiful Dreamer.”) And while I too would prefer the original music, there’s been too much focus on the show’s music & musical connections. WKRP was — is — more than just stories about music.
Even though WKRP is a product of its times (and many of those issues are still here today), the humor isn’t dated. It still works. That’s why WKRP is a classic.
The DVD also has commentary with Hugh Wilson, Loni Andersen and Frank Bonner. One of my favorite subjects of the commentary, of course, was the discussion of the problems they had with Loni’s breasts — censorship wise. (They resorted to band aids to hide the headlights and save the natural jiggle.) It’s interesting that Loni’s nipples were more of an issue than the subject matter of the shows themselves. Perhaps Loni’s chest kept them so distracted they weren’t able to notice the other topics. *wink*
Maybe that’s why so many of us don’t recall all the episodes of WKRP… We too were distracted by Loni’s jiggle — and our own giggles.
Hugh Wilson has said that humor comes out of story, not out of jokes. Well, Hugh, the stories and the jokes of WKRP, they still make me laugh. And the best thing about WKRP in Cincinnati – The Complete First Season DVD is that I can watch them whenever I want.