WKRP IN CINCINNATI: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
Gary Sandy as ANDY TRAVIS
Gordon Jump as ARTHUR CARLSON
Richard Sanders as LES NESSMAN
Frank Bonner as HERB TARLACK
Jan Smithers as BAILEY QUARTERS
Tim Reid as VENUS FLYTRAP
Loni Anderson as JENNIFER MARLOWE
Howard Hessman as DR. JOHNNY FEVER
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Hugh Wilson
BY KEVIN CARR
Like many people who lived through the 70s, I remember catching “WKRP in Cincinnati” when it was first run on television. Of course, over the years, the details of the shows, and which plots happened when, blend together in my memory.
When I cracked open the case for “WKRP in Cincinnati: The Complete First Season” and started watching the shows, I was amazed at how many of the classic shows that I remembered were from the inaugural season. Normally television shows take a year or two to gel, and the earlier shows are often forgotten. Not “WKRP in Cincinnati.” The most famous episode I can think of is the hilarious Turkey Day episode in which newsman Les Nessman, along with station manager Arthur Carlson, decided to give away Thanksgiving turkeys by tossing them out of a helicopter. Of course, everyone knows that turkeys can’t fly… everyone but Arthur Carlson.
It is this method of comedy so apparent in the Turkey Day episode that made “WKRP in Cincinnati” an instant hit. We never saw the turkeys, or the helicopter, or even the aftermath of the mayhem. But we could picture it all so well with Les Nessman describing the turkeys plummeting to their deaths “like bags of wet cement.”
Other episodes in this first season are equally as funny, if not as memorable. The show only had a run of a few short years, but in those years, “WKRP in Cincinnati” became an institution.
Radio fans and industry folks should enjoy the show’s return, although I have heard some complaining within the industry that much of the music from the soundtrack has been replaced. I watched these episodes originally when I was too young to know the difference between Pink Floyd and a pink Cadillac, but for those who remember them, don’t expect the classic rockers to fill the soundtrack.
Still, even with the classic rock (which would have been prohibitively expensive to license for the DVD release) removed from the shows, the television series is as hilarious as ever. The gallery of characters is a hoot to watch, and seeing them again after all these years is like welcoming home old friends.
Of course, as much as it was known for comedy, “WKRP in Cincinnati” was also known for putting together several “very special episodes.” These are a bit hard to take – from Venus Flytrap facing up to being a deserter from Vietnam to Johnny Fever inadvertently adopting a baby. After all, I’ve been sick of these “very special episodes” since “Punky Brewster” went off the air.
Still, these more serious episodes are a product of the era, and they are forgivable in this collection. I prefer to watch my situation comedies for the comedy, but I’ll suffer through a little preaching for some fun.
The 3-disc DVD set comes with all 22 episodes (with new, less recognizable, music in the soundtrack), and it includes audio commentary on select episodes.
Additional special features include two new documentaries featuring contemporary interviews with the cast and crew. As much fun as it is to see how the cast has changed (from Loni Anderson desperately trying to keep her beauty together and Frank Bonner losing his hair and getting chubby), it’s just as interesting to hear how the show became a phenomenon.
“WKRP in Cincinnati” is a great show. It’s a bit much to jam 22 episodes into a weekend, but fans of the show should love the revisit to the little station that could.
Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Mono Sound. Fullscreen (1.33:1). Spanish subtitles. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.