I recently decided to add WKRP in Cincinnati - Season 1 to my DVD collection since I enjoyed the show when I watched it years ago. I just finished watching the episodes that are part of the set.
WKRP in Cincinnati was a half hour comedy show that aired on CBS from 1978 to 1982. I remember watching the show when I was younger, but it was probably mostly once the show was already in syndication. The show was set in a fictional radio station that was trying to improve ratings by changing formats. The show focused on the various problems the station and employees faced. The creator of the show, Hugh Wilson, worked in advertising and was a client of a radio station. Wilson based some of the characters on actual people.
WKRP was a radio station in Cincinnati that had low ratings. The station manager, Arthur Carlson, hired a new program director, Andy Travis, who had a reputation for turning around stations. Andy's first decision was to change formats and have the station play rock music. The morning DJ, Johnny Caravella, really took the change and even started using the name Dr. Johnny Fever on air. Other employees, like Herb Tarlek and Less Nessman, had concerns. Andy also hired a new nighttime DJ, Venus Flytrap. The format change did cause a few problems and upset some listeners. It also upset Mama Carlson, Arthur's mother and the person who owned the station.
Every episode of WKRP in Cincinnati had something to do with the radio station and almost everything took place there. A few episodes had some scenes that took place in other places like locations of a broadcast or even the homes of some of the staff. Most of the episodes had plots that were self contained, though a few things were mentioned again in later episodes. There were a couple of two part episodes for longer stories. Some of the episodes did feature more serious plots while still being entertaining.
I thought that WKRP in Cincinnati was a very funny show. Certain things are a bit dated now, but I felt that the humor has held up well. Turkey's Away, one of the funniest episodes of the entire series, was actually based on a real publicity stunt that went horribly wrong. What happened was a bit silly and very disturbing at the same time, but it was still very funny. Fish Story, the episode that featured Herb dressed up like a giant fish, was hilarious, especially once he got into a fight with the pig mascot from a rival station. All of the episodes were very funny and entertaining. Herb, Les, Johnny, and Mr. Carlson were always saying and doing things that made me laugh. The humor might be a bit too silly for some people, but I think it worked well overall.
Music was important to what was going on in WKRP in Cincinnati. The show was set in a radio station and the format change to rock music was a major focus. Music was discussed more than once. Some music was heard, but it wasn't anything recognizable. It did sound like rock music, but it was generic. I've read that the music that was used originally had to be replaced because the rights to the songs had expired. I honestly don't remember hearing any identifiable songs when I saw the show previously. I may have mostly only seen episodes with the replaced music. In one episode, it was very noticeable that the song had been changed since Johnny was singing along to lyrics that were no longer there. It didn't bother me that much, though I'm sure that the music used originally was much better.
The first season of WKRP in Cincinnati featured several regular characters. Arthur Carlson was the station manager. He only had the job because his mother owned the station and while he was nice, he was also clueless about a lot of things. I did like Gordon Jump in the part. Mrs. Carlson, Arthur's father, turned up in a couple of episodes. She was a very imposing woman who scared most of her staff, including her son. Sylvia Sidney played the part in the pilot and Carol Bruce took over the part when the character returned.
Andy Travis was the new program director hired to boost the ratings for the station. He had been working in radio for a while and had a reputation for turning around stations with bad ratings. He frequently had to clean up messes that the others got into. Andy came to really like the people working at the station. Gary Sandy was fine in the part. Bailey Quarters was the shy young woman working for the station who usually didn't have a lot to do. She was slowly starting to have more to do as the season progressed. Jan Smithers was fine in the part.
Jennifer Marlowe was the beautiful receptionist for the station. She looked like a typical blonde bimbo, but she was actually very smart. She was actually the highest paid employee of the station even though she didn't take dictation or get coffee. She managed to deal with most situations calmly even while others were starting to freak out. Loni Anderson was really good in the part.
Herb Tarlek was in advertising. He was responsible for going out and finding businesses to advertise on the station. He dressed in horribly ugly suits and acted like a huge jerk most of the time. He also was always hitting on Jennifer despite being married. Frank Bonner really handled the part well. Less Nessman was the newsman for the station. He was very proud of the awards he'd won and took his job very seriously, even when things were going wrong. He had a tendency to mispronounce things and end up sounding like an idiot. He wanted his own office, and since that wasn't happening, he had tape on the floor around his desk to show where his walls would be. Richard Sanders was really good in the part, making Les a funny character.
Johnny Caravella had used many different names on air during his career as a DJ. He ended up at WKRP after he was fired from a station in Los Angeles for saying booger on the air. Johnny was a bit neurotic and tended to get in to trouble. He was also a very entertaining character that I really liked. Howard Hessman was wonderful in the part. Venus Flytrap was the new night DJ that Andy hired. He frequently turned up wearing some wild outfits. His real name did come out at one point during the season. Tim Reid was good in the part. A few other characters, including Mr. Carlson's son, turned up during one episode, so they weren't very developed.
Loni Anderson - Jennifer Marlowe
Frank Bonner - Herb Tarlek
Howard Hessman - Dr. Johnny Fever
Gordon Jump - Arthur Carlson
Tim Reid - Venus Flytrap
Richard Sanders - Les Nessman
Jan Smithers - Bailey Quarters
WKRP in Cincinnati - Season 1 has all twenty-two episodes from the first season on three discs. Each disc has the option to play all the episodes one after the other or select individual episodes to play. There was commentary with Hugh Wilson, Frank Bonner, and Loni Anderson on two episodes. The two short featurettes, Do My Eyes Say Yes and A Fish Story Story featured Wilson and a few cast members talking about the show. They were interesting even though they weren't very long. The first season is the only season to be released on DVD so far. I'm sure I'll pick up the other three seasons if they are ever released.
Pilot - Part 1
Pilot - Part 2
Les on a Ledge
A Date With Jennifer
The Contest Nobody Could Win
Johnny Comes Back
Never Leave Me Lucille
I Want to Keep My Baby
A Commercial break
Who is Gordon Sims?
I Do, I Do For Now
Young Master Carlson
WKRP in Cincinnati was a very funny, somewhat silly television that I still enjoy watching. It would have been nice if the episodes could have been uncut and had the original music, but they were still enjoyable. WKRP in Cincinnati - Season 1 is a great DVD set for fans of the show.
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