DVD Review: WKRP In Cincinnati (The Complete First Season & Second Season)



If you spent a bit of time around radio stations and DJs, WKRP In Cincinnati captured the joy and frustration of the media when vinyl mattered. This was the tale of a radio station that wasn’t the hottest spot on the dial. This wasn’t the slick over produced machine. WKRP craved to be a real place on the dial. The characters bring out the humor of the AM/FM life that’s not glamour of rock and roll. There’s no job security. All jobs are on the line when each new ratings book arrives on the station manager’s desk. Nobody matter how popular you are, the programming director will swear he can improve your breaks. WKRP in Cincinnati: The Complete First Season & The Complete Second Season brings the pictures to a world we only experienced aurally.

The cast of characters made viewers want to hang out at the radio station. Andy Travis (Gary Sandy) was the driven program director from the West who turned over the sleepy station’s soft music to rock. Arthur Carlson (Maytag Repairman Gordon Jump) is almost the station’s owner. His mother is the real power. He’d rather be fishing. Dr. Johnny Fever (Head of the Class‘s Howard Hesseman) is the morning DJ who never seems completely awake. He was a big radio voice in Los Angeles until he said an evil word over the hair. Les Nessman (Richard Sanders) is the news radio department. He’s all about his hog related news. He hates the format change. Jennifer Marlowe (Loni Anderson) is the hot receptionist who seems to earn the most salary of everyone in the building. She knows how to make people feel good about themselves. Herb Tarlek (Frank Bonner) is the sales department. His fashion choices reflect what college basketball coaches were wearing at the time. Venus Flytrap (Sister Sister‘s Tim Reid) is the late night DJ who seduces his listens with a mix of soul and funk. Bailey Quarters (Jan Smithers) is in charge of billing advertisers and other little things. They’re a perfect little team for the small time station.

The first season is comedy gold as the focus is on the sleepy radio station transforming to a wild world of rock and roll. The older listeners show up to protest the radical change. Les and Herb attempt to revolt against the format change. But Andy and Johnny Fever show that change is good. Johnny’s happy to play music he can stomach at 6 a.m. “Hoodlum Rock” has a punk rock group called Scum of the Earth get sponsored by the station. It features Michael Des Barres (The Most Graceful Man in Showbiz) as part of a well dressed Englishmen that have a naughty side. The key episode is “Turkeys Away.” Mr. Carlson comes up with the greatest Thanksgiving promotion ever. He doesn’t want anyone to know his surprise stunt. When it happens, everybody will know about WKRP. Syndication and the original Fox DVD release of this season had a lot of scenes cut to eliminate songs that couldn’t renewed. At least on this new set, they found a proper replacement for Pink Floyd’s “Dogs” during “Turkeys Away.” The season ends when Andy has to fire the Sunday morning preacher. Turns out the guy is selling less than reliable religious relics on his show. But he won’t go easily since he’s an ex-pro wrestler.

The second season has the show understanding their balance between serious subjects and completely comic departures. “For Love or Money” is a two-parter that seems to have Bailey setting up a date with Johnny. But instead of an office romance, Johnny hooks up with an old lover from his hey days in Los Angeles. She has more on her mind than rekindling a romance. “Baseball” pits WRKP against WPIG on the softball field. What chance do they have? The odds improve when Jennifer takes the plate. “Jennifer’s Home for Christmas” give another holiday special worthy of watching each year. Everyone feels bad that Jennifer might not get out of town so they each individually bring her a gift. “In Concert” deals with the most tragic event in Cincinnati rock history. People were tramped to death when a crowd rushed into a concert for The Who. The episode is heartfelt and doesn’t turn the moment into comic fodder. “Most Improved Station” proves that Andy’s format change is worth it.

The season sets are fine for fans who didn’t want to rush out and buy the Complete Series boxset that came out last year. The Complete Second Season collection is fine for people who bought the original Fox release of the first season. But why would you want to hang onto the extremely butchered WKRP first season set? Shout! Factory was able to clear more music rights and replace any missing songs with music that has the same tone? WKRP lasted four seasons so the first half is as impressive as any workplace sitcom every made. It’s the kind of show that makes you nostalgic for vinyl and radio stations run by real humans in your city.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The series was shot on standard definition videotape so it’s not the resolution that Loni Anderson deserves. It’s OK. the audio is Dolby Digital mono. There are musical replacement moments, but not as many as the syndicated version. The episodes are Closed Captioned.

No bonus features.

WKRP in Cincinnati: The Complete First Season & The Complete Second Season brings the first half of the original series. The show gets better with time and as real radio gets worse.

Shout! Factory presents WKRP in Cincinnati: The Complete First Season & The Complete Second Season. Starring: Howard Hesseman, Gordon Jump and Loni Anderson Boxset Contents: 46 episodes on 6 DVDs. Released: March 24, 2015.

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