A greasy-spoon diner in Phoenix, Arizona is the setting for this long-running series. The title character, Alice Hyatt, is an aspiring singer who arrives in Phoenix with her teenaged son, ... See full summary »
A hip, young program director pumps new life into a failing AM radio station, WKRP of Cincinatti, by changing format from Big Band to Hard Rock/Punk and bringing in two hot disc jockeys, over the protest of the owner... and some of the employees. Written by
There are few jokes in the best TV sitcoms and films. The funniest moments happen when well-defined characters are in unusual situations in which they react as themselves. One of the funniest scenes in "The Graduate" is Benjamin Braddock trying to avoid drawing attention to himself when he wants to check into a hotel because he's having an affair. Or when muggers accosting Jack Benny say "You're gonna give us $10,000, or we're gonna break both your legs" to which Benny replies, "Does it have to be both?" (Benny's character in both his radio and TV shows was that he was stingy and would do anything to avoid giving or paying money.)
WKRP was lucky to have the kind of writers who also understood the power of character to create comedy. The characters of WKRP rarely make self-conscious wise-cracks. Herb Tarlek would sometimes try to be witty but often with catastrophic results. The chemistry that made WKRP work was the writers' understanding of their characters which in turn manifested dialog that appeared spontaneous yet funny. The humor evolved from the characters simply being themselves without the writers having to force jokes into the script. This is the most effective kind of comedy writing in the narrative style but it depends on interesting and quirky characters.
A few quick examples: when Les Nesman is asked what he thinks about radio stations in Cincinatti playing mostly "rock 'n' roll" music he replies that "it must be some sort of conspiratorial plot." When a visitor asks to see Mr Carlson (in front of Mr Carlson), Carlson (trying to avoid people in general) replies "He's dead." And when Jennifer the receptionist is asked to do some note-taking and filing she says "I don't do typing. I don't do filing. Anything else?"
This was an outstanding comedy that may have been a bit overlooked at that time since it was broadcast at the tale-end of a 20-year run of great television comedy that began with shows like the Dick Van Dyke Show, I Dream of Jeanie, MASH, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Mork and Mindy. The only two sitcoms that were truly great after that were Cheers and Seinfeld. MASH relied more on the wise-cracks but that was an attribute of Hawkeye's character. (I have never felt the writing in "Friends" was that strong relying almost exclusively on wise-cracks rather than situations although it is very popular.) WKRP is one of the few shows that still seems fresh and lively despite having been first broadcast almost 30 years ago. The writers had the uncommon ability to give the cast interesting lines that were funny, unexpected and yet totally believable and within character. And unlike most current TV comedy writing, wise-cracks and jokes were a rarity.
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