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"WKRP in Cincinnati" Mama's Review (1979)

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

"Now, What the Hell Kind of Nonsense Has Been Going On Here?"

8/10
Author: Jason Daniel Baker from Toronto, Canada
23 August 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Mama Carlson visits the station for a performance review running down the list of complaints WKRP has dealt with since Travis took over as program director. Essentially we get a highlight reel of the most outrageous moments out of the first eight episodes including the turkey bombing which alone makes the episode worth watching.

Mr.Carlson is given another chance to explain his logic as it relates to the turkey fiasco. Why do turkeys have wings if they can't fly? He and WKRP will forever be associated with turkeys - birds that have wings but can't fly, make weird irritating noises and whose very name is used as an epithet for anything inept.

The main thing though is that we see Travis and the Big Guy - Mama Carlson's son, working as a team and defending the other employees. This includes Travis weakly trying to protect Tarlek's job which might seem counter-intuitive not only given Tarlek's incompetence but also his continual attempts to undermine Travis.

Mama Carlson bluntly states that Tarlek should have been canned years ago and asks the Big Guy why he hasn't done it. If she had said it in a way that didn't impugn her son's judgement, Travis might not have said anything in Tarlek's defense. That Travis backs up his employer shows his high regard for the man as a person. That he does it in a manner which helps Tarlek indicates he doesn't really feel threatened by Tarlek's attempts at undermining him.

We even see Travis defend Les, noting that he is five-time winner of the Buckeye News Hawk Award (a prize for journalism dealing specifically in taproot issues) which technically makes him an "Award-winning journalist".

Its WKRP, a station so warped and down and out that it is perpetually in damage control. Travis, never having a full effect on the direction of the station tries to put the best face he can on the mutation between the vision he has and the reality that the situation will allow for which at this point in the series is at its peak of inefficiency having alienated its former listening base and sponsors but not yet attracted new listeners.

You begin to wonder if Travis himself partly believes the spin he is peddling. Self-delusion is what keeps him there so much that he successfully fights for his job and those of his team. He has fooled Mr.Carlson enough where the man, usually terrified by the very mention of his mother gives an impassioned defense of Travis before threatening to quit.

What the viewer may eventually get an appreciation for is the acting of Gary Sandy in the role of Travis. Travis is almost never unlikeable during the entire run of the series and he plays perfect straight man to the insanity he encounters but the character leans back on Machiavellian tendencies when straightforward logic fails to persuade people which it often does at WKRP.

Since common sense tells us he is right and he is usually so earnest and industrious he never comes off as a schemer. He also wins us over by defending colleagues with such concern in serving as liaison between management and staff often going to the wall for any one of them when they don't have a leg to stand on. We should all have such a co-worker.

Tarlek, by contrast, is conniving but he usually isn't very smart about it. The Peter Principle (One rises to ones level of incompetence) swats him back down every time.

The hidden humor you might pick up on is pretty scathing. We have a radio station essentially called "W-Crap". The news director is an expert on taproot - a plant that grows vertically downward and is extremely difficult remove once it has sprouted. In Fever we have a hypochondriac DJ who has adopted the prefix "Doctor".

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