Over 4 years, WKRP became one of my all-time favorite sitcoms. It got
better as it went, and never should have gone off the air when it did.
Imagine my shock when it was revived 9 years later.
Following an "Anniversary Special" consisting of clips of the old show
(which I prefer NOT to consider part of the official series), the new
run begins in the aftermath of a scandal caused by the unseen program
director & DJ Steve "The Savage" DeMarco having gone berserk on the
air, said "something you can't say on the air", and then "run off" with
not one but two female DJs! The incident was reported to the FCC (and
apparently the police) by a woman named "Edna Grindbody", a member of
the "Cincinatti League Of Decency" (C.L.O.D.), a militant, reactionary
Republican group obsessed with "traditional family values". For some
reason, Arthur Carlson gets arrested for DeMarco's actions, and the
resulting scandal causes station owner Lillian Carlson to accept an
offer from a Philadelphia firm to sell the station. (Personally, I'm
the sort who cannot imagine ever selling a private-owned company to
some faceless corporation. It's just "wrong".)
3 regulars from the old show returned-- Arthur Carlson (station
manager), Herb Tarlek (sales manager) and Les Nessman (news director).
This makes sense, as it was clear in all 90 previous episodes that
these guys could never find another job anywhere else. Carol Bruce also
returned as Lillian, her hair whiter, and slightly mellower, but still
a ruthless shrew concerned more for money than people. I liked most of
the new characters, including Donovan Aderhold (program director), who
was smart, hip, and always slightly bemused by what was going on around
him; Jack Allen & Dana Burns (the married DJs heading for a nasty
divorce), who were manic, frantic, and bordering on nuts; and Claire
Hartline (traffic & continuity) who was competent, warm-hearted but
sometimes sarcastic when called for).
Perhaps it's the frenetic pace of the first episode, with so much being
introduced in so little time, but I found this episode had me laughing
almost non-stop from start to finish. So many good things, like Arthur
meeting Donovan and getting awkward because he didn't know he was
black; Herb meeting Donovan and mistaking him for the parking
attendant; Donovan meeting Les and acting as though he's just met
someone from another planet ("Walls! I need walls!" "Do, uh, do you
work outdoors or something?").
One odd bit I just noticed (after seeing these episodes at least 6
times by now) is that Donovan tells Arthur "Me and the Misses thought
Cincinnati would be a nice place to settle down and raise little black
children! We workin' on our first one now." This is strange, as in all
later episodes, Donovan is shown to be SINGLE. Did he get a divorce
between stories, or can this be explained that he was pulling Arthur's
leg, perhaps to gain sympathy since it was clear Arthur was a family
Things seem bleak when Arthur finds out his mother's plans, especially
as it's clear everyone there would lose their jobs once new owners took
over. But then he has a thought, and calls up an old friend for help...
(to be continued)
Last night I watched the last 2 episodes of the original run
back-to-back with the first 2 episodes of the revival. Call me crazy,
but I was smiling MORE during the latter. It's a shame the old show
ended too soon, and that there were so many changes when it was finally
revived. But I've rarely ever seen any series revived like this, after
so many years, where its heart was SO much in the right place.
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