I wasn’t really going to write about WKRP in Cincinnati: The Complete Series, but when I posted watching it on my Facebook page, a few people were quite curious… so here we are. Now obviously, I’m not reviewing the show itself. If you’re reading this it’s because you want to know if the DVD release by Shout Factory has done justice to your lasting impression of the show.
Let’s start with a brief history lesson. WKRP ran from 1979 -1983 and due to a constant shifting in schedule it never became a top rated show. However, once it was in syndication and given a regular slot on the TV schedule, its repeats were often beating prime-time shows in the ratings. My own memories of the show are from watching re-runs as a teen.
Then it disappeared. The show just stopped airing. The reason was its subject matter… oh not the anti-establishment themes and its willingness to confront societal issues on a regular basis. No, it was the music. WKRP in Cincinnati was a victim of the very music it helped to promote. You see, the music being played wasn’t purchased the same way music was for a movie soundtrack. No one was thinking long term syndication at the time of taping; so music was loaned-out for a fee over a short term contract. When those contracts ended the artists and their labels wanted more money for their music, and a battle began.
Twenty years later the battles are mostly over. Recently, the DVD makers said they were at 80% of all music issues resolved. (For a complete list of edits go to http://www.hometheaterforum.com/topic/334984-wkrp-in-cincinnati-the-complete-series-review-see-post-218-for-comprehensive-info/page-11#entry4154266 )
What seems shocking is just how well the show holds up. Yes there are some very noticeable edits from time to time, but it really doesn’t impact the quality of the show. The reason of course is that the writers and actors didn’t rely on the music to generate stories. Instead they leaned on quality writing and well set up jokes. The one episode that would have created the most problem (Clean Up Radio Everywhere) – Shout got the rights to read the lyrics to John Lennon’s “Imagine” which is just how it aired originally.
The funny thing is that my memory placed more importance on the music than it really should have. WKRP was a quality show that provided some of the biggest laughs ever (i.e. the classic “Turkeys Away”) and some of the more poignant (“The Concert” – where they dealt directly with the tragedy of 11 people killed at a Who concert in Cincinnati itself.)
Put it this way, from the time I pulled off the wrapping until the time I viewed the final episode, it was less than one week. I had to keep finding out what was next. The big disappointment in this is that WKRP was killed in its prime and it ends with the expectation that there should/could have been so much more.