WKRP in Cincinnati: The Complete Series (2014): Television

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WKRP in Cincinnati wasn’t just a sitcom focusing on a radio station. It was a show, in many ways, about the way rock music laced into each of its characters’ lives. The songs, some only legendary in that time and others simply for the ages, were as inextricably linked to WKRP as a pedantic newscaster with self-made office walls, the gold-digging receptionist who won’t get coffee, and turkeys who somehow couldn’t fly.

The program struggles mightily without Earth Wind and Fire’s “That’s the Way of the World” playing when Johnny Fever stands Bailey up, or without Pink Floyd’s “Dogs” spinning when stuffy Mr. Carlson wanders into the control room, or without the Who’s central role in 1980’s “In Concert,” or without Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded” when Les tries on his first toupee. Fans will remember that Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” became a huge hit after appearing on WKRP — not the actual radio.

And yet, for too long, WKRP in Cincinnati was without many of these critical musical moments, the victim of long-running arguments through the VHS, syndication and early DVD eras over licensing. Generic studio songs were inserted and, if dialogue ran over these now-unusable songs, it was either cut entirely or overdubbed by other actors — doing irreperable damage to many of the show’s central plotlines, and robbing WKRP of its priceless atmospherics. There was, after all, only one Venus Flytrap. And the newly replaced “fans,” calling in fake band names on 1979’s “The Contest Nobody Could Win” was just sad.

Shout! Factory has done yeoman’s work in trying to correct this with WKRP in Cincinnati: The Complete Series, due on October 28, 2014, in time for the 35th anniversary of the program’s original debut. The image quality, considering this series was originally shot on video tape, is almost uniformly outstanding. And, once again, Andy is overseeing a station playing the likes of Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, AC/DC, the Grateful Dead, Tom Petty, Elvis Costello, the Cars, Wings and the Police, instead of a series of featureless Muzak tracks.

In all, 111 of the original artists are accounted for. But, alas, not every moment could be saved. It seems, when it comes to WKRP, an incomplete history is the only one we’re ever likely to have. So, no Pink Floyd, unfortunately — and no Beatles. But we have Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer,” and Van Morrison, and (yes!) the “Fly Me to the Moon” doorbell. That’s certainly more than many would have believed possible at this late date, and a reason in itself to recommend this badly needed overhaul.

‘WKRP in Cincinnati: The Complete Series’ is completed by a pair of features, and commentary tracks featuring WKRP creator Hugh Wilson, as well as a cast members Loni Anderson and Frank Bonner, who played Jennifer and Herb, respectively.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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