Wednesday, April 04, 2007

WKRP: Worth Tuning In

A reader emailed me that WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-1982 on CBS) is finally coming out on DVD. As a tribute to this classic TV show, here are my FIVE FAVORITE episodes of the show.

1. "Real Families." Herb Tarlek and family go on a TV show, Real Families, a parody of the old "reality" shows such as That's Incredible and Real People. Peter Marshall guest-stars as the obnoxious host. This savaging of TV sensationalism/phoniness pre-dated Jerry Springer and is even more relevant today with the explosion of "reality" TV in recent years and the mockumentary genre. Springer, by the way, was mayor of Cincinnati when WKRP first premiered. (Season Three.)

2. Thanksgiving episode. WKRP decides to do a promotion by dropping turkeys from a helicopter, inspiring the classic closing line from Mr. Carlson: "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!" Les Nessman describes the scene in a radio report: "One just went through the windshield of a parked car! ... Oh, the humanity! ... The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement! ... The crowd is running for their lives ... Children are searching for their mothers, not since the Hindenburg tragedy has there been anything like this?!!" (Season One.)

3. The Softball Game. If I recall correctly, this episode about a WKRP softball game did not have a laugh track, and the nerdy newsman Les Nessman, who was never able to participate in sports as a kid, plays a starring role in a game against a rival station. Funny and poignant. (Season Two)

4. A 1981 episode features DJ Dr. Johnny Fever catching disco fever -- in a schizophrenic type of way. Title: "Dr. Fever and Mr. Tide." This two-part episode is a must-view for anyone who thinks they "gotta dance." (Season Three)

5. Too hard to choose. Let's just say it's any episode where Les calls golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez as "Chy Chy Rod-ri-gweeze"


And perhaps my all-time favorite quote from the show, from the show's opening: "But the senator, while insisting he was not intoxicated, could not explain his nudity." Clips from the turkey episode and the Real Families episodes are embedded below and are still funny more than 25 years after they first aired.

(My thanks to reader Jer-Bear/Jerry Wonka for alerting me about the new DVD coming out.)



Anonymous said...

You did pick some of the best episodes, but the one that I won't forget, not becaus eof it's humor, was the sort of "tribute" to those who were unfortunately trampled at a WHO concert. The show actually hit the spectrum of our emotions.

Joey P. said...

i had this one in at no. 5 and then changed it since I could not decide between this one and the episode with Venus giving the physics lesson to the kid. both are good picks. both show how "serious" and "silly" don't have to be mutually exclusive when it comes to sitcoms.