Published Oct 27, 2014Yes, the music is back — most of it. About 80% of the songs that played on original WKRP broadcasts from 1978-1982 have been restored for this gorgeous box set compiled by the folks at Shout! Factory. They couldn't clear the musical rights to a few songs, but AC/DC, Blondie, Ray Charles, Albert King, Bob Marley, the Pretenders, Queen, the Rolling Stones and many others are included here. This DVD release ends decades of hearing this beloved sitcom butchered in re-runs and an earlier DVD release.
The music is important for a show about a radio station. TV series come and go, but WKRP has endured over the years, because the writing was ahead of its time and smarter than most. Fans embraced this ensemble of misfits, including the rebellious DJ, Dr. Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman), receptionist Jennifer (Loni Anderson) and nerdy newsman Les Nessman (Richard Sanders). WKRP wasn't afraid to mix laughs with serious issues such as race, drugs or draft dodging. It took chances, such as broadcasting a serious episode of the Who concert tragedy of 1979 when several fans were trampled to death in Cincinnati.
WKRP remains a comedy, and the laughs have endured surprisingly well, especially in these episodes: The Scum of the Earth punk band, the live turkey giveaway dropped from a helicopter, the commercial jingle for the funeral home, Bailey (Jan Smithers) helping a Soviet national defect to America, Sparky Anderson's ill-fated radio show, Johnny's Rip Tide alter ego crisis and Mama Carlson dating Andy (Gary Sandy).
All 88 episodes are handsomely packaged on 12 discs, while a bonus disc offers nearly two hours of new material. A Paley Center Reunion from June 2014 is a gem. It collects most of the cast members and key creatives on a panel discussion, including series creator Hugh Wilson, to reflect on the series. (No word on why Sanders and Frank Bonner, who played salesman Herb, are missing). Gary Sandy (station programmer Andy Travis) looks back on the show is his own featurette, while Do My Eyes Say Yes? is a shorter, fluffier segment focusing on blonde bombshell Jennifer/Anderson. The most intriguing bonus feature is the four-minute "A Fish Story," which explains the show's battles with CBS, who battled Wilson to add more dumb gags instead of thoughtful laughs.
Most TV box sets rely on nostalgia to attract an audience, but WKRP is smart and funny, and it still rocks after all these years.