Retro T.V. Review: WKRP in Cincinnati (1978)
Updated: Mar 25
Show Name: WKRP in Cincinnati
Created by: Hugh Wilson
Starring: Gary Sandy, Gordon Jump, Loni Anderson, Richard Sanders, Frank Bonner, Jan Smithers, Tim Reidand Howard Hesseman
Number of Seasons: 4
Number of Episodes: 88
Original Release: September 18, 1978 to April 21, 1982
During the 2019 holiday season, I was watching a little TV and I came across this show. I had not seen it in years and I started to watch it on MeTV. When I was a kid, reruns of this show would run on CFCF-12 here in Montreal. This has since changed to a CTV affiliate.
I forgot how many awesome actors were in this series and I thought that it merited a review.
The show was created by Hugh Wilson and was based on Hugh Wilson's own experience working for a real radio station called WQXI in Atlanta, Georgia.
The show had some pretty good actors in it. It included Howard Hesseman (also played in Head of the Class, One Day at a Time and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation), Gordon Jump (The New WKRP in Cincinnati and SOAP), Loni Anderson (Partners in Crime, Nurses and Easy Street) and Tim Reid (The Richard Pryor Show, Frank's Place and That 70's Show).
The show was initially a success playing on Monday's at 8 pm on CBS. However, it would seem that in the middle of season 2, CBS kept changing the time slots and that is when the ratings started to drop. This used to happen a lot in those days. Some TV shows would thrive, while others would have trouble finding their audience. After 4 seasons, the show was finally cancelled and the last show aired on April 21st, 1982.
However, the story does not end there. After it was off the air, the show went in syndication. It found a new cult following once it was airing on local channels. This is the case even today. You can watch this show on MeTv in Canada. You can also buy the DVD's on Amazon.
One thing that the show is known for is its theme song. It was composed by Tom Wells and the lyrics were written by the series creator Hugh Wilson. It has a soft rock, funk vibe.
To demonstrate how iconic the theme was, it was released as a 45 rpm vinyl in 1979. It went as high as 65th on the Billboard Top 100 charts.
WKRP in Cincinnati - Opening Theme
The show also had a closing theme. The closing theme was performed and composed by Jim Ellis. There is a funny story in regards to this. Apparently as of the recording of the theme, Jim did not have any lyrics, so, he needed to improvise. He wrote lyrics based on a story about a bartender. At the time he figured that no one would pay attention to the words anyways as after the show the anchor would always speak over the end theme.
WKRP in Cincinatti - Closing Theme
As you can see compared to the opening these this is a more rock n'roll. However, it does seem that the lyrics have nothing to do with the show. That is actually quite funny.
The premise of this sitcom is that you follow a bunch of misfits, trying to run a second tier radio station. You have a typical wide range of characters. The best part of the show is seeing how the characters play off of each other and how they get out of ridiculous situations.
There is not much more to it than that.
I think that this is an under appreciated sitcom. We are in a day an age today that most sitcoms are kind of weak. They pack little punch and it feels like the jokes have been done numerous times.
WKRP played at a time where sitcoms were thriving. I think this could be considered a mid-tier sitcom. However, that does not mean that it is not good.
With the years, people have wanted this TV show to comeback. Proof of this is that there was a series in the 1990's called The New WKRP in Cincinnati. The show ran from 1991 to 1993. Most of the main cast came back as regulars or as guest characters. I will probably have a separate review for that show later in the future.
What was cool about the show is that it was not necessarily cookie cutter characters. For example the character of Jennifer Marlowe (played by Loni Anderson), was a blond bombshell. However, she was far from being a ditzy blond. She was very intelligent and knew how to play other people. She always managed to help the team to get out of bad situations. She was probably the smartest character on the show.
The character of Arthur Carlson (played by Gordon Jump) was always my favourite. He had a heart of gold but he always screwed up. I also always enjoyed his way of expressing himself. He was a goof but he was a fun goof.
Herb (played by Frank Bonner) was always the guy that you loved to hate. He was sleazy and he played the character of a salesman to the T.
When you put everyone together, it makes for an awesome show. There were shows here or there that were not great, but for the most part, I always laughed at them. Even today, some of the jokes can be dated but it still resonates with me. It may be a little bit of a problem for a younger generation to really appreciate the humour in some cases.
I think this show still holds up and is still better than most of the sitcoms seen today.
What do you think? Did you like this show back in the day? Does it hold up for you? Let us know below.