Thoughts on “WKRP in Cincinnati”

So, as I’ve already mentioned, I’ve been watching “WKRP in Cincinnati”. I had seen the complete series DVDs before in a number of places, and was always tempted to buy and watch them, but in the end was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy watching it. Finally, though, the price was right and I figured that I’d finally give it a shot.

And in the first season my fears were proven baseless. I laughed at loud at times, which is rare for me, and in general the show was enjoyable. That … didn’t hold up for the second and third seasons, which I found much less humorous and far more boring. The issue, it seems to me, is that they tried to put far too serious plots into the show, but the plots weren’t monumental enough to carry the load. They had done it previous for “The Concert”, where they talked about an incident where someone was killed because of a rush to get non-reserved seating, but that episode worked because the structure was a funny first part and then a very serious second part. While that wouldn’t be one of my favourite episodes, it worked well for what they were trying. The episode where Venus had to turn himself in for deserting from the Army also worked well. But in the second and third seasons the plots didn’t seem strong enough to catch the interest, but were too prominent to ignore and focus on the humour. That made for some very dull episodes.

An example of this is the episode where Jennifer buys a house. There’s a lot of room here for simple jokes and oddities, but the episode ruins that by lumping way too much on Jennifer. Her mere presence causes her neighbours to divorce after a lot of time is spent on the wife complaining about her husband, Jennifer’s piano is lost and takes out a car, Les goes on about how her house is likely haunted, there’s a visit from someone from the phone company who ends up being some kind of stalker or something, and as it turns out the block is going to be taken over for office buildings or something anyway. At the end, Jennifer is simply devastated. Now, if Jennifer was the typical rich and popular woman that everything always goes right for and who acts like it, this could work … but in general she’s nice and cares about her fellow employees. So we don’t really get a comeuppance from the plot, but the plot is so serious it tends to drown out the humour. Even the very end, where Jennifer pays back Les for the ghost stories, doesn’t seem to make sense. She does an excellent job of playing up the ghost story and scaring Les, but the problem is that it doesn’t work for Les’ character. What she did would be justifiable if Les was deliberately making up a story to try to scare her, but that doesn’t seem like something that Les would do. It’s much more reasonable that his quirky nature includes his believing that there really are ghosts in the house and going on about that a bit more effusively than he really should. But if that’s the case, then what Jennifer did to him is just her being mean, which is out of character for her. So, in general, someone is being excessively mean there, and that doesn’t work given what we know of them.

Which brings me to why and when WKRP really works: when it focuses on the characters and their natural interactions. A lot of the time in seasons two and three the characters were inconsistent. Bailey was treated the worst; it seemed that they had no idea what to do with her character and so she flip-flopped a lot between differing personality types. But Les was another victim of this, wavering between being mean-spirited and quirky. The plots also were, in general, more than ways to get the characters to interact, and that really hurt what made the show good in the first place.

However, in season four they returned to the previous model and the episodes were much, much better. I enjoyed season four as much as I enjoyed season one, despite going into it wondering if I’d even finish watching the series. So, in short, seasons one and four were great, and seasons two and three were very weak. Overall, it was worth watching.

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One Response to “Thoughts on “WKRP in Cincinnati””

  1. natewinchester Says:

    “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”

    😉

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