WKRP In Cincinnati: The Complete First Season
On the heels of Not Just The Best Of The Larry Sanders Show's once-over-lightly approach to a TV classic, Fox is disappointing longsuffering WKRP In Cincinnati fans by releasing a DVD set of the show's first season with nearly all the original music removed. And that's a problem, because songs like Foreigner's "Hot Blooded" and Pink Floyd's "Dogs" were integral to some of WKRP's best scenes. They established the milieu of an adventurous rock station at the close of the '70s, and set up the contrast between fading freaks and the squares in charge of them. But at the same time, WKRP creator Hugh Wilson and his brilliant cast of comic actors spent four years spinning crackerjack farce out of what was going on in a culture in transition, and it must suck for them to hear now that fans would angrily pitch out hours and hours of their work for the sake of 10 seconds of Bob Seger.
WKRP's first season isn't as uniformly sharp as what came later—the tone is too antic and the characters not yet well-defined—but the pieces are mostly in place. Gary Sandy struts into the office in episode one, determined to improve a dusty 16th-place radio station by giving free rein to freewheeling rock-radio personalities like Howard Hesseman, a '60s burnout prone to mind-blowing radio contests in which "first prize is you don't have to die Second prize is a pocket comb." The rest of the season follows the fray, capturing the peculiar anxieties and feelings of inferiority unique to a major metropolis in the middle of nowhere.
Season one's most famous episode is probably "Turkeys Away," about a disastrous Thanksgiving Day promotion. But for pacing, character, and general late-'70s malaise, nothing tops "Les On The Ledge," in which "Buckeye News Hawk" Richard Sanders gets banned from the Bengals locker room because a player thinks he's gay, and WKRP sales manager and quintessential swinger asshole Frank Bonner pulls him back from a suicide attempt. "Les On The Ledge" is a clockwork wonder, riffing on sexual ambiguity and male pride in the post-feminist era. Sadly, it's missing a short fragment of a song at the beginning. Fortunately, they left in the jokes.
Key features: Two too-short featurettes and a couple of Wilson commentaries.