DVD Review

by TED S. McGREGOR JR. & r & & r & WKRP in Cincinnati Season One & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & KRP in Cincinnati is one of the greatest sitcoms of all time -- at least that's the way I remember it. But memory can be funny. That huge mountain you used to climb as a kid? It's really just a little bump in the ground. Nostalgia is a fun-house mirror, and 30-year-old TV is no exception, as proven by Hollywood's insatiable appetite for recycling small-screen mediocrity.

So it was predictable but still disappointing when Season One's 28 episodes felt flat. Even that episode when they dropped live turkeys out of a helicopter wasn't as hilarious as I'd remembered. (Although TV Guide named it as one of the best sitcom episodes ever -- "As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly," is all station manager Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump) could say.)

Starting its four-year, 90-show run in 1978, WKRP is a relic of one of my favorite eras, and the clothes and cultural cues are part of the fun -- although due to copyright fights, the original rock 'n' roll played during the shows (Pink Floyd, Foreigner) has been edited out, replaced by muzak. Badly done, 20th Century Fox!

But the characters -- some of the most memorable on TV -- are still great. There's the sleazy ad salesman Herb Tarlek (Frank Bonner), the geeky newsguy Les Nessman (Richard Sanders), the DJs -- perpetually stoned Dr. Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) and superfly Venus Flytrap (Tim Reid) -- and the reason so many tuned in, receptionist/tight-sweater model Jennifer Marlowe (Loni Anderson). The delights come from the repeated idiocies of Herb, Les and "Big Guy" Carlson, along with Hesseman's perfectly delivered rants. People loved this gang, and WKRP became a huge hit in syndication.

What's odd is that aside from Hesseman, who managed a few nice acting gigs after the show, the remainder of the cast was barely heard from again. Call it the Jason Alexander Rule: If your character is too good, you may never be able to play another role again. But Loni Anderson went on to that final reward for all '70s-era TV sexpots -- a stint as Mrs. Burt Reynolds.