30 May 2003 | frankfob
A breath of fresh air
Amid the cookie-cutter, assembly-line sitcoms of the late '70s and early '80s, "WKRP in Cincinnati" stood out like a breath of fresh air. It had all the qualities necessary for a classic comedy: the show was character-driven, not dependent on a never-ending stream of glib and not-so-glib one-liners (and, thank God, no "cute" kids); the writing was sharp, clever, and at times absolutely brilliant; the ensemble cast worked together like a well-oiled machine, with each character having its own distinctive--and, unusual for television, three-dimensional--qualities, both good and not so good; and in addition to wringing laughs out of everyday situations, it wasn't afraid to tackle more serious subjects, either, such as parental responsibility, censorship, shady business practices in the industry, drug use and, of course, one of the most barbaric problems to have confronted America in this century: the practice of using live turkeys in promotional campaigns ("As God is my witness, I thought they could fly!").
Many episodes stand out, of course, the main one probably being the above-mentioned turkey extravaganza, but there were others that were equally as memorable: the staff's discomfort at being sponsored by a chain of funeral homes and having to come up with a catchy "slogan" for them; the inspired casting of Bert Parks as Herb Tarlek's charming, but even more obnoxious, father; Johnny Fever's "selling out" by hosting a cheesy TV dance show; Les Nessman's being barred from sports locker rooms because of a false rumor spread around that he was gay; a dark secret from Venus Flytrap's past finally catching up with him; and a host of other brilliant episodes dealing with serious and not-so-serious issues.
This is one of the class acts of sitcomdom, and ranks up there with "Taxi", "Mary Tyler Moore," "Cheers" and "Seinfeld" as among the finest sitcoms ever made. Unfortunately, unlike the aforementioned shows, "WKRP" never really got the respect it so richly deserved. But at least we can keep enjoying it on reruns. Thank God for small favors.