Monday, January 18, 2016

The Herb Show

A few podcasts ago, the consecutive WKRP episodes "Baseball" and "Bad Risk" offered us an opportunity to gain some deeper insights into the psychology of Les Nessman. And this week, with "Herb's Dad" and "Put Up or Shut Up," we give Herb Tarlek similar treatment.

Treatment, analysis... we've certainly gotten a lot of mileage out of taking the internal lives of the characters of this zany late-70s sitcom extremely seriously. But isn't this precisely the era of sitcoms that offered a cavalcade of wacky characters and then actually started investigating why these folks are all so uniquely cracked? (One of MTM's flagship programs, The Bob Newhart Show, even featured a main character who was a psychiatrist, for goodness's sake).

And as the deeper attention to characters' histories and personalities spread across the TV landscape, so did the idea that individual characters might have an arc, might evolve, might change, might... become better people. (Which inevitably leads to a change from "situation" comedies and into serialized comedies, which is another conversation altogether and sadly one which we had to clip from this week's episode for time.) But the moment that the sitcom moves from the 1950s suburban family home where everything is perfect and gleaming, to the 1970s urban workplace where everything is complicated and dingy, the personal and family lives of the workplace sitcom's characters become prime fodder for plot material.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that in "Herb's Dad," we see where Herb came from, and in "Put Up or Shut Up," we see a hint of where he might be evolving to. We might even be a little too easy on Herb sometimes (after all, he's spent the last season and a half being an antagonist more often than not), but in this week's podcast, we hope we take a fair-minded look at both Herb's flaws and his positive traits and consider where they all come from.

It's 70+ minutes of Herb Tarlek, coming Wednesday, January 20!

*All credit to first season guest host Jeff Wikstrom for the title of this blog post.

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