Monday, September 18, 2017

"It's still a nice place to work."

The two WKRP episodes we're covering this week – "Changes" and "Jennifer and Johnny's Charity" – were a pleasant surprise, a pair of episodes that cover Important Issues but in a witty and subtle way. In "Changes," we observe a pair of identity crises as Venus agonizes over appearing "black enough" for an interview with a black magazine, while Herb decides to ditch the polyester and Get With The Eighties... at least for a little while. And in "Jennifer and Johnny's Charity," Jennifer and Johnny fight a proxy war over President Reagan's cuts to aid to the homeless and mentally ill and the place of private philanthropy and charity to fill the gap caused by Reaganomics.

We've talked about the back half of Season 3 and its run of issue-based episodes' sometimes heavy-handed look at current events. There's a much defter touch in these two Season 4 episodes, helped considerably by Tim Reid's chance to work alongside his longtime comic partner Tom Dreesen. But the one thing that came to my mind, especially at the beginning of "Changes" as we casually hang out with the WKRP staff and in "Jennifer and Johnny's Charity" as we watch the Big Guy play video baseball against Andy, is that these little character moments, this thoroughly earned comfort with these eight characters, will all soon be over for Rob and me, and this podcast.

I'm going to miss the Big Guy and Johnny and Jennifer and Bailey and Venus and Herb and Les and yes, even Andy in a few months when this podcast has wrapped. And that's making me treasure the little stuff, the subtle touches – all those quiet character moments – all the more.

When I think about big ensemble sitcom casts that earned this kind of easy, almost effortless depth of character, it's tough to come up with those that can match WKRP! Cheers, maybe. Those other '70s classics Taxi and Barney Miller have to be in the conversation. But when the writers of WKRP trust their actors and their audience with all that rich worldbuilding and continuity, all that depth of character, there was nothing like it on television.

After this week, we've got four pairs of WKRP episodes left and a couple of final podcasts to wrap this whole thing up. We'll also be talking more about The End of WKRP and What Happened to Everyone After the Show both this week and in the weeks to come. Until then, I'm going to try to savor it all as best I can.

1 comment:

  1. Mike, I feel the nostalgia you are already feeling, not for WKRP, but for this podcast. I will miss HMOTD, too. You and Rob have together done an amazing job with this and should both feel very proud of its quality. In fact, I think the show which began with a talented creative group (including your amazing guest hosts) that took about a season to find their feet and then have since gone from strength to strength has closely paralleled the development of the show itself. Well done with the meta! And, if you and Rob are serious about next doing a Strange Brew podcast (either minute-by-minute or some other format), I am totally on board!