TITLE: WKRP IN CINCINNATI - THE COMPLETE SERIES
Release Date: October 28, 2014 (Shout! Factory)
Packaging: Viva Cases in Outer Box
Number of Discs: 13
Number of Episodes: 88
Running Time: approx. 2250 minutes
Running Time of Features: 69 minutes
Subtitles and Captioning: Closed-Captioned
Special Features: Paley Center Reunion; Gary Sandy Interview; "Do My Eyes Say Yes?" Featurette; "A Fish Story Story" featurette
WKRP in Cincinnati has finally arrived on DVD in a set that does proper justice to the series. In 2007, Fox released a season one set for the series that they admitted would have "some" music replacements, but promised there were very few of them and they had replaced everything with something comparable. Unfortunately, as it turned out, they replaced every last bit of music and created one of the biggest disasters ever in the history of TV on DVD. It seemed that would be it for the series on DVD, until now, as Shout! Factory has released the entire series in a form that is almost completely unedited... but still with a few small music edits.
For those unfamiliar with the series, it starred Gordon Jump as Arthur Carlson, the manager of WKRP, a low-rated 5000 watt AM radio station in Cincinnati. He is never in any danger of losing his job, since the station is owned by his overbearing mother, who sort of sees him as a failure, but loves him regardless. In the pilot episode, Andy Travis (Gary Sandy) is hired as the new programming director, and he has very bold plans for WKRP. He wants to turn the sleepy station into a rock-and-roll station. Despite a rough start, it goes over well and lasts for at least four years (the length of the series). Aside from the two guys in charge of the station, there was a large ensemble cast that was just as critical to the series, including DJs Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) and Venus Flytrap (Tim Reid), secretary Jennifer (Loni Anderson), a news department headed by Les Nessman (Richard Sanders) along with the more competent Bailey (Jan Smithers), and the slimeball advertising man, Herb Tarlek (Frank Bonner).
The series ran for four years on CBS before being canceled, but it quickly became a hit in syndication in the 80s. Unfortunately, at some point in the late 80s or early 90s, MTM Enterprises (the production company and original rights holder of the series) had fallen on hard times, and their library began to be shuffled around to different parties, before finally landing in the hands of 20th Century Fox in 1998 after the studio purchased Pat Robertson's International Family Entertainment holdings (primarily to get The Family Channel, which was eventually purchased by ABC and is now ABC Family Channel). Somewhere in these shuffles, WKRP in Cincinnati was destroyed for syndication runs. The series disappeared from most local TV stations after the early 90s and had a run on E! Entertainment for a little while, and made a return in the late 90s on Nick at Nite with a "new" heavily music edited version that had fans very upset. This version became known as what fans expected WKRP to look like from that point forward, until WGN and Antenna TV returned the series with older prints that had much of the music restored. Now, Shout! is doing their best to bring fans a version that has perhaps the most music that one could expect to see on DVD.
As this is a complete series, we'll just point out some highlights from each season.
The first season, of course, starts with the two-part pilot, where changes are made to the station that begins with Johnny Fever yelling "booger" on the air. Les takes some comments about him the wrong way in "Les on a Ledge." Mr. Carlson has a brilliant idea that (sort of) backfires in "Turkey's Away." In "A Date with Jennifer," Les gets a chance to get something he could have never imagined... if Herb doesn't interfere. Johnny Fever leaves WKRP (but for how long?) in "Goodbye, Johnny" and "Johnny Comes Back." The first season ends with "Fish Story," where mascots clash and cause a lot of trouble.
Season two begins with the two-part episode "For Love or Money," where a former flame shows up at Johnny's apartment and causes quite a bit of trouble. Mr. Carlson's wife has a surprise for him in "Patter of Little Feet," but Mama is less than pleased. Les becomes concerned when Andy lets Bailey do some of the news reports in "Bailey's Big Break." Andy tries to prove he is not a racist when he gets angry at Venus when Venus goes on a date with Andy's sister. Tragedy happens at a concert that WKRP promotes in "In Concert." The guys at the station try to steal nude photos of Jennifer that a sleazy photographer took in "Filthy Pictures."
Season three begins with "The Airplane Show," where Les takes matters into his own hands when the station refuses to buy a helicopter for him. Mr. Carlson becomes a father again in "The Baby." Dr. Joyce Brothers guest stars as an advertising client in "Hotel Oceanview." Venus tries to convince a gang leader to stay in school in "Venus and the Man." In "Dr. Fever and Mr. Tide," Johnny is forced to sell his soul to become the host of a disco show on television. Jennifer becomes the latest on-air personality at WKRP in "Ask Jennifer." The third season ends with "Clean Up Radio Everywhere," where the station is threatened by an evangelist.
Season four starts with the two-part episode "An Explosive Affair," where the station may be blown up... but Johnny is more afraid of the phone cops. Johnny learns that paying booger can pay after a legal settlement in "Three Days of the Condo." The Colonel dies in "Jennifer and the Will," and when Jennifer is named the executrix of his will, it causes a lot of chaos in his family. Andy's latest fling is with Mama Carlson in "Love, Exciting and New." Venus is framed as an accomplice in a robbery in "Circumstantial Evidence." In "The Impossible Dream," Les is off to replace Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News... maybe. The season ends with "Up and Down the Dial," where a format change may be on the way to WKRP if Mama has her way.
The episodes on the set are pretty much unedited. Of course, a small amount of music is replaced with new songs and small pieces of dialog are sometimes removed or even redubbed (a practice that was shamefully done in the 1990s destruction of the series), but by and large it is mostly intact. We didn't do a full music analysis of the series, but some examples of missing music among the more prominent music in the series that could be found include the replacement of Pink Floyd's "Dogs" in the "Turkeys Away" episode (with a soundalike) and the replacement of The Eagles "The Long Run" in "The Doctor's Daughter" (also with a soundalike, but this one was some bad dialog redubbing too). This doesn't include several other less significant replacement songs throughout the set. In fact, it is estimated that about 40 episodes on the set have some form of music replacement somewhere. But all in all, the music replacements tend not to detract from the series. Also, it is worth pointing out that the scene with the Foreigner song "Hot Blooded" in the episode "A Date With Jennifer" is fully intact.
A full musical analysis would require more than what could be included in a single review and would in fact make enough for a whole extra review. For that reason, we suggest looking at the music inclusion review that a very devoted fan on Home Theater Forum did to check the music on each episode, which can be found here (http://www.hometheaterforum.com/topic/334984-wkrp-in-cincinnati-the-complete-series-review-see-posts-218-356-for-info/?p=4154266).
There is one VERY peculiar edit on one episode that I simply didn't understand, though. The episode "The Contest Nobody Could Win" had an entire scene that was apparently reshot at some point when the series originally aired. Toward the end of the episode, the (fake) contest winner shows up to station to collect his prize, and almost every fan who remembers the episode will remember that in the episode, Vincent Schiavelli played the fake Don Pescola who shows up at the station. If you remember that scene, you will be shocked to see that an entirely different scene appears on this set with John Wheeler (an actor who looks and acts nothing like Schiavelli) appearing as the fake Don Pescola! There hasn't been any full explanation as to why this happens, but it is speculated that the scene was originally taped with Wheeler in the role and redone with Schiavelli before it could actually air. But it is odd to see how this familiar scene changes so much with this new actor, and it is worth noting that the Fox release of season 1 from 2007 has the more familiar version of this scene. I'm guessing Shout! was unaware of multiple versions of this scene, because if they had known, they could have included both as a "bonus."
Episode runtimes are as follows:
Season 1, Disc 1
1. "Pilot (Part 1)" (24:56)
2. "Pilot (Part 2)" (25:13)
3. "Les on a Ledge" (25:13)
4. "Hoodlum Rock" (24:56)
5. "Hold-Up" (24:19)
6. "Bailey's Show" (25:06)
7. "Turkeys Away" (24:57)
8. "Love Returns" (25:08)
Season 1, Disc 2
9. "Mama's Review" (25:09)
10. "A Date with Jennifer" (25:09)
11. "The Contest Nobody Could Win" (25:09)
12. "Tornado" (25:09)
13. "Goodbye, Johnny" (24:00)
14. "Johnny Comes Back" (24:56)
15. "Never Leave Me Lucille" (24:56)
Season 1, Disc 3
16. "I Want to Keep My Baby" (24:46)
17. "A Commercial Break" (24:46)
18. "Who is Gordon Sims" (24:56)
19. "I Do, I Do... For Now" (24:50)
20. "Young Master Carlson" (24:56)
21. "Fish Story" (23:58)
22. "Preacher" (24:29)
Season 2, Disc 1
23. "For Love or Money (Part 1)" (24:55)
24. "For Love or Money (Part 2)" (24:54)
25. "Baseball" (25:00)
26. "Bad Risk" (25:01)
27. "Jennifer Falls in Love" (24:57)
28. "Carlson for President" (24:59)
29. "Mike Fright" (24:46)
30. "Patter of Little Feet" (24:57)
Season 2, Disc 2
31. "Baby, If You've Ever Wondered" (24:36)
32. "Bailey's Big Break" (24:59)
33. "Jennifer's Home for Christmas" (24:57)
34. "Sparky" (24:26)
35. "Johnny Talks to God" (24:55)
36. "A Family Affair" (24:02)
37. "Herb's Dad" (24:51)
38. "Put Up or Shut Up" (24:44)
Season 2, Disc 3
39. "The Americanization of Ivan" (24:57)
40. "Les' Groupie" (24:57)
41. "In Concert" (24:58)
42. "The Doctor's Daughter" (24:37)
43. "Filthy Pictures" (48:56)
44. "Venus Rising" (25:03)
45. "Most Improved Station" (24:59)
Season 3, Disc 1
46. "The Airplane Show" (24:13)
47. "Jennifer Moves" (24:53)
48. "Real Families" (24:53)
49. "The Baby" (23:53)
50. "Hotel Oceanview" (24:15)
51. "A Mile in My Shoes" (24:58)
52. "Bah, Humbug" (24:05)
53. "Baby, It's Cold Inside" (24:58)
Season 3, Disc 2
54. "The Painting" (24:57)
55. "Daydreams" (24:57)
56. "Frog Story" (24:58)
57. "Venus and the Man" (24:54)
58. "Dr. Fever and Mr. Tide" (47:37)
59. "Ask Jennifer" (24:56)
Season 3, Disc 3
60. "I Am Woman" (25:00)
61. "Secrets of Dayton Heights" (25:02)
62. "Out to Lunch" (24:58)
63. "A Simple Little Wedding" (24:38)
64. "Nothing to Fear But..." (24:56)
65. "'Till Debt Do Us Part" (24:55)
66. "Clean Up Radio Everywhere" (24:56)
Season 4, Disc 1
67. "An Explosive Affair (Part 1)" (24:06)
68. "An Explosive Affair (Part 2)" (24:06)
69. "The Union" (23:46)
70. "Rumors" (24:06)
71. "Straight From the Heart" (24:06)
72. "Who's On First?" (24:07)
73. "Three Days of the Condo" (24:06)
74. "Jennifer and the Will" (24:05)
Season 4, Disc 2
75. "The Consultant" (24:05)
76. "Love, Exciting and New" (23:45)
77. "You Can't Go Out of Town Again" (24:06)
78. "Pills" (24:05)
79. "Changes" (24:57)
80. "Jennifer and Johnny's Charity" (24:55)
81. "I'll Take Romance" (24:58)
Season 4, Disc 3
82. "Circumstantial Evidence" (24:59)
83. "Fire" (24:46)
84. "Dear Liar" (24:57)
85. "The Creation of Venus" (24:56)
86. "The Impossible Dream" (24:26)
87. "To Err is Human" (24:59)
88. "Up and Down the Dial" (24:58)
The packaging for this set is pretty simple, but still nicely done. The cover art has a cast photo on what some have described as a somewhat Electric Company looking green background. On the back, there is some very basic information about the series, but not really a whole lot. Inside, you'll find five cases. There is one for each season, featuring one of the cast members on the front of each cover. The back of each season case has some very basic series information, and doesn't really talk about the episodes in the season. Inside each of the season cases, you'll find a listing of episodes. The fifth case is a slim case that contains the special features. Unfortunately, the set is completely lacking an episode booklet or even descriptions.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus on the set are pretty standard, with the theme song playing on the main menu and options of Play All and Episodes. Selecting Episodes takes you to another menu where the closing theme song plays, and all of the episodes are listed on one screen. Once you select an episode, it plays immediately. Chapters are placed within each episode.
Video and Audio Quality:
The quality of the episodes varies throughout the set, but for a videotaped series in the late 70s/early 80s, it really doesn't look too bad. The episodes all look clean, and aside from video defects that pop up every now and then, it mostly looks fine. Some reviewers have commented on the colors being a bit off on the episodes, but for the sake of our reviews, we're more interested in seeing how the quality compares to TV reruns, and it looks about the same as those. The audio is mostly fine, though a bit low at times. All of the episodes on the set are closed-captioned.
While this is an excellent release and has some nice special features, it isn't exactly loaded with special features. In fact, there is just one disc worth of special features in the set. This set begins with a new special feature that has never been released before, "WKRP in Cincinnati: A Paley Center Reunion" (44:14), with Hugh Wilson, Loni Anderson, Howard Hesseman, Jan Smithers, Asaad Kelada and Jay Sandrich. It's a nice featurette that goes into a lot of details about the series. Gary Sandy couldn't make that reunion, but Shout! did manage to get a separate interview just with him (25:06). In fact, there is no mention of the interview anywhere on the packaging, which seems to suggest this was a very last minute addition.
The other two special features were previously featured on the Fox release of season 1: featurettes "Do My Eyes Say Yes" (6:28) and "A Fish Story Story" (3:41). The first one talks about Loni Anderson's status as the sex symbol on the series, while the second one focuses on the episode "Fish Story," and how CBS insisted upon a laugh-out-loud episode after there were so many serious episodes in the first season. These are just short interviews about the particular episodes featuring Loni Anderson, Frank Bonner, Tim Reid, and Hugh Wilson.
The only special features that didn't carry over from the Fox season 1 release were the commentaries that were included for a few episodes. And it's too bad that Richard Sanders wasn't included for any special features at all... he seems to have completely fallen off the radar and doesn't seem to be doing anything these days.
This set is yet another one of the releases of 2014 that I never imagined ever seeing, but this one was especially surprising given all of the music issues that this series has. Does this set get it perfect? Not really, but it is as good as I would expect. It was disappointing, for example, that the Pink Floyd "Dogs" music was replaced in the "Turkey's Away" episode, but the music that they used to replace it was an appropriate replacement and recognizable as something that was supposed to sound like "Dogs." The bigger problem, I think, was the replacement of dialog on certain scenes. But that was something that was done almost two decades ago, and not really the doing of Shout! I think that they could have cleared more music if they had really pushed further, but at the same time, I'm also sure that would have caused the price of the set to skyrocket. For example, StarVista Entertainment released The Wonder Years on DVD with almost every song intact, but it sells for over twice the price of this set. At the price Shout! put on the set, I'm more than OK with what they've included.
I don't think that any fan of the series will have serious complaints about this set. There will be minor grumbles, but overall, the set does a great job of preserving the integrity of the series and all of the laughs (and most of the music) are still there. This set gives me hope that almost any series can be done on DVD, and I look forward to what is next. It would be nice to see Shout! go to The New WKRP in Cincinnati next, but I honestly don't see that ever happening. As far as this series, though, I think that the book is pretty much closed on getting the "best" for WKRP: they've got enough music included to say that they've done this series right on DVD, and Blu-ray wouldn't offer much an improvement for the series.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 2/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 5/5
-- Reviewed by skees53 on 11/04/14
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