Stream On: Radio Days

By on February 20, 2020

Who knew that music radio station employees could be weird? It’s news to WKRP in Cincinnati station manager Arthur Carlson, at right. (IMBb.com)

Anyone who has ever worked in an office knows what a goldmine for comedy the workplace can be. From generic offices, such as in Office Space and The Office, to specific ones like police precincts, the built-in quirkiness of human beings provides a rich source for hilarity.

WKRP IN CINCINNATI (Amazon.com; $1.99/episode on AppleTV, VUDU and Prime Video; also on YouTube)

“WKRP’s new program director, Andy Travis, tries to turn around the struggling station by switching its format from dated easy-listening music to rock and roll, despite the well-meaning efforts of the mostly incompetent staff: bumbling station manager Arthur Carlson, greasy sales manager Herb Tarlek, and clueless news director Les Nessman. To help bolster ratings, Travis hires a new disc jockey, New Orleans native Gordon Sims (who takes the on-air persona of Venus Flytrap); and allows spaced-out former major-market DJ Dr. Johnny Fever, already doing mornings in the easy-listening format as John Caravella, to be himself. Rounding out the cast are super receptionist Jennifer Marlowe and enthusiastic junior employee Bailey Quarters. Lurking in the background and making an occasional appearance is ruthless business tycoon Lillian Carlson, the station’s owner and the mother of Arthur Carlson.” (Wikipedia)

Besides very smart and funny satire, 1978’s WKRP gave the world Howard Hesseman (Johnny Fever) and Tim Reid (Venus Flytrap) among a host of breakout stars, while winning a Humanitas Prize and ten Emmy nominations. Many episodes are also available on YouTube. [TVG]

At New York news radio station WNYX, playful owner Jimmy James, seated, could give his employees a master class in Weird, on NewsRadio. (IMDb.com)

NEWSRADIO (Amazon.com; Ad-supported on Crackle and the Roku Channel; on-demand on Apple TV, Prime Video and Google Play Movies & TV)

This 1995 Primetime Emmy winner, which also had 14 nominations, kickstarted the careers of many stars of the nineties and beyond. Dave Foley, Maura Tierney, Vicki Lewis, Joe Rogan, and Khandi Alexander are still hard at work; Stephen Root has amassed an impressive résumé as a character actor, appearing on many shows that this column has featured, from King of the Hill to TrueBlood and Man in the High Castle. Andy Dick has struggled with alcohol and drug abuse, but nowadays is making a good living on online comedy talk-shows and doing voice-over. Phil Hartman was killed by his wife before NewsRadio’s ultimate season, when Jon Lovitz was added to the cast.

“The series is set at WNYX, a fictional AM news radio station in New York City, populated by a playful station owner and staff. The show begins with the arrival of a new news director, the level-headed Dave Nelson (Foley). While Dave turns out to be less naive than his youthful appearance suggests, he never fully gains control of his co-workers.

“The fast-paced scripts and ensemble cast combined physical humor and sight gags with smart dialogue and absurd storylines. Plots often involved satirical takes on historical events, news stories, and pop culture references. The third- and fourth-season finales took the absurdity to the extreme, setting the characters in outer space and aboard the Titanic.” (Wikipedia)

Here’s a Season One DVD release trailer. [TVPG]

Next time: Wilfred, the nexus of whimsey and psychosis. Email me and follow Stream On OBX on Twitter.

(Pete Hummers is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to earn fees by linking Amazon.com and affiliate sites. This adds nothing to Amazon’s prices.)

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See what people are saying:

  • Beth Byrd

    I got a degree in broadcast journalism because of WKRP! Radio station dynamics are not really that fun. I’m now a bartender 😁

    Friday, Feb 21 @ 10:55 pm