Monday, July 21, 2008

WKRP Episode: "Venus and the Man" (aka "Venus Flytrap Explains the Atom")

I'm posting this one earlier than usual because I got a request for it: here is one of the most famous episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati, the episode where Venus (Tim Reid) tries to convince a gang leader not to drop out of high school, resulting in the much-quoted scene where Venus explains the structure of the atom by comparing it to a gang war. Creator/showrunner Hugh Wilson wrote the episode, which won him a Humanitas prize. The script looks forward to some of what Wilson would do on Frank's Place, in its mixture of comedy and drama in the same episode and sometimes the same scene. It's also a great vehicle for Tim Reid, who has virtually the whole episode to himself, though Les Nessman comes close to stealing the episode with his speech about the black influence on music (somehow it's actually funnier to hear Les speaking knowledgeably than it is to hear him get things wrong). The guy who plays the kid, Keny Long, had played a similar part on MTM's The White Shadow; he seems way too old for the part, but it's not easy to cast a high school kid who's supposed to be strong enough to intimidate an adult.

This version I'm using is the version that originally aired in 1981, which started with a brief message welcoming back the Iranian hostages. (For pure 1981 nostalgia, you can't beat that.) In repeats, this was removed and the scene with Venus in the booth became the first scene of the show. Note that Howard Hesseman is holding his flag in his teeth and looks like he kinda doesn't want to be there.

Music: "Lookin' For Love" by Candi Staton and, in the final scene, a cover of "Bein' Green" by Della Reese (which sounds like an awesome version).







8 comments:

Thad said...

Ahh, they shouldn't a'been there in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, the episode I always invoke when I wonder what good does it do to teach kids science (or anything) through an Afrocentric perspective if the information you give a kid is WRONG?

Jaime J. Weinman said...

Well, to be fair, Venus does at least admit that it was wrong. But yeah, his teaching method has some serious flaws, not just the false information but the fact that under his method, "proton" should really be "protron." Well, maybe that's why he bombed out as a teacher in the first place.

Barry said...

I think if you're trying to teach someone the basic concept of an atom, in 2 minutes, to convince them that they can indeed learn something and enjoy doing it, it was spot on. I don't think it was flawed at all. Now, if he'd been a teacher in a classroom and you relied on gangs and turfs and neighborhoods to teach the atom and sustained the metaphor past the first class or so, that's not good. You have to eventually understand what the atom does and how it does it, not just what it's made of.

Thanks for posting this episode! I believe it was also nominated for an Emmy, wasn't it? I recall watching the Emmy Awards that year and seeing the presenter snicker a little and roll her eyes when giving the name of the episode as a nominee...

Anonymous said...

Do you know where I can get the second clip as a mp4 or other type of nonstreaming file. I downloaded from youtube with a program i have as an mp4 and showed it to my physical science students last year. the problem is that when i upgraded my quicktime several months ago it only plays the audio from all of the mp4s i converted from youtube. the students seemed to like it. i would much appreciate it.

KSD said...

I remember this episode so clearly...tonight, as my 16 year old daughter is studying Chemistry, I pulled her to my PC to watch...great messaging and man, I loved that show...

globaljg said...

Thanks for posting this! I've always remembered this episode since seeing it in 1981 when I was 14. In watching it again, my appreciation grows... I think the dialog (if not the acting) was a pretty honest & courageous take on the problem w/ troubled kids & apathy toward education.

Anonymous said...

Great episode. I used to us this when I was teaching in a University when working on the process of lesson planning. Great 3 minutes.