Thoughts on Popular Culture and Unpopular Culture by Jaime J. Weinman (email me)
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
WKRP Episode: "Clean Up Radio Everywhere"
Here's an "issue" episode that does work. It was the last episode of the third season, written at the height of entertainment-industry panic about the Moral Majority. Hugh Wilson got the idea for the episode after his show turned up on a list of shows criticized by Jerry Falwell. What makes the episode work is that it puts characterization first: the episode is first and foremost about Mr. Carlson, the conservative, religious guy running a station whose music he doesn't much like or even approve of. He has more in common with the Falwell clone Dr. Bob Halyers (Richard Paul, who looked so much like Falwell that he actually played him in the movie The People Vs. Larry Flynt) than he has with most of the people who work at his station, and he's initially receptive to the argument that his station is playing music that's a bad influence, because that's what he suspected in the first place. So it's an issue episode, but it's also about how Mr. Carlson has developed as a character since the pilot.