Friday, February 06, 2009

WKRP Episode: "The Union"

The third episode of season 4. Music: "Promises in the Dark" by Pat Benatar; "Start Me Up" by the Rolling Stones.

Update: As pointed out in comments, I left out the commentary with the original version of this post. This episode, written by Blake Hunter -- who wrote for the show for its entire run, was the resident continuity expert, and was the second-most important contributor after Hugh Wilson -- is part of what is essentially a season-long story arc, or at least story thread, about the station becoming more successful. "An Explosive Affair" already established that Andy has decided to turn the events of the third-season finale (where most of the advertisers cancel due to a boycott by the Moral Majority) to advantage by running fewer commercials, and making that a selling point.

In "The Union," we find that the station has risen to tenth place in the 18-station Cincinnati market, and the employees consider joining a union. The episode avoids coming down one way or another on unionization as an issue, and doesn't even answer the question of who voted for or against the union. It's necessary for the sake of the show that WKRP remain an old-fashioned "family" business, but the episode makes it pretty clear that there's some dubious morality involved in keeping it that way (the paternalism of Mr. Carlson congratulating himself on his "generosity" in giving employees the raises they deserve; Andy cutting deals behind his employees' backs). The episode also establishes a surprisingly strong part for Andy, who hadn't been doing a whole lot ever since the first season proved that he couldn't be the true lead of the show; in the fourth season there are several good episodes focusing on him, and he takes on the role of the guy trying to keep the station's personality intact, while also trying to get more money to run it. He's one of the characters who changed the most from the first season, and it would be really interesting to see where they would have gone with him if they'd gotten a fifth season.

Cold Open and act 1


Union Act 1
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Act 2 and Tag


Union Act 2
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5 comments:

Cerrata said...

Thanks again. I've already burned through all of the bastardized episodes of WKRP on Hulu and god knows when they'll post more, so this blog is keeping me going.

Griff said...

Jaime, while your posting of WKRP episodes is a great service, no less of a service is your astute, thoughtful commentary on the shows that you post. I realize that you're probably busy -- and we're glad to have the show -- but your usual accompanying background notes were really missed here.

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Could you post the Fire episode please? It's my all time favorite episode and took the Herb/ Jennifer storyline to a really interesting place. Thanks so much for all the WKRP.

Snodge said...

I love Mr. Carlson's explanation for his shiny new lure. Gordon Jump rocked

Chicago Pinot said...

I know any radio station will have a much larger staff than we normally see on WKRP. But how do you think the six regulars, other than Andy and Big Guy, actually voted on the Union?

My guesses are:

YES: Fever, Venus, Bailey
NO: Jennifer, Les, Herb