Wednesday, March 10, 2010

WKRP Episode: "Pilot, Part 2"

By request, an episode I hadn't featured before, the second episode. The title is misleading, because the show's actual pilot was only a half-hour; this was the first episode made after it was picked up as a series, the main difference being that Venus now has a beard. I think the title simply implies that this episode is showing the aftermath of what happened in the actual pilot: Andy changed the format in the pilot, and in this episode we learn that the station is losing advertisers and has to deal with fan protest over the dropping of the "beautiful music" format. The second episodes of Frank's Place and The Famous Teddy Z also pick up on and continue the story threads from the pilots, so Hugh Wilson clearly liked to write this way.

Before it came back strong in the post-M*A*S*H slot at the end of the first season, WKRP was sometimes accused of not living up to its acclaimed pilot. And there is a bit of sophomore-jinx syndrome here: the pilot was very fast-paced and packed a lot of story into 24 minutes, while this episode doesn't really have enough story for the whole time slot, and resorts to a number of scenes that feel padded. The best scene in the show is the only scene in the broadcast booth, featuring one of the show's most famous lines ("...I don't know what you want here, but..."). The audience laughter, which up until that point has hovered between mild and canned, finally explodes at Hesseman's delivery of the line.

Among the characters, a couple of them are coming into better focus than they did in the pilot: Jennifer, who wasn't much of a character in the pilot, is here established as having a sort of Radar/Colonel Blake relationship with Carlson, and Les is more clearly defined as a conspiracy theorist. Most of the other characters are still a little vague here, waiting for the actors and the writers to really figure them out. (Carlson, like Jimmy James on NewsRadio, is written much more ornery in these early episodes than he later became.)

The only scene with musical content is the one in the booth. All three songs are stripped out in the DVD/Hulu version: "Lies" and "Shattered" by the Rolling Stones, and "Old Time Rock and Roll" by Bob Seger. All three songs were new at the time, and this episode helped to popularize "Old Time Rock and Roll."


Greg Stacy . said...

Don't assume that the scarcity of comments means that these posts are unappreciated. This is interesting stuff!

Anonymous said...

Hesseman as Johnny Fever's timing and delivery are perfect! It is of no wonder that he was nominated for the Emmy's twice in this show!