Friday, August 01, 2008

WKRP Episode: "The Airplane Show"

This is the first episode of season 3, and the background of it is strangely relevant now with the ongoing Screen Actors' Guild negotiations. The start of the 1980-1 television season was delayed by a SAG strike, and that ruined plans for WKRP to do an episode on location in Cincinnati. But because Richard Sanders and Michael Fairman were the writers of this episode, they received a special waiver from SAG allowing them to act in their own material. (I guess it's similar to the rule that comedians can write some of their own material during a writers' strike.) So they changed their story so they would be the only actors going on location, with Sanders as Les and Fairman as an insane biplane pilot whom Les hires when the station won't give him a helicopter. They shot their scenes in and around Cincinnati with stunt pilot Harold Johnson piloting the plane, and then after the strike, the rest of the cast shot their scenes in the radio station (without an audience). You'll notice that by the end of the story they basically run out of plane footage and have to resort to cheating by dubbing in a lot of ADR dialogue over the same footage.

The episode has a bunch of music, with three songs in particular standing out: the song in the scene with Johnny, Venus and Bailey in the booth is "Whip It" by Devo (WKRP would include more New Wave songs starting with this season); Johnny is playing "Master Blaster" by Stevie Wonder when Les calls him in Act 2, and most memorably, "Had Enough" by the Who accompanies Les and Buddy taking off to carry out Buddy's plan to blackmail the town into holding a Veteran's Day celebration.

Also, in a nice bit of continuity, Les makes a reference to the pilot episode, where Andy promised to get Les a helicopter.

Act 1:

Online Videos by

Act 2:


Video Zeta One said...

I love WKRP - and you provide a great backstory to the episode. Great post.

I'm surprised these songs are still included in the episode. I thought there were legal issues concerning the use of a great deal of the songs they used to play on WKRP (greedy record companies!), so Stevie Wonder etc. were replaced by generic and nameless musicians.

Geoff said...

That's an awful lot of leafy green trees for November in Cincinnati, Ohio, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Great episode!

Any idea of what the name of the marching song playing over the closing credits is?

Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm Christopher Is Better Music No New Music Replacement Is Old Songs Of 70's & 80's By Listening To WKRP The Airplane Show Songs: Whip It Good! - Devo, Master Blaster (Jamming) - Stevie Wonder, Had Enough - The Who, & Space Truckin' (Come On, Come On) - Deep Purple Of The End Is Washington Post - Cincinnati Pops Orchestra!

Anonymous said...

"Space Truckin" by Deep Purple was in there. Then when they say it's 1 o' clock the song played was "Gimme Some Slack" by The Cars (I can spot that riff and Ric Ocasek's voice a mile away as they were from my home turf of Boston).

Amy S. said...

Sadly, the pilot Harold Johnson (former Mayor of Moraine, OH) near Dayton passed away yesterday 1/12/11. He will be sadly missed by many of us who knew him well. He was an awesome pilot. I actually even had a little bit of time in "Les Nessmans" seat on that plane.