Friday, April 24, 2009

WKRP Episode: "Jennifer and the Will"

This season 4 episode introduced (after several episodes showing the renovations) the new, re-designed version of the WKRP lobby. I don't know if the new set was a sign that the producers didn't expect to get canceled, or that they thought they'd have a better chance of renewal if they made the station look less dingy, but either way, it fit in with the overall theme of the season, the unlikely success of a station that was never intended to succeed.

The episode may originally have been intended as a sequel to an episode that was written but unproduced. Hugh Wilson conceived, and assigned Steve Marshall to write, an episode called "Jennifer's Wedding" where Jennifer would marry one of her elderly boyfriends. The idea was to have her married for a few weeks and then kill the husband off. CBS didn't like the wedding story and it was never shot, but "Jennifer and the Will" could easily have been about the death of Jennifer's husband, and probably was supposed to be.

The elderly man who names Jennifer his executrix is played by the veteran Pat O'Brien, who actually knew Loni Anderson from way back; he did a summer stock play in Minneapolis and she had a small part. O'Brien, who basically never stopped working, had just done what would become his last film (Ragtime) and this was his next-to-last television appearance before his death in 1983 (he did a Happy Days in 1982).

For those keeping track of such things, I think this is like the third or fourth WKRP in Cincinnati episode with a joke about the Hare Krishnas. Hugh Wilson must have had a fondness for that joke (along with Jerry Vale jokes and the phrase "that's hardball, not slow pitch").

Cold Opening and Act 1

Act 2


ajm said...

Pat O'Brien is probably best known for playing Knute Rockne to Ronald Reagan's George Gipp in the 1940 movie.

VP81955 said...

So Pat O'Brien worked with both Loni Anderson and Carole Lombard (his co-star in the 1932 Columbia film "Virtue"). I'm certain not many other actors could have made that claim.

Zack Smith said...

For whatever reason, Jennifer's reaction to Herb's "comforting words," is one of my favorite moments in the series. It's Herb being both human and...well, Herb, and Jennifer recognizing his layers. And Herb even has a sort of self-aware moment at the end, possibly. Good characterization.

J Lee said...

The fourth season shows really did a good job adding some more layers of depth to the characters by refocusing their relationships (and IMHO, was a step up from Season 3, which at times seemed to try too hard to create situations that seemed a little forced).

How this might have worked out in a Season 5 and beyond is unknown -- MASH's comedy suffered from softening the characters' relationships and conflicts from Season 8 on. But it's still too bad we never found out, because CBS by this point had moved WKRP around on the schedule so much that fans couldn't find it until it was too late and the show was off network and into syndication.

James said...

I had a feeling the show was doomed during its fourth season because the hour when WKRP aired became the one that our local CBS station invariably preempted when they needed an hour in primetime for a local program or something like a Billy Graham special. That always meant the preempted network programs didn't have long to live.