Monday, September 28, 2009

WKRP Episode: "Preacher"

I got a request for this one, though apart from the beginning it doesn't have much you won't see on Hulu (but if you're in Canada, you can't see it on Hulu anyway). This episode has an odd airing history because it was only the third episode produced, and it was shown in its proper place when the show went into syndication, but it was not aired on CBS until the very end of the first season. (Technically it aired after the regular season was over, as a burn-off.)

I don't know why it was held over, since it's a funny show, the first written by Wilson's friend Bill Dial (whose most famous credit on the show is the Thanksgiving episode), maybe broader and more focused on guest-star parts than what came afterward. My favorite line is a throwaway for Venus: "Andy, I think I'll... I don't know, I'll probably go buy a car or something." It's hard to write a line for a character who's about to leave the room for no particular reason; that's a really good one, and like most of the best lines on this show, not really a punchline per se.

In casting notes, John Chappell, who plays the Minister, was cast by Bill Dial as the engineer on The New WKRP, and Suzanne Kent, one of the "Merciful Sisters of Melody," had a busy time on TV that season; she also played Angela in the famous "Blind Date" episode of Taxi (returning for a follow-up episode the year after).

This is the only episode where Herb and Les don't appear. The original idea was that there would be maybe three characters who appeared in every episode, and other characters would rotate in and out like Sue Ann and Georgette on Mary Tyler Moore (characters who were not in every episode but were sort of regulars). However, by the end of the first season, Hugh Wilson decided that all eight characters should appear in every episode.

The song Johnny plays in the opening scene is, as I've noted before, "I'm Down" by The Beatles. Hugh Wilson was a big Beatles fan and would have liked to include more of their songs on the show, but even with the discounted rates the show got, they were too expensive, and their songs were only used in two other episodes. (Second most expensive, probably -- and not surprisingly -- were the Rolling Stones, whose tracks were the first to get removed from the show in syndication.) I don't know about the music at the very beginning; it might be a piece of soundtrack music, but since it was removed in the '90s, it might be a real song of some kind.

Also, there are two versions of this episode, one as originally produced with the main title before the first act, and one that uses the first scene as a cold opening before the main title. This is the original version (unfortunately without the title sequence, but you've seen it).

Act 1

Act 2 and Tag


Geoff said...

The song at the start is "Just What I Needed" by the Cars.

Love this episode. Thanks for posting it (and all the others. Can't say that enough.)

Barry Wallace said...

One note: the credits say Michael Keenan played Little Ed. In your post above you mention "The Minister" was played by John Chappel (who did play the priest, I believe) but I didn't know which "minister" you meant to point out :)

Jaime J. Weinman said...

Chappell was the Protestant member of the tri-faith trio.

Brent McKee said...

One of my favourite episodes. Loved the Reverend Little Ed's singers and their fine rendition of "He's got the devil in a Bulgarian headlock."

Steve said...

Again, this episode may have been greatly influenced by real radio. The best known, most frequently heard Sunday morning radio preacher in Cincy in those days was named Ed. Coincidence?

Anonymous said...

It looks like the french?? video website has taken down the wkrp videos. Quick we need to find other sources