The New WKRP In Cincinnati (1991-1993)
WKRP In Cincinnati (1978-1982)
Type: Spin Off
The original WKRP In Cincinnati was, in my opinion, one of the best sitcoms of all times. It's the rare case of a workplace comedy that fully exploited its setting. Set at WKRP, a low rent AM radio station, the show told the story of a motley radio crew trying to turn a station that used to play elevator music into a rock and roll station. While most workplace shows mainly used plots centering on the characters, WKRP also did an enormous number of plots based on ethical dilemmas and situations in the radio industry.
Not that WKRP didn't have great characters! It did. Unique characters that bounced off each other in very original ways. Mr. Carlson was the decent but befuddled station manager who ran the station for his domineering mother. Andy Travis was the program manager who changed the station's format and tried to keep all the loonies in line. Doctor Johnny Fever was a burnt out D.J. who had been working at the elevator music version of WKRP and found new life in its Rock And Roll format. Also working as a D.J. was super cool black D.J. Venus Flytrap. Les Nessman was the station's geeky newsman who dreamed of being a great reporter and of having walls to separate his office area from the rest of the bullpen. Not having those walls, he placed tape on the ground to mark where walls should have been and acted as if he did in fact have them.
As for the rest of the off air staff, there was Bailey Quarters who worked as an assistant to Les and aspired to becoming on air talent. Herb Tarlek was the stations sales manager who dressed in heinous, tacky suits and, even who, even though he was married, hit constantly on the station's receptionist Jennifer Marlowe, who constantly shot him down. Jennifer was a contradiction of all blonde and receptionist stereotypes. She was gorgeous but she was not dumb. Instead she was super smart and clever. She was very sexually active and often with older wealthy men but she wasn't a gold digger. Yes she liked the lifestyle they afforded her but she also actually cared for the men she dated. She was all heart rather than all greed.
These characters were all fully developed and played off each other very well, in friendship or fighting. That is where the New WKRP In Cincinnati dropped the ball.
The New WKRP In Cincinnati brought back only Mr. Carlson, Herb and Les from the original cast. All the other personnel were new and unfortunately most of them were not interesting and not fun to watch interact. There was an on air D.J. duo who off air were a divorced couple who hated each other. Didn't work when Sonny and Cher did it, not amusing here. On top of that, since what defined them was fighting with each other, that limited them to mostly interacting with each other and it also made them very unlikable. Mr. Carlson's son who had been seen in the original show was now an adult and working for Herb. He too was annoying as hell.
There were a number of other grating additions to the cast. One character that was added was the station's new receptionist. Unfortunately her plot line didn't work. To contrast Jennifer, the new receptionist was the exact opposite of her. Ah, see, they were trying to be clever and attempted to double back into those aforementioned stereotypes while at the same time breaking them in a new way. They didn't break them though. Receptionist Nancy was all heart but also basically a ditzy blonde. And for another change of pace SHE pursued Herb Tarlek and he had to fight HER off. Clever except in made no sense and ruined the best part of Herb's character. He couldn't be the piggish aggressor and instead was on the defensive. And Herb was the type who would have at least been tempted rather than annoyed by her advances.
The only good additions to the new cast were Donovan Aderhold, the stations hip black program director, and Mona Loveland, the new sexy night D.J. played by Tawny Kitaen. And even though they were likable characters they weren't breakout stunners. They were there. But they couldn't make up for the casts' overall lack of chemistry. Changes were made. The divorced D.J.s were dumped, along with Arthur Junior and Claire the station's traffic manager. French Stewart, now famous for 3rd Rock From The Sun, was brought in as edgy D.J. Razor Dee and Doctor Johnny Fever returned on a semi-regular basis.
The changes helped but not enough. The chemistry still didn't match the original show's and none of the plots were ever nearly as clever or witty either. The one time they came close was when Johnny Fever sold a sitcom based on WKRP to a network. The sitcom within the sitcom utterly butchered everything that made the old WKRP so funny. They gave Les walls! Not only did it utterly defeat the humor of the situation but poor Les still didn't have walls when the fake him did! Oh the indignity!
While Johnny Fever was on several episodes, Jennifer and Venus Flytrap also made one time guest appearances on the show.
One final note of interest on The New WKRP In Cincinnati. The final two episodes of the series featured a plot in which in the first episode Donovan Aderhold took a new job working for his girlfriend at a radio station in another city. But in the second episode Donovan realized that, having gotten his job from his girlfriend, no one took him or his position seriously. He quit and decided to come back to WKRP. Shortly after learning he was returning, the staff at WKRP received bad news. The plane Donovan was returning on had crashed. This was supposed to be a cliffhanger leading into the next season but since there was no next season it ended up being a real downer of a loose end. When The New WKRP aired on cable channel VH-1, this final episode did not air, leaving viewers with the happier ending of Donovan just leaving. I'm not sure if the series has aired anywhere since (it hasn't been lumped in with the episodes of the original) and I'm not sure if this last episode is permanently cut from the show.
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