WKRP in Cincinnati

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
WKRP in Cincinnati TV Poster Image
Classic sitcom still entertains, raises relevant issues.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The show reflects a different time and social climate in American history, and the workplace relationships between men and women, as well as African-Americans and whites, speak to that. It's always a cordial atmosphere, and friendships transcend these lines, but there are some stereotypes that define the culture of the '70s. The show often touches on issues current to the times, including abortion, homosexuality, and racism.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A mixed bag. Some characters contradict stereotypes, as with a beautiful blonde secretary who resists subservience to her higher-ups and proves to be invaluable to the group. Others, like the bumbling boss who inherited his cushy job, fall victim to them. In this case, though, the whole of the team certainly is greater than the sum of its individual parts.

Violence
Sex

A gorgeous secretary garners plenty of longing glances and flirting form male coworkers, and there's some mild innuendo in workplace jokes.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Occasionally adults drink socially or at meals. The issue of drug use and abuse, as well as alcoholism, is addressed in some episodes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that WKRP in Cincinnati is a classic sitcom whose characters reflect the social tone of American society during the '70s and early '80s. The content often references mature topics like gender relations, abortion, alcoholism, drug use, and war. Decades have done nothing to dull the brilliance of this excellent series marked by superb characters, a phenomenal cast, and relevant comedy that doesn't need over-the-top sexual content or violence to succeed. Some stereotyping exists, especially related to the lone African-American character's "blackness," but it's purposeful and honest in its depiction of race relations of the time. Because of the issues it raises, this series is best for teens who can appreciate the scope of these still-relevant topics and the show's unique interpretation of them relative to its time.

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What's the story?

WKRP IN CINCINNATI is set in the studio of a fledgling fictional radio station turning to rock 'n' roll programming to save it from obscurity. At the helm is Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump), a business buffoon who fancies himself an invaluable asset to the station his wealthy mother owns. In reality it's newcomer Andy Travis (Gary Sandy) who's the brains behind the overhaul, though his success is dependent upon the abilities of the mishmash studio crew, including straight-laced newsman Len Nessman (Richard Sanders), burned-out DJ Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman), and funky night DJ Venus Flytrap (Tim Reid). The show also helped launch the career of Loni Anderson as the station's beautiful and cunning secretary, Jennifer Marlowe.

Is it any good?

This award-winning TV classic elicits laughs by putting believably imperfect characters in simple but hilarious predicaments that cast light on their flaws and showcase their strengths. These aren't millionaires, reality stars, or child phenoms; they're average Joes working hard (or, more often, hardly working) in average jobs, and that's what makes them so instantly appealing. The characters' relationships and their individual evolutions over the course of the series are things of beauty, and the fact that the show manages to entertain without excessive sex, language, and shock value can't be overstated. Well received during its heyday more than three decades ago, WKRP is even more of a testament to quality entertainment when it's held up against modern programming.

Because this "vintage" TV show is so unlike what's out there today, it might not capture teens' attention at first, but its ageless content makes it a fantastic option for parents and teens to watch together. Not only does it offer mostly clean comedy (minus a lot of flirting with the buxom blonde secretary, of course), but it also respectfully raises issues like race relations, censorship, gender equality, and immigration, all of which are explored relative to the show's time and encourage discussions about those same topics today.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how shows like WKRP teach us about history. What issues were pressing for these characters? What national and world events took place that helped inspire the content of this show? Can TV be educational?

  • Can you relate to the situations in this series? In what ways has entertainment changed over the past 30 years? What kind of content has become more mainstream? Is there anything you see in classics that isn't present in modern movies and TV series?

  • Racial and gender relations are very visible in this series. Parents and teens can talk about the progress our society has made since the era of this show. What is the ultimate goal with regard to equality in the workplace? In society? What will it take to get to that point?

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