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America's Favorite Radio Station: WKRP in Cincinnati Format Kindle
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As a fan of the show, Michael Kassel’s book provided everything I wanted and expected. Those who enjoyed “WKRP in Cincinnati” undoubtedly look back and remember that the entire cast, working together, was pure TV magic. Maybe it’s me, but all the cast members seem iconic: Venus Flytrap, Johnny Fever, Les Nessman and Bailey Quarters (who’s character will ALWAYS define the name “Bailey” in my mind). Almost every cast member of WKRP was designed, in some degree, to be a stereotype and many of the issues presented on the show were controversial, yet humor and sensitive issues always seemed to mesh perfectly week after week. Kassel details the genius of WKRP creator Hugh Wilson’s ability to lure the talent needed to write and direct one memorable episode after another and find the perfect cast that made those episodes so fun to watch.
AMERICA’S FAVORITE RADIO STATION is a straight-forward resource. Kassel dedicates individual chapters to chronical the show’s inception and casting. I found the chapter on casting particularly revealing as it probably explains, more than anything, the reason for the show’s success. Subsequent chapters detail each of WKRP’s four seasons and provide the substance behind the episodes along with interesting trivia. I found it interesting that as the show progressed, many of the actors were allowed to incorporate their own ideas for character storylines and many ended up writing and directing episodes. The book covers the last season, attempts to reasonably explain WKRP’s early demise and provides some information on the early 90s reboot (“The New WKRP in Cincinnati”). The later chapters provide an episode-by-episode summary of the show with additional trivia and casting information … this is the main reason I wanted this book.
The book was written in 1993 and the material that comprises most of the book is based on interviews with the creator, staff and cast almost 25 years ago. Regardless, if you are a fan of WKRP in Cincinnati, this resource offers a nice nostalgic trip to the days when television was simple and plain fun … reading it certainly explains why the show was so well-liked. AMERICA’S FAVORITE RADIO STATION is primarily a book for WKRP fans and maybe a way of bringing new fans on board.
Kassel also discusses all of the characters in depth, and interviewed many of the actors that had major roles in the show. Another useful feature is the listing and description of all ninety shows in the series. Less useful, however, is Kassel's attempts at cultural justification for the rise and fall of the show. A theme that Kassel approaches from several different directions is that the rise of Reagan conservatism was indirectly to blame for the demise of the show, while simultaneously arguing that it was the multiple time slot changes that did the show in. The latter seems more logical since the evidence Kassel has assembled seems to support it; the former seems like a method of working a personal political statement into a book where it otherwise didn't fit.
The book also suffers from an overall lack of attention to detail. On page iii, in the list of "WKRP Creative Alumni," Kassel leaves Jan Smithers off the list, despite talking about the importance of the eight key cast members throughout the book. I found that to be a fairly glaring oversight of proofreading, and it didn't set the tone well for the remainder of the book. Typographical and spelling errors also are common in the book. He spells the name of guest star Hoyt Axton as "Axten," and the name of the plane Les took a ride in as "Wacco," not "Waco." Neither of these are, by themselves, a catastrophe for the book, but are representative of the types of errors common throughout the work. I am surprised that Kassel, or the Popular Press of Bowling Green State University, didn't proofread more effectively for these and numerous other spelling and grammatical errors (possessives and apostrophes are a special bane to Kassel). The book is very dated and could use a new edition. Kassel speaks of the "New WKRP" in the present tense, when in fact it was short lived and has been off the air for years.
I was torn about the rating to give this book. For a university press publication the book is very sloppily edited, has numerous spelling and grammatical challenges, and occasionally suffers from conclusions and inferences inadequately supported by the disclosed documentation. On the other hand, Kassel provides all "WKRP" fans and television historians with a valuable account of the making of a television show beloved by millions. Maybe the problem is that the book is an uneasy combination of fan literature and serious historical criticism of a phenomenon, but in the end I think the good outweighs the bad, and that four stars is the most appropriate rating for the book.
I thank Mr. Kassel for his work, and would sincerely love to see a revised edition of the book published to coincide with the release of "WKRP" on DVD.
Michael Kassel does a fine job in identifying the cogs which make the engine called "WKRP In Cincinnati" run. While WKRP was known for its greatly-inspired comedy, the show was clearly blessed with having a terrific person in its corner, producer-writer-creator Hugh Wilson. Wilson knew that a good sitcom isn't just about laughs, but about the characters which generate those laughs. He also had a team of talented writers & actors who were able to flesh out those characters in key episodes, which gave the show a fresh perspective.
The book's outside appearance is much to be desired. It suffers from, in what I term, the "textbook blahs"--it's almost devoid of style & color. But this is a minor complaint. As they say, you can't judge a book by its cover. The good stuff is all inside, and plenty of it, as Kassel packs the book with commentary from cast & crew (taken from interviews), touches upon the headaches had with network politics (such as changing time slots & fights over creative content), the production processes leading up to showtime, and even the show's cancellation & its impact/influence on the public. Here too, are the episodes which made us laugh ("Turkeys Away", "Fish Story"), made us think ("In Concert", "Clean Up Radio Broadcasting"), and made us care about the characters ("Who Is Gordon Sims?", "Out to Lunch"), but in unique ways.
Included are cast profiles, episode listings, and crew credits. Kassel updates the information with a "whatever became of me" section, as well as touching upon the new syndicated WKRP show (which, sadly, didn't survive beyond its first season).
A great read about one of television's best programs & a must-read for die-hard WKRP fans.
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