I’m about to make a confession that may finally surprise you: When I’m assigned to write an 80-word DVD review of an entire season of a TV show, I actually watch every episode. Last weekend, I spent quality time with WKRP in Cincinnati’s first year, and was still laughing my butt off when I got to episode 21, “Fish Story.”
You might remember it: The radio station’s ad man Herb Tarlek (Frank Bonner, pictured) dresses up as the WKRP mascot, a carp, and hilarity ensues when he tries to use a public restroom and doesn’t have change for the pay stall. He tries to squeeze his fish bones under the door and gets stuck, then ultimately gets into a fight with a rival station’s mascot — a pig. While all that’s going on, DJs Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap are conducting an on-air drinking experiment with a cop to prove that our reaction time gets slower and slower with each passing shot. Of course, Venus gets wasted, while Johnny’s reflexes improve.
I swear it’s good stuff, which is why I went straight to the featurette about the episode. Turns out CBS thought WKRP had been doing too much heady comedy (news director Les Nessman had been banned from a locker room when a player thought he was gay; Venus, we found out, was actually a Vietnam deserter named Gordom Sims) and wanted some slapstick and sight-gags. Perturbed, creator Hugh Wilson wrote “Fish Story” with every cliché in the book. (This would be a good time to mention that program director Andy Travis was being interviewed by a journalist as the station went to hell.) Obviously, Wilson wasn’t thrilled when the episode scored great ratings.
So, here’s today’s question: What sitcom have you enjoyed, even though you felt — or got the impression you should feel — guilty about it? I’ll start: I never watched Everybody Loves Raymond until it was in reruns, then didn’t miss an episode for three months.