WKRP in Cincinnati‘s defining qualities were a cast of wacky characters, an atmosphere of free-floating late-’70s psychic malaise (that on its better episodes the show sharpened to a cutting point), and, more than anything else, by its music. Fittingly for a show about a radio station of the time, the soundtrack included everything from the Grateful Dead to the Cars, often highlighting the culture clash between hippie-era dinosaurs and the leaner New Wave acts that were springing up in response to those dinosaurs’ refusal to exit the pop zeitgeist.
Thanks to the way music licensing contracts were written at the time, the show lost its rights to use the original versions of the songs it had so deeply woven into its fabric, and was forced to replace them with generic knockoffs while it was still in broadcast syndication. Later, when it moved to cable and home video it did so with the same soundalikes.
On Oct. 28, Shout! Factory will release the first complete series-spanning WKRP DVD set, with its original soundtrack gloriously restored. (Orders through the Shout! Factory site get early delivery on Sept. 23.) The 13-disc set will include not only new bonus features (including a 2014 panel discussion with members of the cast and crew), but actual songs by a staggeringly broad range of artists including Captain Beefheart, Elvis Costello, the Rolling Stones, Luther Vandross, Ray Charles, the Sir Douglas Quintet, and Huey Lewis & the News. Somewhere in sitcom heaven Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap are exchanging cool ’70s-hipster handshakes.
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