You've seen this before; Shout! releases a complete set of a television show on DVD, then shortly thereafter starts releasing seasons from that set. They've done it before with Hill Street Blues, and appear to be doing it now with WKRP in Cincinnati, now releasing the third season on disc, barely a year after releasing the entire series on disc.
For those unfamiliar with the show, the Cincinnati radio station is centered program director Andy Travis (Gary Sandy, The Insider), morning DJ in Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman, About Schmidt) and evening DJ Venus Flytrap (Tim Reid, Sister, Sister). There is also news director Les Nessman (Richard Sanders, Men Of Honor), advertising director Herb Tarlek (Frank Bonner) and general manager Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes). There is also Jennifer (Loni Anderson, A Night at the Roxbury), who is remarkably attractive and surprisingly organized.
Compared to previous seasons, the show played with some more experimental standalone shows in Season Three. The first episode, "The Airplane Show," found Nessman dealing with a World War II veteran and pilot who felt Veterans were not being appreciated. Later in the season, "Real Families" gave more of a spotlight to Tarlek's wife Lucille, played by a devilishly young Edie McClurg. It almost seemed as if the show didn't know what to do with the characters. To be fair, they appeared to be fighting with the network (CBS) at the time of the airing, and Season Three began to find themselves the unwilling recipient of the dreaded time shift moves, so in between the moves and the desire to take a bit of edge off the show, this could be sensed in Season Three.
There was still the occasional moment in Season Three where an actor or two had some worthwhile moments. The big one for me is "Venus and the Man," where Reid gets to face some of his origin story. "Ask Jennifer" finds Jennifer in an unexpected role of call-in advice goddess until a surprising act compels her to give it up. "Dr. Fever and Mr. Tide" was a two-part episode that finds Johnny with a touch of celebrity stardom, but perhaps sacrificing his value system in the process. It had a young Mary Frann (Newhart) co-starring in two parts and was fun.
While there are highlights in Season Three of WKRP in Cincinnati, they simply don't measure up to any of the best of the first two seasons. For that matter, any of the second or third choice moments in those first two seasons could give the best of Season Three a run for its money. Rather than have the cognizance of Arrested Development and make fun of their plight (though to be fair few shows could), it had to put its head down and plug away at things and the show almost suffered as a result.
The strategy from Shout! is a curious one, in that releasing the seasons AFTER the complete series has been released would seem to be counterproductive. And Season Three of WKRP in Cincinnati is an example of that, where there is little reason to invest in a show either in time and money especially after much better and just as available incarnations of the show are out there.The Discs:
After seeing the episodes, it looks like the discs are essentially pulled from the series set. All of the episodes are spread over three discs, and are presented in full frame video. Here is some of what I read at the time.
No remastering has been done, they are basically transferred from average video copies to disc. Lots of artifacts, ghost images and image noise, no edge enhancement or image haloing, looks about as what one could expect.The Sound:
Two-channel stereo for all of the episodes, which was the same audio from the complete series discs. There is less music in Season Three as opposed to other seasons but most of it appears to be brought over from said series. Sounds about as good as you'd expect.Extras:
Nothing before, and nothing now.Final Thoughts:
I am a fan of WKRP in Cincinnati, but even as a fan of the show you could see that the game of this season does not live up to seasons of the past. It is still fun, but it is a little more erratic and lacking consistent entertainment. Technically and in a vacuum, the discs look and sound okay, even if the extras are non-existent. If you are looking for an entryway into the show, I would steer clear of this, but if it's on television anywhere I would check it out.