Friday, May 5, 2017

Television In Revolt

This was a really good episode. It was the one where Johnny Fever tries to blow up the radio station. You can see here in the picture that Earl has talked Big Guy into doing a ventriloquist act where the Big Guy is the dummy and has to sit on Earl’s knee! The act, despite Earl’s best intentions and total professionalism, is a disaster. The Big Guy has no talent and keeps wrecking the act. Seen here they have just performed it for the rest of the wkrp gang and bombed out miserably. Their own friends and employees are disgusted and enraged by the thinly veiled insults that Earl is dispensing through big guy’s mouth, and the wkrp gang are not amused. He’s getting a little too personal and it’s not funny anymore. You can see in the picture that they are throwing lettuce and tomatoes and wadded up balls of paper at them.
Meanwhile Dr Johnny fever has been suffering a flashback and has accidentally locked himself in the janitor’s closet, and in his delusional state has decided to rig up a homemade bomb to free himself from what he thinks is a Viet Kong Prisoner of War camp. He’s got some binder twine and a pack of hotdogs that he has connected to his chest and he is going to blow everybody up including himself! It is the desperate action of a desperate man and you can see this by the close-up photography of sweat on his forehead and his eyes darting back and forth. There’s intense, heat-of-the moment incidental music that sounds like seconds ticking away. Then the most amazing thing happens. Instead of ending the program with the expected climax and denouement, the writers get all Beckett on the TV viewing audience and put the absurdist “To be continued…” on the screen, leaving it open, never to reveal what actually happens to Dr Fever or Earl & Big guy’s showbiz careers. It’s a double whammy that really made me think all those years ago, a real “what if?” moment. It was a unique and thought provoking way to design television and considered to be quite revolutionary for its time, changing the way we look at television, and in turn, ourselves.

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