Being both a television and a radio fanatic; I present to you my personal “top 5” list for TV shows with some sort of radio theme. Some series focus more on radio than others; but in my mind they all showcase the medium and represent a range of radio stations. I was hoping to do a “top 10” list, but poor radio is often quite absent from the world of television.
Here are my five favorites (in no particular order).
1. Beverly Hills, 90210 (Fox, 1990-2000)
Who can forget DJ David Silver and his lengthy radio career throughout the series? He began as a dorky high school freshman DJ at the West Beverly High radio station. The station’s window overlooked the hallway, so David was often a commentator on the campus scene and gossip. When he graduated and went off to California University he began his career as a college radio DJ, which was famously side-tracked by his descent into drug abuse in order to stay awake following graveyard shifts at the station. After graduation David was often seen doing live remotes from the Peach Pit After Dark; as he hosted a late night show on commercial station KBIB.
2. Radio Free Roscoe (2003-2005 in Canada on The Family Channel)
This series follows in the long-standing tradition of excellent teen TV coming out of Canada. With a diverse cast of characters and more realistic-looking kids, Radio Free Roscoe tells the story of students who run a pirate radio station. Their high school actually has an above-board station (Cougar Radio) that the Radio Free Roscoe kids created their station in response to (like people used to do with underground newspapers). Making things even more interesting is the fact that the DJs all have secret identities and are not known to their classmates. You can still catch re-runs of this classic teen show on Teen Nick.
3. Ellery Queen (1975-1976, NBC)
Ellery Queen is the first television show that I remember calling “my favorite show” when I was a kid.
Set in the 1940s, this detective show followed mystery writer Ellery Queen (played by Jim Hutton) as he investigated real-life crime cases.
Starting in 1939 Ellery Queen was actually a radio drama and some of that radio past was incorporated into the TV show with some of the series focused around radio personality Simon Brimmer. Played by John Hillerman, Brimmer had his own radio show in which he purported to solve crimes and attempted to outwit Ellery Queen.
I remember scenes taking place at a 1940s radio station, with actors performing radio drama and creating sound effects using props; which really brought old-style radio drama to life for me.
4. Northern Exposure (1990-1995, CBS)
Set in the small town of Cicely, Alaska, Northern Exposure depicted a cast of quirky characters living in an isolated community on the northern reaches of the United States. Chris Stevens (played by John Corbett) philosophized and captured the town’s ethos while DJing at AM radio station KBHR (K-Bear). Over the mic he would often read from a wide range of literary sources. The studios were located in a building right in the middle of town, with windows facing out; so one could watch DJ Chris while he was on the air.
5. WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-1982, CBS; syndicated 1991-1993)
On this show from the late 1970s/early 1980s, a commercial radio station is the backdrop for a workplace situation comedy. Cincinatti commercial radio station WKRP makes a drastic change in their programming philosophy, switching to a rock station; and we get to view the ensuing drama. We also got the chance to see the inner workings of a radio station, with wacky DJs, questionable management, engineers, salespeople, and of course the pin-up ready receptionist played by Loni Anderson.
What are some of your favorite TV shows about radio?
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