I have a minor connection with radio broadcasting going back to the mid-Sixties when my father was the co-owner of a small-market station (KHRB in Lockhart, Texas, for those of you with really long memories who lived in that area 45 years ago). I wasn't exactly raised around radio, but I spent quite a bit of time around people who worked in that industry and did some production work myself when I was in college. As a result, WKRP IN CINCINNATI is one of my all-time favorite TV shows, and as I like to tell people, it's not really a sitcom, it's almost a documentary.
Which is my long-winded way of getting around to the fact that we just watched PIRATE RADIO, a film that came out a few years ago and didn't make much of an impact, but one that I had high hopes for since it concerns radio broadcasting in England in that same era, the mid-Sixties. British radio never played rock and roll in those days, so it was up to pirate radio stations located on ships anchored off the coast to provide popular music. PIRATE RADIO is about the crew of disc jockeys who worked on one such ship, along with the 18-year-old godson of the station manager, which allows writer/director Richard Curtis to work a coming-of-age angle into the plot.
Obviously, any combination of radio and wacky DJs is going to show some WKRP influence, and there's plenty of that to be found here, most blatantly in a scene where the lone American DJ known as The Count (excellently played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) tries to say a word that's not supposed to be said on the radio. ("Oh, and by the way, Cincinnati . . . Booooger!") Hoffman's performance is very Johnny Fever-esque all the way around, but that's not a bad thing. The rest of the cast, led by Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, and the great Nick Frost, is very good, too.
PIRATE RADIO captures the era pretty well, especially in the reaction of assorted listeners to the music. I remember listening to a transistor radio with the sound turned down really low after I went to bed and was supposed to be asleep, tuning slowly through the AM band and picking up distant stations on the skip. As you might expect, the music in this movie is great, heavy on the British invasion (obviously) but with quite a bit of American rock as well. The comedy is more whimsical than laugh out loud funny, but it had a smile on my face most of the time. This one is well worth watching, especially if you're of a certain age like me. ("*Cough* Geezer! *Cough*") I really enjoyed it.