On the Air...
In 1979, there was a hit record titled Video Killed the Radio Star. That idea is kind of funny to me now. Radio may not be the big influence it once was, it doesn’t seem to be disappearing. Yes, in the first half of the 20th century, radio had a much bigger role of our lives. The radio provided the kind of programming we have on TV today. There were sitcoms, police dramas, adventure series, soap operas, variety shows, news, and even gossip shows. And in between all those were segments devoted to the hit songs of the day.
In the 60s and 70s, with television a part of almost every household, radio transformed to music, music, music. Whether AM or FM, it was the soundtrack of our lives. At home, in the car, and on the beach, radio gave us the top 40 of country and rock.
Radio today is very different. True, it’s not the powerhouse it once was. But it’s still around. Today FM radio is devoted to music, although many public radio stations focus on news and current affairs. AM seems to be dedicated solely to sports and talk shows. Satellite radio services offer an incredible range of programming, with channels covering almost every imaginable genre of music as well as news, sports, and talk for every interest.
With radio exerting influence on our lives for the last 100 years, it’s natural that there would be movies and television series about their rival for public attention.
Movies and TV about Radio
These films and TV series examine the way radio is a part of our lives, whether for entertainment or information. The setting may be past or present. The plots may center on the people on either side of the microphone. A few are based on true stories. No matter. Radio is the catalyst for everything that happens.
- Good Morning, Vietnam – Robin Williams
- Radio Days – Mia Farrow, Dianne Wiest
- Airheads – Brendan Fraser
- The Night Listener – Robin Williams, Toni Collette
- A Prairie Home Companion – Garrison Keillor, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Kline
- Talk to Me – Don Cheadle
- Pirate Radio – Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rhys Ifans
- WKRP in Cincinnati – Gary Sandy, Tim Reid, Howard Hesseman
- NewsRadio – Dave Foley, Phil Hartman
Radio in the Background
These films and TV series aren’t really about radio. The TV shows have main characters working in radio, and that subsequently becomes an important part of the series. But sometimes, there are moments that are so funny, we can’t recall the film without thinking of the part the radio played in the scenes.
- Frasier – Kelsey Grammer, Peri Gilpin
- Wind at My Back – Kathy Greenwood, Shirley Douglas
- Northern Exposure -- John Corbett, Barry Corbin
- A Letter to Three Wives -- Ann Sothern, Kirk Douglas
- A Christmas Story – Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin
- Groundhog Day – Bill Murray, Andie McDowell
Background of Radio
For a look at the history of radio broadcasting and its impact on everyday life and world events, check out these documentaries on the radio and radio stars.
Finally, if you’d like to relive those thrilling days of yesteryear – or experience them for the first time -- check out our CDs of old radio shows and news broadcasts. You'll find some stories for children and current radio programs available there, too. We also have downloadable versions of old radio shows available. I highly recommend the infamous Mercury Theater’s War of the Worlds, starring Orson Welles.