WKRP In Cincinnati



WKRP in Cincinnati (1978–1982) was an American situation comedy that featured the misadventures of the staff of a struggling radio station in Cincinnati, Ohio. The show was created by Hugh Wilson. It premiered September 18, 1978 on CBS and featured Gary Sandy, Howard Hesseman, Gordon Jump, Loni Anderson, Tim Reid, Jan Smithers, Richard Sanders, and Frank Bonner. WKRP in Cincinnati was videotaped before a live studio audience at Goldenwest Videotape Division.

As was typical of most MTM productions, the humor came more from running gags based on the known predilections and quirks of each character, rather than from outlandish plots or racy situations. The characters also developed somewhat over the course of the series.

The series won a Humanitas Prize and received 10 Emmy Award nominations (including three for Outstanding Comedy Series). It also won an Emmy Award for Videotape Editing in season 3 (by Andy Ackerman, who would go on to direct Seinfeld).

The original WKRP aired for four seasons and 90 episodes through September 20, 1982. During the third and fourth seasons, CBS repeatedly moved it around its schedule, contributing to its cancellation.

When WKRP went into syndication, it became an unexpected blockbuster. For the next decade, it was one of the most popular sitcoms in syndication, outperforming many much bigger prime time hits, including all the other MTM sitcoms.

Jump, Sanders, and Bonner reprised their supporting roles in a spinoff/sequel series, The New WKRP in Cincinnati, which ran from 1991 to 1993 in syndication.

The series was based upon show creator Hugh Wilson's memories of working in advertising as a client of Atlanta, Georgia, classic AOR radio station 94.1 WQXI-FM, now known as pop station Star94.

New programming director Andy Travis tries to turn around struggling radio station WKRP, despite the well-meaning efforts of the mostly-incompetent staff, including:

* the bumbling, though kind-hearted station manager, Arthur Carlson
* Herb Tarlek, the oily sales manager. Herb was based on Jefferson Pilot radio executive Clark Brown.[citation needed]
* Les Nessman, the clueless, overly-earnest news director
* super receptionist Jennifer Marlowe
* enthusiastic, initially shy junior employee Bailey Quarters
* spaced-out veteran disk jockey Johnny Caravella, who adopts the on-air persona of the manic, usually outrageous "Dr. Johnny Fever"

To help bolster ratings, Travis hires a new disk jockey:

* the more mellow Gordon Sims ("Venus Flytrap")

Lurking in the background and making an occasional appearance is the station's owner (and Carlson's mother), ruthless business tycoon Mrs. Carlson.

In the pilot episode, Andy Travis (Gary Sandy) comes to the station as the new programming director, hired to improve the dismal ratings of the beautiful music station, run by weak-willed Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump). Travis abruptly changes the programming format to rock music, but WKRP's ratings fail to improve significantly in the Cincinnati market, mostly because of his unwillingness to fire the existing personnel when he takes over; their idiosyncrasies are more to blame for the station's fortunes than its format.

One of WKRP in Cincinnati's best-known and most-loved episodes ("Turkeys Away") is a comic account of a disastrous, real-life promotional event. It was named by TV Guide as one of the greatest episodes in television history.

Other episodes were inspired by real contemporary events, such as the infamous Who concert in Cincinnati's Riverfront Coliseum on December 3, 1979.

* Andy Travis (Gary Sandy). For the most part, program director Andy Travis serves as the straight man for the eccentric staff of the station he has been hired to run. Before coming to WKRP, he had an unblemished record of turning around failing radio stations, but meets his match in his wacky staff members, of whom he becomes distressingly fond. The show's opening theme song is about Andy and his decision to settle down in Cincinnati; in the episode "The Creation of Venus", Andy echoes the opening theme lyrics in talking about his past ("Got kinda tired of packing and unpacking, town to town, up and down the dial"; see below for complete lyrics).

* Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump), occasionally called the "Big Guy", is the middle-aged general manager, whose main qualification for the job is that his business tycoon mother is the owner. His bumbling, indecisive management is one of the main reasons the station is unprofitable, although he is a decent man and something of a father figure to his employees.

* Dr. Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) is a burnt-out veteran disk jockey who came to WKRP after being fired from a major station in Los Angeles when he said "booger" on the air. Cynical and neurotic, he is usually in one sort of trouble or another.

* Les Nessman (Richard Sanders), the fastidious, bow-tied news reporter, approaches his job with absurd seriousness, despite being almost totally incompetent. For instance, he mispronounces golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez's name as "Chy Chy Rod-ri-gweeze". Les is forever trying to win the fictitious Ohio radio news industry trophy, the "Buckeye Newshawk Award" and the coveted "Silver Sow Award" (for excellence in farm news, particularly hog reports). He is best friends with another employee, Herb Tarlek.

* Jennifer Marlowe (Loni Anderson) is the station's gorgeous, blonde receptionist, and the station's highest-paid employee. Despite her image, she is informed, wise, and able to handle practically any situation with aplomb, no matter how absurd. Although very aware of her sex appeal, with various wealthy, powerful men at her beck and call, she is friendly and good-hearted with the station staff.

* Herb Tarlek (Frank Bonner), the boorish, tasteless advertising account executive, wears loud plaid suits, with his belt matching his shoes. He can't land the big accounts, usually succeeding only in selling air time for trivial products such as "Red Wigglers — the Cadillac of worms!" Although married to Lucille (Edie McClurg), he persistently pursues Jennifer, who has absolutely no interest in him. In a futile attempt to discourage him, Johnny Fever once tells him she is the result of the most successful sex change operation in history. While Herb is portrayed as buffoonish most of the time, he does occasionally show a sympathetic side.

* Venus Flytrap (Tim Reid), the soulful, funky evening DJ, runs his show with a smooth-talking persona and mood lighting in the studio. His real name, Gordon Sims, is almost never used and he maintains an aura of mystery, which turns out to be a cover for the fact that he is wanted for desertion from the US Army.

* Bailey Quarters (Jan Smithers), the young ingénue of the radio station, is originally in charge of billing and station traffic, but is later given additional duties as an on-air news reporter, in which capacity she proves much more capable than Les. As the series progresses, she overcomes her shyness and develops self-confidence. Beginning with the second season, she becomes linked romantically with Johnny Fever. The dynamic between Jennifer and Bailey has been likened to that between Ginger and Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island.

* Mrs. Carlson (Sylvia Sidney in the series pilot, Carol Bruce afterward) is Arthur Carlson's ruthless, domineering mother and the owner of WKRP. An extremely successful and rich businesswoman, her only regret is that her approach to parenting (the "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger" school of child-rearing) backfired; her son ended up indecisive, weak-willed and afraid of her. In the final episode of the series, it is revealed that she had always intended WKRP to lose money (for the tax writeoff), which explains why she allows the incompetent employees to continue working at the station. The only one who is able to get the better of her on a regular basis is her sarcastic butler, Hirsch (Ian Wolfe). She and Hirsch are not regular characters, only appearing in three or four episodes each season.

* Three other DJs at the station are mentioned, but (with one exception) never seen: Moss Steiger has the graveyard shift after Venus; Rex Erhardt (who is seen in one early episode) hosts a program after Dr. Johnny Fever's morning show; and "Dean the Dream" has the afternoon drive slot.

* Series writer Bill Dial occasionally shows up as engineer Bucky Dornster.

The show started out badly; placed in a tough time slot, it got poor ratings and was put on hiatus after only eight episodes, even though they included some of the most famous ones of the series, including "Turkeys Away". But due to good reviews and positive fan reaction -- especially from disc jockeys, who immediately hailed it as the first show that really understood the radio business -- CBS decided to bring WKRP back with no significant changes.

WKRP' was given a new time slot, one of the best on the network, following M*A*S*H. This allowed creator Hugh Wilson to move away from farcical radio-based stories, which is what CBS mostly wanted at the beginning, and start telling stories that, while not necessarily serious, were more low-key and character based.

Partway through the second season, the show was moved back to its original earlier time. CBS executives wanted to free up the prized post-M*A*S*H slot for House Calls (with former M*A*S*H star Wayne Rogers). They also felt that the rock n' roll music and the sex appeal of Loni Anderson were better-suited to the earlier slot, which at that time was thought of as mostly aimed at young people. For the next two seasons, the writers and producers often had to fight CBS over what kind of content was appropriate for a show in the so-called "family hour."

During the third and fourth seasons, CBS moved WKRP around repeatedly, so much so that cast and crew members claimed they didn't know when they were on. After the fourth season, the network decided not to renew the show.

The call letters WKRP are currently assigned to a low-power TV station in Carthage, Tennessee. The call letters are not currently assigned to any AM or FM radio station, and any potential user would have to obtain permission from the TV station owners and the FCC. They were most recently assigned to an AM station in North Vernon, Indiana, about 60 miles from Cincinnati, but the call sign was changed to WNVI in 1997.

When WKRP executive producer and show creator Hugh Wilson worked for an advertising agency in Atlanta, Georgia, he dealt frequently with radio station WQXI (then a pop music station) which served as inspiration for the series, station, and several characters.

Though WKRP was never identified by frequency in the original series, it was identified as being at AM 1530 in the 1991 series remake. Coincidentally, AM 1530 was the dial position of the similarly-named WKRC, which was also licensed to Cincinnati.

There is a radio station WKRC in Cincinnati. Except for almost identical call letters and being CBS affiliates, there is no known connection between the two entities. In the 1990s, WKRC broadcasted at 1530 AM, current home of WCKY radio, with Jerry Springer's radio talk show. Coincidentally, Springer was the mayor of Cincinnati during WKRP's original run; although alluded to, he never appeared on the show.

Cincinnati also has a very popular rock/pop station called WKRQ (aka Q102) which was on the air during the show. As it is one letter away from WKRP in the alphabet, there has been speculation that it was the source of the name.

In the 1980s, a radio station in Salt Lake City (KRPN) identified itself on-air as "WKRP in Salt Lake City, The Oldies Network".

The character of Arthur Carlson was based on an actual person, as was Dr. Johnny Fever's. The real Arthur Carlson owned a group of radio stations in Central Pennsylvania under the name Susquehanna Radio. Based in York, Pennsylvania, it was one of the first radio "chains" to emerge in the late '60s and early '70s. Carlson also was a past president of the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB). Fever was based on an afternoon drive DJ at one of Carlson's stations, working under the name "Kevin McKeever".

WKRP had two musical themes, one opening and the other closing the show. The opening theme was composed by Tom Wells, with lyrics by series creator Hugh Wilson, and performed by Steve Carlisle. It peaked at 65 on the Pop Singles chart in 1981 and at 29 on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1982. The lyrics, which refer to the life of character Andy Travis, are:

Baby, if you ever wondered,
Wondered whatever became of me,
I'm living on the air in Cincinnati,
Cincinnati, WKRP.
Got kinda tired of packing and unpacking,
Town to town, up and down the dial.
Baby, you and me were never meant to be.
Maybe think of me once in a while.
I'm at WKRP in Cincinnati.

The closing theme was a hard rock number composed and performed by Jim Ellis, an Atlanta musician who recorded some of the incidental music for the show. According to people who attended the recording sessions, Ellis didn't yet have lyrics for the closing theme, so he sang nonsense words to give an idea of how it would sound. Wilson decided it would be funny to use lyrics that were deliberately gibberish, as a satire on the incomprehensibility of many rock songs.[citation needed] Also, since CBS always had an announcer talking over the closing credits, Wilson knew that no one would actually hear the closing theme lyrics anyway. A character performs the song in the film Ready to Rumble.

WKRP has not been made available on DVD because of the expense of procuring music licensing. Though in January 2007, Amazon.com started accepting "pre-orders" for the complete first season of the show on DVD. The show was one of the earliest to extensively use contemporary music, and music licensing deals at the time of WKRP's original production did not include syndication and other publishing rights. Rights were much cheaper to obtain at the time, as the show was videotaped and not filmed. This fact was evident in all prints of the show issued since the early 1990s, which included its brief late-1990s run on Nick at Nite.

20th Century Fox, which now owns the MTM library, is reluctant to release WKRP on DVD because of the music issues. The studio fears that fans of the show would reject the DVDs if the edited versions were used. As suggested by sales of the first-season DVD sets of Roseanne and The Cosby Show, viewers prefer the original, uncut episodes over the edited versions seen in syndication. This claim is contrary to the fact that many television series, both current and classic, have DVD releases with at least some of the original music replaced with sound-alike generic music.

However, a recent TVShowsonDVD.com report has stated that a DVD release of WKRP in Cincinnati - Season One is slated for April 24, 2007. While the DVD set will include the original music that the current syndicated version lacked, there will be some musical substitutions, but Fox has tried hard to keep the music within the spirit of the original song used in the scenes where music must be replaced. Unlike the recent syndicated run, which used a limited number of generic rock music to replace the original music, Fox has hired a music coordinator to replace the music they were unable to get rights to with appropriate sound-alike numbers.

* In 1988 radio station WCSX in Detroit, Michigan mimicked the "Turkeys Away" episode by hosting a "Turkey Drop" in Hines Park in Livonia, Michigan. Richard Sanders was the emcee of this Thanksgiving promotion in which paper turkeys were dropped from a helicopter to participants in an open field. The turkeys had coupons that were redeemed for prizes. This same contest was mimicked in 1990 by oldies station KONO in San Antonio, Texas.
* The transmission tower seen at the beginning of WKRP in Cincinnati actually belonged to Cincinnati's NBC affiliate, WLWT.
* Canadian band, The Rheostatics, gave tribute to Herb Tarlek in their song, The Tarleks.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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