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Classic Comedy: WKRP in Cincinnati:Back to Classic TV Comedy

Updated on October 1, 2014

Series title card


Les Nesman



This classic centers on a rock and roll radio station and the oddball characters that make up the crew. Although Wikipedia refers to it as as a sitcom, one should not take that description literally. It is an MTM production that basis its humor on the characters rather tahn the unreal plots or racy situations o many shows.

I find I prefer old shows like this to what I usually find on T.V. now, although I’m sure I could be missing some good ones. This is a show from that premiered in 1978 and aired for four seasons and 88 episodes thru 1982, It was probably more popular in syndication when it became a surprise blockbuster and was one of the most popular “sitcoms” in syndication for a decade. There was also a sequel The New WKRP in Cincinnati that ran from 1991 to 1993 in syndication. During the third and fourth seasons CBS contributed to its eventual cancellation by moving the show around in its schedule.

Some of the humor is related to issues of the times. As are some of the plots, but I don’t think it interferes with enjoyment of the show.

The opening theme song sort of reflects the life of the character Andy Travis, played by Gary Sandy. I personally find the song catchy because while I never worked for a radio station I did work for some newspapers and other jobs I had to relocate for with an uncertain future. I understand why he would get “tired of packing and unpacking” and want to settle somewhere. I’m sure it is true of some of the other characters and in this day and age, many other people.

When I first saw this show I didn’t pay much attention to the call letters although latter I figured there was a pun involved. My guess was “Carp,” but according to Wikipedia I was wrong.

Bailey and Andy


Some WKRP episodes are available to watch on line. I have put a link to it for those who want to watch it.

The series won a Humanitas prize and 10 Emmy Award nominations. Andy Ackerman won an Emmy Award for Videotape editing in season 3.

turkey Drop

Storyline and Characters

Andy Travis is introduced as the new programming director to turn around a radio station that is low in ratings and losing money. The staff is mostly incompetent and Arthur Carlson, played Gordon Jump, is bumbling although he occasionally shows wise insight.

Andy’s plan is to change the format of “elevator music” to more popular rock and roll. Johnnie Fever played by Howard Hesseman, a burned out disk jockey, The actor had been a disc jockey for a short time in real life. He, of coarse loves the idea.

Fastidious and totally incompetent Newsman, Les Nessman is played by Richard Sanders.

He is a friend with obnoxious, sleazy ad salesman Herb Tarlick, played by Frank Bonner. Jan Smithers plays Bailey Quarters the ingénue of the station. She is shy but has ambitions to become an executive in the radio business.

Venus Flytrap is the only Black person on the show and some humor is derived from Ness innocently insulting him by trying to say what he thinks is correct. Tim Reid plays him.

Mrs. Carlson really played by Carol Bruce is Arthur’s dominating mother who owns the station.

Jennifer Marlowe, played by Loni Anderson, is the real star of the show. On the surface she is a sexy, dumb blond but the stereotype is overturned because the station would not be able to run without her.

The characters have real life counterparts. The person that Arthur Carlson was based on managed a group of radio stations across the country. Johnny Fever was based on a DJ in Atlanta, Georgia. Bailey Quarters was based on Hugh Wilson’s wife who was shy, very intelligent and beautiful.

The show extensively used current music by contemporary artist, such as The Who, The Rolling Stones and others. The show is credited with making Blondie’s “heart of Glass become a major hit.

I still like this show and recommend it to anyone wanting good comedy.

What comedy do you prefer?

See results


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    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for reading and commenting.I think almost everyone remembers that episode.Maybe it is an example of good intentions gone wrong.

    • Sinea Pies profile image

      Sinea Pies 

      9 years ago from Northeastern United States

      My utmost favorite episode was when they ran a Thanksgiving promotion for the station and loosed live turkeys from a helicopter...little did they know that turkeys can't fly. The delivery was so so funny...thankfully a spoof and not real!

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      10 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I think the radio business has always been a changing one.But than I have never worked in it.I o believe this show continues to be funny even though it dates back 30 years.Thanks for commenting.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I use to watch the reruns on TV. The first thing that attracted me to it was that it took place in Ohio. I loved the characters of Johnnie and Jennifer. Now that I'm only an hour from Cincy I keep hearing referances to that show. I kept wondering if WKRP existed what they would be playing today on the radio and what kind of characters would there be today?

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      10 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for visiting and commenting. I agree. It might be generational, at least in my case. Although mu daughter likes this show, I don't know if her kids would.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      10 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I will never forget the episode where Les Nesman threw the turkeys out of the helicopter. It is a classic. I miss shows like this - I wonder why they can't seem to make more of them these days.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      10 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      She was the hit of the show.Thanks for commenting.

    • resspenser profile image

      Ronnie Sowell 

      10 years ago from South Carolina

      Loved that show, especially Loni!

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      11 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for your visit and comment.The show had some classic episodes.

    • Seakay profile image


      11 years ago from Florida

      Oh WOW! This is so GREAT! What a flash from the past. I just loved that show. They don't make'm like that anymore. HOWEVER! Thanks for link. Going there right now!

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      11 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for commenting. I think it was a good period.

    • Stacie L profile image

      Stacie L 

      11 years ago

      this was one of my all-time favorites! the best shows were from the 70's!

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      11 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for your comments. Their use of contemporary music I think set them apart back then.

    • billyaustindillon profile image


      11 years ago

      Brings back great memories - Johnny the DJ was classic - I winder what happened to the actor? I had no idea the show made heart of glass a hit - the old pain the ass hit :) We thought that line was so radical back in the day.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      11 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Peggy W

      Thanks for commenting. I find the public library is often a source for recordings of old shows.Our library season has some but not all of this show.

      I put a link here to a website that has the first season of this show and some others to watch on line.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      11 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I never watched this and it sounds like I would have enjoyed it. Will have to look for re-runs in syndication. Thanks for the "heads up!"

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      11 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      The Great Turkey drop is an all out favorite.Like other good shows I sometimes have to see the episodes more than once because I always pick up on things I missed.

      Thanks for your comments.

    • Gawth profile image

      Ron Gawthorp 

      11 years ago from Millboro, Virginia

      Thanks for bringing up a great topic. There were many funny episodes but to this day one show causes me to guffaw. It was the great shopping mall promotion dreamed up by Herb Tarlick. His idea was to drop live turkeys from a helicopter over the mall. I can still see an exasperated Mr. Carlson bracing himself against the door jamb and telling Jennifer:

      "God help me I thought turkeys could fly."

      The other great (weekly) part of this show was Les Nessman and his imaginary office.

      These comedy writers were truly gifted and I have often wondered what their othe creations might have been.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      11 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thank you very much. I realized while writing this is that one reason I like the show is that it is "character drive."

    • Tom Whitworth profile image

      Tom Whitworth 

      11 years ago from Moundsville, WV


      You captured the spirit of WKRP in your hub. Well done and two thumbs up!!!!!!!!!!!

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      11 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for coming by and commenting. I wasn't all that young when it was first aired. But it is a very funny show.

    • eovery profile image


      11 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

      I loved the show when I was young and the hormones were running ramped. The babes were hotties.

      Keep on hubbing!

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      11 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for commenting.

    • Rod Marsden profile image

      Rod Marsden 

      11 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

      I remember this comedy. It wasn't bad. Good to remember.


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