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Classic Comedy: WKRP in Cincinnati:Back to Classic TV Comedy
Series title card
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.
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.