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WKRP in Cincinnati, a Vintage Television Comedy Show

Updated on October 30, 2016
ThelmaC profile image

Thelma Raker Coffone is an award-winning writer who enjoys writing on a variety of topics, especially lighthouses.

Cast of WKRP in Cincinnati
Cast of WKRP in Cincinnati | Source

Wacky Cast of Characters and Story Lines

WKRP in Cincinnati was a popular TV comedy show produced by MTM Productions and centered around the antics of the employees at a fictional radio station in Cincinnati.

The talented actors portraying the characters at WKRP included:

  • Gary Sandy as Program Director Andy Travis
  • Gordon Jump as Station Manager Arthur "Big Guy" Carlson
  • Loni Anderson as Receptionist Jennifer Marlowe
  • Howard Hesseman as Disc Jockey "Dr. Johnny Fever"
  • Tim Reid as Disc Jockey "Venus Flytrap"
  • Richard Sanders as News Director Les Nessman
  • Frank Bonner as Advertising Salesman Herb Tarlek
  • Jan Smithers as Office Assistant and Newsperson in training Bailey Quarters

WKRP Advertising Sales Manager, Herb Tarlek
WKRP Advertising Sales Manager, Herb Tarlek
On the Air with WKRP Disc Jockey "Dr. Johnny Fever"
On the Air with WKRP Disc Jockey "Dr. Johnny Fever"

Premise of WKRP in Cincinnati

The show followed the unsuccessful efforts of the "Big Guy" (General Manager Carlson) in trying to put the struggling radio station back on track. Mr. Carlson's mother, the owner of the station, was constantly maligning him for the station being unprofitable. No matter what ideas he came up with, they were usually failures.

Enter new Program Director Andy who had a reputation of turning around troubled stations. He was hired to make WKRP a success. Andy was ready to set the world on fire until he came across the likes of Dr. Johnny Fever, Venus Flytrap and incompetent News Director Les Nessman. Throw into the mix Salesman Herb with his loud mouth and loud plaid jackets, white shoes and belt, Jennifer the sexy blonde receptionist, and Bailey the shy, young news person in training and you had the making of an extremely funny show. That's what fans thought, including radio personalities at stations across the country. But it wasn't what the executives at CBS thought.

Cast and Fans Upset About Cancellation

After its debut in 1978, the series would last only 90 episodes before being cancelled by CBS in the summer of 1982. Most people, including the cast, felt the lack of viewers was not because of the story lines but CBS constantly changing the time slot for the show. Some of the cast members were said to have complained they didn't even know when the show was being aired.

That theory was proven to be correct when the show became a smash hit with reruns in syndication and became one of the most profitable ventures for MTM Productions.

WKRP Newsman Les Nessman
WKRP Newsman Les Nessman

One of the Funniest Episodes

Many will agree that one of the funniest episodes was "Turkeys Away", which aired on October 30, 1978. Carlson came up with an idea he was sure would make his station owner mother proud. As part of a Thanksgiving promotion, the station would give away turkeys to their listeners. That, in itself, would be a nice public service. However, it was his method of delivery of the turkeys and the play by play coverage of the event by Newsman Les Nessman that got the Big Guy in big trouble and gave the viewers big laughs as you will see in this video clip.

"Turkeys Away" on WKRP

The Real WKRP

In 1979, a "real" radio station with the call sign of WKRP took to the air in Dallas, Georgia at AM 1500. MTM Productions protested to the FCC, claiming they had requested the FCC put a hold on the issuance of those call letters. The FCC declared that MTM was not the official licensee of a broadcast facility, therefore, they could not ask for such a hold. MTM filed a civil suit which they lost. The court ruled they held the copyright for "WKRP in Cincinnati" not the call letters "WKRP".

It was a brilliant marketing maneuver on the part of the radio station to get that call sign as they received extensive press coverage. However, due to the number of competing stations in the Atlanta area and FM radio becoming so popular during that time period, the little AM station didn't last.

Opening Theme Song

The opening theme song for WKRP in Cincinnati, representing the life of character Andy Travis, was released as a single record in 1979. It performed well on the record charts with easy lyrics to sing along and was popular with not only viewers of the show but radio listeners in general.

Sadly, the days of "living on the air in Cincinnati" are no more. Unless you can catch it on a rerun!

WKRP Theme Song

Who Was Your Favorite Character on WKRP?

See results

How do you Rate the TV Show WKRP?

4.8 out of 5 stars from 5 ratings of WKRP

© 2012 Thelma Raker Coffone

Please Share Your Comments on "WKRP in Cincinnati"

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    • ThelmaC profile imageAUTHOR

      Thelma Raker Coffone 

      7 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      Lipnancy I don't know how anyone could watch the Turkeys Away episode and not laugh! The actors did such a great job with their parts in this episode. Thanks for taking the time to read my hubs and comment.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 

      7 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      I still remember the Turkey's Away episode as one of the funniest things I've ever seen.

    • ThelmaC profile imageAUTHOR

      Thelma Raker Coffone 

      7 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      craiglyn thanks for your comments. I used to be in the radio business so I particularly liked that show. My favorite episode was the flying turkeys!

    • craiglyn profile image


      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks for the blast into the past. I had forgotten about this, but watched faithfully when it was on. I miss this type of show and really tired of the stuff that is on today - all this reality TV stuff. WKRP Cincinnati was pure fun. : )

    • ThelmaC profile imageAUTHOR

      Thelma Raker Coffone 

      7 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      Thanks for your nice comment. I sure enjoyed the research down memory lane!

    • catgypsy profile image


      7 years ago from the South

      That was a great show. The different characters played so well off each other. Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

    • ThelmaC profile imageAUTHOR

      Thelma Raker Coffone 

      7 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      catfish I miss it too. The writing was terrific. The creator of the show, Hugh Wilson was in radio here in the Atlanta area and he certainly hit a home run when he created this show!

    • catfish33 profile image

      Jeffrey Yelton 

      7 years ago from Maryland

      I miss WKRP. It was the funniest shows on television, and the writing was so smart that it kept that cast of characters interesting. I even liked the sequel, many years later. Well, the first year, anyway. Killing off a major character on a comedy show only worked on MASH. (And people are still mad that Henry Blake got offed in a last-second decision.)


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