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WKRP in Cincinnati aired from September 1978 until September 1982 on CBS.
WKRP, a Cincinnati radio station that had been losing money for years by playing sedate music, saw sudden and dramatic changes with the arrival of new program director, Andy Travis ( Gary Sandy). Andy's decision to turn WKRP into a "top 40" stations alienated its elderly audience and also a few sponsors - such as "Barry's Fashions for the Short and Portly" and "The Shady Hill Rest Home." It also created a trying situation for Arthur Carlson ( Gordon Jump), the inept and bumbling general manager who only held his job because his mother owned the station. But Mama Carlson ( played by Sylvia Sidney in the pilot and Carol Bruce in the series) decided to give Andy's plan a try - as long as the station turned a profit.
The staff of WKRP was full of offbeat characters which included: Les Nessman ( Richard Sanders), the naive, gullible and pompous news director whose only conern was his farm reports and Bailey Quarters ( Jan Smithers), Andy's enthusiastic young assistant, who took care of the billing, handled traffic and was eventually added as a backup news reporter working with Les. The two WKRP disc jockeys seen regularly were morning dj Dr. Johnny Fever ( Howard Hesseman), a jive-talking type who seemed constantly spaced out and night dj Venus Flytrap ( Tim Reid), a hip black guy who had worked with Andy at other stations.
Jennifer Marlowe ( Loni Anderson), the sexy but efficient receptionist, actually held the station together. She knew more about what was going on than her boss, Mr. Carlson, did. Loni Anderson soon became one of the major sex symbols of the 70's. She quickly demanded a huge increase in salary or she would leave the show - she got it and stayed.
The final regular was Herb Tarlek ( Frank Bonner), WKRP's high-pressure advertising salesman who spent most of his time, although he was married, making passes at Jennifer. He was more talk than action as he was totally intimidated when she indicated she was willing to take him up on his offer in one episode. "Mama" Carlson was a constant htreat to all of them but only showed up occasionally to complain about something they either did or didn't do!
12 fascinating facts about WKRP in Cincinnati
It's one thing when Dick Clark breaks a band. It's quite another when a scrappy sitcom like WKRP in Cincinnati suddenly becomes the pulse of culture. But that's what happened when the quirky series first took off in syndication to become a hit: Everyone who was watching was listening just as closely to the songs the show was spinning. That's how WKRP in Cincinnati helped bands like Blondie, Devo and The Cars become as big as they are in pop history today.
There just is nothing else in TV history quite like WKRP in Cincinnati. The show ran on hilarious personalities, just like a radio show would. It also pulled in great sight gags, funny situations that drew laughs for every single scheme the show dreamed up. It helped that the cast was tremendously talented, often helping series creator Hugh Wilson to expand his characters. That's how the show went on to not just move beyond running gags to embrace more serious themes, but to truly humanize its nutty characters, for which the series won a Humanitas Award, which is basically the Nobel Prize for TV writing. The show hit notes that rang true, and it touched a lot of hearts and sold a heck of a lot of albums.
We're excited to be bringing WKRP in Cincinnati to MeTV, starting Monday, April 2 at 9:30 PM | 8:30C. To catch you back up to speed, we've dug into the show's history to see how much fascinating stuff we could find. Turns out that looking back through WKRP in Cincinnati is just as rewarding as digging in a record crate, and we emerged with some true gems below.
1. Andy Travis is based on real radio program director "Captain Mikey."
When Andy Travis arrives, his first item of business is to change WKRP to a rock & roll format. On the show, Andy knows his stuff and easily sells The Big Guy on his idea. This aspect of the character is based on real program director Mikel Herrington, considered an innovator in radio and "a walking almanac of rock & roll." The characters of Athur Carlson and Dr. Johnny Fever are both also based on actual radio personalities, with Fever's traced back to Atlanta DJ "Skinny" Bobby Harper who was famous for giving the "morning moo cow report."
2. Characters were based on series creator Hugh Wilson's family, too.
Series creator Hugh Wilson also patterned WKRP characters after his own family members. Bailey Quarters was actually based on Wilson's wife, a woman who was shy and often spoke barely above a whisper, but always knew how to speak up when it counted. Wilson has also said that Andy's personality comes from one of his cousins.
3. David Cassidy was originally cast as Dr. Johnny Fever.
When WKRP in Cincinnati auditioned for its cast members, the role of Dr. Johnny Fever originally went to The Partridge Family's David Cassidy, but the pop idol ended up turning the part down. Of course, the role ultimately went to Howard Hesseman, but only after he was invited to read for Herb Tarlek's character and flatly refused to read anything but Johnny. Way to apply the heat, Fever!
4. Les wears a bandage in every episode because of a real injury in the first episode.
While airing the two-part pilot, the actor who plays Les Nessman, Richard Sanders, legitimately cut his finger and wound up having to wear a bandage on air. He decided to make this an aspect of his character, so every episode finds a reason to bandage up Les.
5. Blondie donated a gold record to the show for helping “Heart of Glass” become a hit.
WKRP in Cincinnati became a legitimate vehicle for launching bands to pop success. Acts like U2, Toto, The Knack. The Cars and Devo, all count WKRP as pivotal in exploding their audiences. But the biggest band the show helped hit was probably Blondie, whose album Parallel Lines went on to become a gold record after the show played "Heart of Glass" from it on air. Blondie was so grateful, they donated a gold record to the show and you can sometimes see it hanging up in the background during scenes that take place in the bullpen from the second, third and fourth seasons.
6. The posters and band stuff you see on the walls were gifts from real DJs.
When WKRP in Cincinnati debuted, actual radio DJs were jazzed, because they loved that the show portrayed sides of the industry you never see. They were such big fans that they would send in bumper stickers, posters, and other swag that was used to decorate the walls in the TV radio station studio.
7. Herb actually did wear a suit made from Volkswagen seat covers.
There's a famous line from the show in the second season episode "Put Up or Shut Up" where Venus Flytrap tells Herb Tarlek, who dependably wears tacky suit after tacky suit, "Somewhere out there, there's a Volkswagen with no seats." Apparently, Herb really did wear a suit on the show that was made out of Volkswagen seat covers. Guess Venus Flytrap has spent his fair share of time in the backseat of a Volkswagen?
8. Venus Flytrap was the inspiration for Ladies Man on SNL.
On WKRP in Cincinnati, Venus Flytrap is smooth and if there's a party or concert to go to, you can bet he's got a date. This might sound a lot like Leon Phelps, a certain Ladies Man that Tim Meadows created as a character on Saturday Night Live and eventually spun out into a feature film. That's because Meadows says Tim Reid's WKRP character inspired his.
9. The show was inspired by a Harry Chapin song, "WOLD."
"I am the morning DJ on WOLD..." That's how Harry Chapin's chorus on "WOLD" introduces the star of the song, a radio DJ who was "playing all the hits for you, playing them night and day. The bright good morning voice who's heard but never seen. Feeling all of forty-five, going on fifteen." The song is about a DJ who has regrets but has chosen his lot in life spinning discs. The story goes that Wilson heard this song and thought it'd make a great sitcom premise. As WKRP proved, the series creator's ear was not wrong.
10. Hugh Wilson wrote the lyrics to the theme song.
The theme song for WKRP in Cincinnati is a spectacular earworm that in many ways served as the show's hook. Wilson himself penned the catchy lyrics, which had us all tuning in to get the vicarious feeling of "living on the air in Cincinnati, Cincinnati, WKRP."
The show also had a second theme that played at the very end. This theme song had none of the intro theme's poetry, with lyrics that were pure gibberish and written on the fly, intended to be replaced later. Instead, Wilson thought it was a great joke in itself about how rock lyrics never make sense, so they left the lyrics as is.
11. An extended version of the theme song became a hit in its own right.
In 1979, Steve Carlisle released a full-length version of the intro theme song, expanding the lyrics to tell a longer story that many believe is about Andy Travis, but could just as easily apply to Venus Flytrap or Dr. Johnny Fever. In 1981, the song hit its highest height: No. 65 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
12. Almost everyone returned for at least a cameo in The New WKRP in Cincinnati.
Close to 10 years after WKRP in Cincinnati had left the air, The New WKRP in Cincinnati premiered in 1991. Rejoining the cast was Gordon Jump (Arthur Carlson), Richard Sanders (Les Nessman), Howard Hesseman (Dr. Johnny Fever) and Frank Bonner (Herb Tarlek). Throughout the reboot run, both Tim Reid (Venus Flytrap) and Loni Anderson (Jennifer Marlowe) made guest appearances, but Garry Sandy (Andy Travis) and Jan Smithers (Bailey Quarters) did not. Smithers had by that time retired, but Andy Travis, it seems, just never wondered what ever became of his old coworkers after the show.
An Article from Time Magazine
R.I.P. the Honest Laugh
Monday, May. 24, 1982 By RICHARD CORLISS
Cancellations bring an end to an era of sophisticated sitcoms
The small Minneapolis TV newsroom was dark with disuse when the old gang Mary Richards and Lou Grant, Murray Slaughter and Sue Ann Nivens, Ted and Georgette Baxter came back one last time for reminiscence and rue. As clusters of the faithful were doing in living rooms and the classier pubs across the country, the WJM team had assembled to lament the untimely passing of some fine old friends: Louie De Palma, Doctor Johnny Fever, Detective Harris, Mork from Ork. With a few swipes of TV executives' pens, four of the best comedy series of the late 1970s Taxi, WKRP in Cincinnati, Barney Miller, Mork & Mindy had been erased from the prime-time schedule. Their ghosts would haunt reruns, but the message seemed clear: the era of the sophisticated sitcom was over. Thus it was fitting that the characters who had inhabited the Mary Tyler Moore show, first and best of breed, should reconvene after a five-year separation to pay their respects.
"I guess I'll miss Taxi the most," Mary said, sighing her big sigh. "It was written by our writers James L. Brooks, Stan Daniels, Ed. Weinberger, the great David Lloyd. The Taxi characters were so much like us, and so good at it. The Sunshine Cab Co. was a place to work in that became a place to live in. And your co-workers became your friends: Alex the off-duty rabbi, and sweet dim Tony, and Latka the gentle schizoid. And Reverend Jim, phoning in his blissed-out wisdom from Planet X. And Elaine, the only woman, who desperately wanted to be somewhere else but couldn't leave the place she knew as home . . ."
She stifled a sob. Lou looked up from a bottle of Top o' the Heather long enough to mutter, "There goes Mary Waterworks again." Sue Ann nibbled on a quiche.
"I liked Louie," said Ted, his cracked-cello voice aswoon. "The man had style."
"Louie!?" Murray snorted. "That malevolent little fireplug? That broken toilet of a man? That Rumpelstiltskin sadist to whom everything human was alien? Who was happy only when he could make everyone else miserable which was most of the time? Who gave new meaning to the phrase old meany?"
Ted nodded. "Like I said, the man had style."
Murray ignored the remark. "I'll miss WKRP in Cincinnati," he volunteered, his bald head waxing nostalgic. "They were like us too ,a tiny, not very successful radio station whose employees were never quite resourceful or ruthless enough to be No. 1. I always thought of them as human Muppets. Dynel Andy and soft, squeezable Mr. Carlson tried to keep their charges in order. But Venus Flytrap and Johnny Fever, the disc jockeys, were too weird, and Les Nessman too straight, and Bailey too nice ,a little like you, Mary and Herb Tarlek too wonderfully oafish to realize he'd never make the big score. And the lovely Jennifer . . ."
"Loni Anderson!" Ted ejaculated.
"I'd love to squeeze her Dynel!"
"That's my little Teddy bear," murmured Ted's wife Georgette in fond exasperation.
What these shows told you," Murray concluded, "was that being on top of the career heap wasn't as important as being with people you liked, who kept you amused and alive through the long day and, if you needed them, through a longer night."
"Hot spit, Murray, that was eloquent," Ted said. "Why couldn't you have written like that for me when I was the best darn anchorman in the Twin Cities?"
"Because, Ted, the best darn anchorman in the Twin Cities couldn't have spelled WKRP, much less pronounced it."
Sue Ann shook her flossy head. "You boyscancarpallyouwant," she said. "Give me the real men of Barney Miller. I just love their adorable little Greenwich Village precinct station, where every cop is strong and sympathetic, and every criminal is some species of Jewish Munchkin. And Captain Miller,Hal Linden!" She gave a Wife-of-Bath chortle. "Who wouldn't want to be arrested by him! You know, after WJM gave me my freedom, I actually applied for a job as a policewoman on Barney Miller." Her porcelain face cracked for a moment. "But they said the rough language would have been too upsetting."
"Oh, Sue Ann," Murray drawled, "I'm sure they would have got used to it."
Sue Ann stood behind her old adversary, massaging his neck. "Dear sweet witty Murray," she intoned. "Once the prince of the newsroom, now captain of the Love Boat. Tell me, how do you remove the barnacles from your scalp?"
"I like Mork," Georgette said in her wee airy voice. "I like how it's a children's show that every five-year-old can get a cute little giggle out of, but it's also a show for the most intelligent adult because Robin Williams runs a mile a minute making a pretzel out of his body and his voice and his mind with jokes about old movies and the latest fads, and how Mindy,Pam Dawber is the kind of wife I'd like to be to Ted." She drew a breath. "And that's why I like Mork."
"But, honey," Ted whined, "you mean you prefer that spaced-out outer spacer to my own new series, Too Close for Comfort, where I get to be outsmarted by my tank-topped daughters and fall over backwards at least three times an episode?" His voice dropped an oratorical octave: "It all started in the five-watt brain of a comedy writer in Fresno, California. . ."
"Shut up, Ted," Lou growled. "You guys are sittin' here bellyachin' that a few TV shows, written and performed by a few good people, are going off the air. Well, what about me? I was canceled too, y'know. And I'm still Lou Grant."
Oh, Mr. Grant," keened Mary. "We all felt so bad about you that we didn't want to say anything. I mean, maybe your show wasn't, strictly speaking, a comedy. And maybe it sometimes bit off issues bigger than it could chew. And maybe it was a little self-righteously liberal. And maybe. . ."
Lou interrupted: "Is there a 'but' coming in here somewhere, Mary?"
Yes, Mr. Grant," Mary replied. "But . . . Lou Grant created rounded characters who were able to develop in their own stubborn ways. It allowed you and Rossi and Billie and Charlie and Art to grow, to shrug off shtik, to hone your rough edges, to give the viewer an idea of hard-working professionals who could still find all the time in the world for one another. You did something important, Lou Grant. Something to be proud of." She kissed him.
"Mary, this is a very touching moment," Lou said. "I can't wait for it to end."
It ended, as it always did in the WJM newsroom. The gang gathered to sing a last chorus of "It's a Long Way to Tipperary," Mary turned out the lights. And everyone went home to watch M*A*S*H. By Richard Corliss
Here is Gordon Jump's Obituary-Sep 24, 2003
Gordon Jump of 'WKRP' and Maytag ad fame dies at 71
LOS ANGELES (AP) Gordon Jump, who played a befuddled radio station manager on the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati and made his mark in commercials as the lonely Maytag repairman, died Monday. He was 71.
Jump suffered from a condition called pulmonary fibrosis, said his cousin, Katherine Jump Wagner. The illness involves scarring of the air sacs of the lungs, leading to heart or respiratory failure.
Wagner of Arcanum, Ohio, said she learned of her cousin's death from her father, also named Gordon Jump. Her cousin was under hospice care and is believed to have died at his home in Coto de Caza, she said.
The upscale community is southeast of Los Angeles in Orange County.
Jump portrayed the Maytag repairman "Ol' Lonely," a well-recognized advertising symbol, from 1989 until he retired from the role in July and actor Hardy Rawls took over.
From 1967-88, Jesse White played the repairman who never gets a service call because of Maytag's reliability. White died in 1997 at age 79.
"Gordon was an incredibly talented actor and a remarkable human being," said Ralph Hake, chairman and chief executive officer of Maytag Corp. "It was natural for him to project an image of warmth, caring, dependability, respect and humor, because that's exactly the kind of person he was. ... We will miss him dearly."
Jump came to appreciate the attention he got for the ad campaign and the steady work it provided, Wagner said. But his heart was elsewhere professionally.
"What he loved more than anything was doing theater. He was a marvelous actor," she said, recalling a visit to Florida to watch him perform in Norman, Is That You?
Jump played Arthur Carlson in WKRP in Cincinnati, which aired on CBS from 1978-82 and featured Gary Sandy, Loni Anderson, Tim Reid and Howard Hesseman as the ragtag station's crew.
A native of Dayton, Ohio, Jump began his career working at radio and TV stations in the Midwest. He worked behind the microphone and the camera, including jobs as a producer for Kansas and Ohio stations.
He began his Hollywood career after moving to Los Angeles in 1963, appearing on series including Daniel Boone,Get Smart and The Partridge Family.
His dramatic roles included a part in the TV movie Ruby and Oswald, about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.
Jump is survived by his wife, Betty; daughters, Cindy, Kiva, Maggi Jo and Laura and one son, Chris, Maytag said in a statement. He also had a brother, Wagner said.
Funeral services were pending Monday.
Here is Creator Hugh Wilson's Obituary from The Hollywood Reporter
Hugh Wilson, Creator of 'WKRP in Cincinnati' and Director of 'Police Academy,' Dies at 74
1:23 PM PST 1/16/2018 by Mike Barnes
His résumé also includes the films 'The First Wives Club,' 'Guarding Tess' and 'Stroker Ace' and TV's 'Frank's Place.'
Hugh Wilson, who created the acclaimed sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati and directed and co-wrote the first Police Academy movie, launching a Warner Bros. franchise, has died. He was 74.
An Emmy winner and seven-time nominee, Wilson died Sunday at his home in Charlottesville, Virginia, his family announced. The cause of death was lung cancer.
Wilson also directed The First Wives Club (1996), starring Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler and Diane Keaton as women seeking revenge on their ex-husbands, and co-wrote and helmed Guarding Tess (1994), featuring Shirley MacLaine as a first lady and Nicolas Cage as a Secret Service agent trying to protect her.
Wilson wrote and directed two 1999 films that starred Brendan Fraser, Blast From the Past and Dudley Do-Right, and penned the screenplay for Hal Needham's Stroker Ace (1983), starring Burt Reynolds and his future wife Loni Anderson, one of the breakout stars of WKRP.
WKRP in Cincinnati, set at a rock radio station in the Ohio city, ran for four seasons on CBS from 1978-82. It starred Howard Hesseman and Tim Reid as deejays Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap, respectively; Gary Sandy and Gordon Jump as station execs; Richard Sanders as the mousey newsman Les Nessman; and Anderson as WKRP's comely receptionist. The station call letters were a pun on "W-crap."
Wilson was a writer at MTM Enterprises and at work on The Tony Randall Show when he approached MTM head Grant Tinker about an idea for another comedy, one that was based on his experience as a sales executive at a Top 40 radio station in Atlanta.
"I told Grant, and we went over to CBS, and they all said, 'Yeah, hey, great,'" Wilson said in a 2012 oral-history discussion about one of the series' finest episodes, "Turkeys Away," on the Classic TV History blog.
"What was lucky for me was that most of those guys … had at one time or another been in the radio business. I hadn’t counted on having that kind of built-in affection for the idea.
"The character of Johnny Fever, he was based on a guy I knew in Atlanta called Skinny Bobby Harper. That was funny, because he was the morning guy, so Skinny had to get up at 4 in the morning to get in there. But he also loved being in the bars at night. He was like Fever. In the pilot, I said [to Hesseman], 'You've got to play it like you're sleepwalking, because you should be asleep by 8, but 8 is just when you're going out."
Probably because it was shifted 12 times on the CBS schedule, WKRP — always a critical darling — had trouble finding a sizable network audience. However, it became a huge hit in first-run syndication after its original airing and spawned The New WKRP in Cincinnati, which aired another two years on local stations.
In 1983, Wilson was asked to rewrite a screenplay for a movie about a group of misfits in training to join the police force.
"I got this script, and it was such a lousy piece of junk," he recalled in a 2015 interview for the Archive of American Television. "I told my agent that I was in no way interested.
"He came back to me and said, 'This is The Ladd Co., it's an important company, part of Warner Bros., a lot of important people are attached — and they're saying that if you do a rewrite, they'll let you direct it.' I said, 'That's a whole different story.'"
Police Academy (1984), starring Steve Guttenberg, Bubba Smith, George Gaynes and Michael Winslow, was made for $3.8 million, according to Wilson, and grossed about $100 worldwide, one of most financially successful movies released that year. Six sequels, none involving Wilson, followed.
"He was a writer first," Winslow, the comic famous for making sound effects, said Tuesday in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "He taught me that if the script is funny, don't force it to be funny. Let it play, let it play."
Hugh Hamilton Wilson Jr. was born on Aug. 21, 1943, in Miami. He attended the University of Florida and graduated in 1965 with a degree in journalism.
A year later, Wilson got a job with Armstrong World Industries' in-house advertising department in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he and others would stage shows for salesmen that sold ads for flooring products to network TV shows.
It was there that he met Jay Tarses and Tom Patchett. While Wilson would eventually become a radio exec and then a partner and creative director at the Burton-Campbell advertising agency — for whom he wrote and directed TV commercials — Tarses and Patchett went on to write on series like MTM's The Bob Newhart Show.
With an assist from the writers, Wilson came to Los Angeles ready to shuck his current career and start a new one in Hollywood, and Tinker gave the ad exec, then 30, a low-level job for $200 a week as a gofer.
"I got to sit up in the stands and watch as the week progressed on The Mary Tyler Moore Show [and other MTM series,]" he recalled. Wilson then wrote his first episode of Newhart in 1976.
He also created three other series: Frank's Place, starring Reid as an Ivy League professor who inherits a New Orleans restaurant; The Famous Teddy Z, with Jon Cryer as a Hollywood agent; and Easy Street, starring Anderson as a wealthy young widow. All lasted just one season.
Wilson won his Emmy for writing an episode of Frank's Place (the show was rare in that it was nominated for best comedy in its lone season). He also was nominated three times for his work on WKRP.
Wilson also worked on such films as Rustlers' Rhapsody (1985), Burglar (1987), Down Periscope (1996), Southie (1998) and Mickey (2004).
He and his family moved from Los Angeles to a Virginia farm in 1992, and he taught TV and screenwriting at the University of Virginia.
Survivors include his wife of 40 years, Charters Smith Wilson; children Cannon, Price, Margaret, Hugh and Caroline; and four grandchildren.
A memorial service is set for 11 a.m. on Saturday at Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville.
For more on WKRP in Cincinnati go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WKRP_in_Cincinnati
For Tim's TV Showcase go to https://web.archive.org/web/20020210022334/http://www.timstvshowcase.com/wkrp.html
For some WKRP In Cincinnati-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/wkrp-in-cincinnati
For a Review of WKRP in Cinncinati go to https://web.archive.org/web/20080222054629/http://www.televisionheaven.co.uk/wkrp.htm
� Date: Fri July 13, 2018 � Filesize: 381.3kb, 954.8kb � Dimensions: 1280 x 720 �
Keywords: The Cast of WKRP in Cincinnati (Links Updated 7/13/18)