Baby, if you’ve ever wondered what is one of the funniest sitcoms around, look no further: WKRP in Cincinnati made us all long to work at a radio station. The 70s series was supposed to focus on one character but it quickly became an ensemble show of the quirkiest, weirdest people ever to grace TV.
Andy Travis arrives at WKRP as the new program director full of exciting ideas and sporting the tightest jeans in town. He’s a “cowboy” and quickly chucks the old program of slow music out the window, dragging the radio station kicking and screaming into the rock n’ roll Top 40. Arthur Carlson, general manager and sad, inept, little man, objects but he’s no match for Andy’s forceful nature. The only reason Arthur has been able to keep his job for so long is because his mom owns the station. The formidable Mrs. Carlson knows what she wants and how to get it–and she probably wants Arthur to stop clinging to her skirts.
Arthur’s level of competence is on par with many of the WKRP employees. Les Nessman is the fussy, clumsy and utterly clueless news reporter who can’t pronounce a single word right. Herb Tarlek is in charge of advertising revenue which is mighty scarce because a) nobody listens to WKRP and b) Herb is a smug, sleazy buffoon with zero charm. The only people halfway competent are Jennifer Marlowe, the bombshell secretary who can file, type and repel sexual harassment; and Bailey Quarters, young, go-getting intern who works her way up the ladder. Perhaps the most flamboyant character is Dr. Johnny Fever, a wild and burnt out DJ at WKRP, played with the right amount of cynicism and paranoia by Howard Hesseman. In contrast, the sedate and soft-spoken Venus Flytrap handled the nighttime DJ duties.
The laughs just kept on coming with every episode, reaching the heights of split-your-pants funny with a Thanksgiving episode that included a publicity stunt by Arthur to drop live turkeys over a local mall…from a helicopter. Predictably, the turkeys flapped their wings once, twice, thrice–and then hit the ground like so many feathered bricks. Les described the carnage with appropriate horror, “Not since the Hindenburg tragedy has there been anything like this!”
The series didn’t enjoy top rating during its original run but it became a superstar in syndicated reruns. More and more fans flocked to the show after discovering it on late night TV and it gained enough popularity to produce The New WKRP in Cincinnati in the early 90s. The reprise was short-lived, but the original WKRP in Cincinnati remains a beloved television treasure from the 70s.
If you have fond memories of watching WKRP in Cincinnati back in the day, we hope you’ll take a moment to share some of your recollections in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this classic sitcom.