1 9 7 8 – 1 9 8 2 (USA)
90 x 30 minute episodes
The arrival of new programme director Andy Travis (Gary Sandy), brought sudden and dramatic changes to WKRP, a small Cincinnati-based AM radio station (1530 on the dial) that had been losing money for years by playing sedate easy-listening music.
Andy’s decision to turn WKRP into a Top 40 rock ‘n’ roll station alienated its elderly audience and also the station’s few sponsors, such as the Shady Hill Rest Home and Barry’s Fashions for the Short and Portly.
It also created a trying situation for Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump), the inept and bumbling general manager who held his job only because his mother Mama Carlson (Carol Bruce) owned the station.
But Mother Carlson, who had dollar signs in her eyes, decided to give Andy’s plan a try – as long as the station turned a profit.
And so the likes of naive, gullible and pompous new director Les Nessman (Richard Sanders) found themselves working alongside counterculture figures like laid back jive-talking morning presenter Dr Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) and night-time jock Venus Fly Trap (Tim Reid), real name Gordon Sims – a cool black guy who went AWOL after serving ten months and 29 days in the army and had been in hiding ever since.
Bailey Quarters (Jan Smithers) was Andy’s enthusiastic young assistant, who handled billing and traffic and was eventually given the added responsibilities of backup news reporter working with Les.
Holding the station together with beauty, wit and charm was the busty blonde receptionist and secretary Jennifer Marlowe (played by the delectable Loni Anderson) who was constantly being pursued by obnoxious ad salesman and quintessential (married) swinger asshole Herb Tarlek (Frank Bonner).
Jennifer was the highest-paid employee at WKRP (she earned $24,000 a year) but would not take dictation or make coffee.
Following the deaths of 11 people preceding a concert by The Who at the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati in December 1979, WKRP In Cincinnati presented a stirring half-hour that dealt with the deaths. Handled with taste, the show helped explain the circumstances to non-rockers without trying to soft-peddle the tragedy.
The show blamed the deaths on unassigned festival seating, and just before the credits, a message flashed on the screen that the city of Cincinnati had passed an ordinance banning general admission seating. Not a bad piece of responsible work for a network sitcom.
WKRP holds the dubious distinction of being a sitcom that underwent no fewer than seven time-slot changes in four years.
The CBS show was sufficiently successful in the USA, however, for a syndicated revival to be attempted from 1991 to 1993 starring just three of the original cast (Jump, Bonner and Sanders).
The show’s creator Hugh Wilson based most WKRP employees on real radio people. Andy Travis was based on Mikel “Captain Mikey” Herrington, a pioneer of the album-rock radio format at San Jose’s KOME and Los Angeles’ KMET. He was also the voice of Sears.
Atlanta disc jockey “Skinny” Bobby Harper inspired Dr Johnny Fever (as did Howard Hesseman’s real-life experience as a DJ). Harper worked at WQXI with Bill Dial, a writer for WKRP in Cincinnati.
The station owners, the Carlsons, were based on WQXI’s manager Jerry Blum.
Jennifer Elizabeth Marlowe
Arthur ‘Big Guy’ Carlson
Lester (Les) Nessman
Dr Johnny Fever (Caravella)
Venus Fly Trap (Gordon Simms)
Lillian ‘Mama’ Carlson
Allyn Ann McLerie