WKRP in Cincinnati: Tune in to revisit the stars of the popular TV sitcom, plus see the opening credits

WKRP in Cincinnati 1970s 1980s TV sitcom

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“Here’s a novel idea in television comedy: a show that’s really funny,” wrote critic Bill Carter of the Baltimore Sun in 1978 when describing WKRP in Cincinnati’s debut.

He went on to call it “just about the best thing that has happened to the sitcom since Mary Richards was fired from that Minneapolis TV station,” referring to the beloved Mary Tyler Moore Show.

WKRP produced 90 original episodes aired over four seasons — from 1978 to 1982. While the show did well in its first run, with fans nationwide, after its cancellation, it became one of the most popular syndicated sitcoms. In fact, the original WKRP in Cincinnati was still being aired as reruns throughout the rest of the 20th century.

A follow-up series, The New WKRP in Cincinnati, ran for two years (1991-1993), but never matched the success of the original.

WKRP in Cincinnati tunes into laughs (1978)

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota) September 17, 1978

Imagine, if you will, what might happen if nice musty old WCCO radio were to hire a young program director who decided to turn the station overnight into a top-40 rock music outlet.

That is the comic situation, if not precisely the economic situation, in which the new CBS series, “WKRP in Cincinnati,” hopes to find success.

WKRP in Cincinnati TV show cast

As the series begins, WKRP is an old family-owned station struggling along, and losing money with the traditional sort of radio format upon which WCCO thrives. So what do they know in Cincinnati, right?

Now arrives series hero Andy Travis, played by Gary Sandy, promising to turn around the station’s ratings and profit-and-loss numbers.

The resident star disc jockey, played by Howard Hesseman, has seen better days. Early in another decade in Los Angeles, he was known as Johnny Sunshine, and was making 100 thou a year until the day he said the word booger on the air and was fired.

Since then, he’s drifted from job to job in as many Southern and Midwestern cities, including Fargo, as it takes to have been known as Johnny Caravelle, Johnny Midnight, Johnny Duke, and Johnny Style.

His style at WKRP finds him falling asleep at the turntable as he puts a needle to the station’s current notion of with-it-ness — a recording of “You’re Having My Baby” sung by the vocal equivalent of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

WKRP in Cincinnati full cast

But now with the arrival of Andy and the top 40, he finds himself recharged in mid-program, renamed Dr Johnny Fever, saying “Goodbye to the elevator music” and reassuring his geriatric audience, “Now ah am talkin’ about your basic 50-thousand-watt intensive care unit, babies.”

The opening program, setting up the switchover, is funny enough. When Andy first arrives, the program’s award-winning special events and farm director is short with him.

Later, the award winner apologizes: “I wanted to get on the air with the hog futures.” Overhearing, the DJ moans: “Hogs have futures. I don’t.”

Loni Anderson, the tall and generously-curved actress from Minneapolis, has promising moments as WKRP’s receptionist. She’s overwhelmed when the change in station policy causes her switchboard to be jammed with a total of three phone calls: “If this keeps up, I’m going to have to have more money.”

WKRP in Cincinnati TV show cast

For the moment, I’m regarding “WKRP in Cincinnati” as a program to keep watching. As creatures trapped at a station in transition, the WKRP folk are quite funny.

As for how many episodes that fun can be kept afloat, it’s a matter left to the skills of the Mary Tyler Moore organization. Having made a TV newsroom in Minneapolis look funny for all those years, they probably have a few ideas.

Hugh Wilson, who created the Tony Randall series for MTM, is the writing producer for this one.

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WKRP in Cincinnati theme song & opening credits

YouTube video

WKRP in Cincinnati theme song lyrics

Baby, if you’ve ever wondered
Wondered whatever became of me
I’m living on the air in Cincinnati
Cincinnati, WKRP

Got kind of tired packing and unpacking
Town to town and up and down the dial
Maybe you and me were never meant to be
But baby, think of me once in a while

I’m at WKRP in Cincinnati

WKRP in Cincinnati TV show cast members

Andy Travis (Gary Sandy)
Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump)
Dr. Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman)
Les Nessman (Richard Sanders)
Jennifer Marlowe (Loni Anderson)
Herb Tarlek (Frank Bonner)
Venus Flytrap (Tim Reid)
Bailey Quarters (Jan Smithers)

ALSO SEE: What’s Happening!! Go behind the scenes on the popular ’70s TV sitcom & see opening credits

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Comments on this story

One Response

  1. I loved “WKRP.” I thought Bailey was super cute, and Johnny Fever seemed like the ultimate “cool guy.” To me, two episodes in particular stand out. One was a very sensitive and respectful episode they did in response to the 1979 crowd stampede that occurred at a Who concert in Cincinnati, in which 11 people died. The other involved a Moral Majority-type pastor who was demanding the station stop playing certain songs. While being very funny, “WKRP” was also very timely and “tuned in” to the moment.

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