W.K.R.P. For Me

TV really ain’t for me anymore. Everything’s a so-called ‘reality’ show nowadays, and the only things on that currently rock my boat are: Pawn Stars, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Shark Tank.

Oh but there was a time, back when my family only had around five or 6 channels (including channel 57, UHF), and the tube had plenty to offer. Classic TV, real Must See TV, subversive TV…

My all time favorite show has got to be WKRP In Cincinnati.  I think that, subconsciously and in hindsight, watching Herb Tarlek as a kid as often as I did is a contributing factor on why I got into the media advertising business. Hmnnn. Herb was a goofball extraordinaire, always wheeling and dealing and never really knowing what a complete tit he appeared to everyone around him. Seriously, I know how much revenue it takes to keep even the smallest radio station afloat, and there didn’t seem to be any other sales people, so he was it. I’m surprised there wasn’t an episode on Chapter 11. Would have been funny.

Mr. Carlson was as clueless a station on owner as Herb was a Sales Manager. I always got the feeling he’s rather be fishing. You know the actor, Gordon Jump, as the Maytag man, maybe.

Les Nesman was/is one of my all time favorite TV characters. He was hilarious as the (again) clueless but passionate and devoted news reporter for the station. He longed for walls around his desk, and since it wasn’t in the budget (Again, Herbs fault for not selling enough ad time, I guess) he put tape around his desk where walls should be and made people ‘pretend knock’ when they wanted to see or talk to him. Genius!

Jennifer (Lani Anderson), the way rich and way hot secretary was the one that really ran the show. How was she so rich working at such a poor excuse for a radio station? My theory: she was Carlson’s private hooker.

Probably my favorite character from the show was Howard Hessman’s DJ Johnny Fever, an incorrigible ‘60’s burnout who was always stoned (always suggested and implied, never obvious) and played what he wanted to play. Funny as Hell, this was Hessman’s role of a lifetime, as it was for much of the cast.

Andy (cannot think of the actor’s name), a character whom the show was supposed to revolve around, was the least interesting of the bunch. Too vanilla, too ‘cool’, too smug. Venus Flytrap, the token black DJ character had his moments and was Ying to Fever’s Yang. Baily, the other hot chick in the office, was more bookish (in looks, anyway) and was barely there, always overshadowed by the other cast members.

My favorite episodes? Well, ok, here’s 2:

#1. The Thanksgiving Promotion. Herb Tarlek and Mr Carlson decide they need to do something big as a promotion for the station, so they decide to give away turkeys for Thanksgiving. So they rented a helicopter and threw the birds out to folks on the street below. Chaos ensues, obviously, Les Nesman gets mobbed and beaten up in the riot, and at the end Carlson says, and this remains one of the funniest (possibly THE funniest) lines in the history of TV: “As God is my witness I thought turkeys could fly.”

#2. The Censorship Show. Mr. Carlson in a meeting with the head of CURB-Clean Up Radio Broadcasting. Station Manager Carlson is in initial agreement of CURB’s list of songs that shouldn’t by played in his rock station but Johnny Fever especially objects citing select audience members that object to the songs as those who “listen slowly to the songs in church when suddenly, they hear a naughty word!” When Carlson again confronts the CURB head, he cites the lyrics to John Lennon’s song “Imagine” which has lines like “Imagine there’s no heaven” or “And no religion too”. The CURB head objects to those words but Carlson doesn’t because it’s not content that infers certain adult situations but ideas that suggest point-of-view of the songwriter/singer. It’s with this stance that Arthur Carlson decides to fight CURB despite many advertisers pulling out their spots from WKRP…A great episode.

 Coming soon: The Bob Newhart Show