'WKRP In Cincinnati': Some Characters Were Based On Real People
While, at first, short-lived, the show made us laugh quite a bit with the dysfunctional team that was in charge while their new boss, Andy Travis, tried to get a hold of the radio’s audiences and changed things up. The utterly incompetent staff had no saving possible, but it was absolutely hilarious.
This show did not come out of thin air. The show’s creator, Hugh Wilson, - who knew a lot of people from the radio business - took upon himself to spend some time at the original radio station WQXI in Atlanta. After spending quite a lot of time at the station, he learned how things worked.
Afterward, he knew exactly what he was going for and had some inspiration for the characters based on some of the people he had come to meet - although they were not incompetent as the characters on the show. Fun fact: WQXI actually played oldies but goldies instead of modernizing it like in the sitcom.
Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc. actually contacted the network to create a funny animated version of the show where all the characters would be dogs but, sadly, the idea never really took off, according to Throwbacks. We are certain that it would have been an absolute hit since the company had a sterling reputation.
Dr. Johnny Fever Is Real
As we have mentioned previously, some of the characters were based on real people that the creator either met or were well-known, and maybe that was the secret for the success of the sitcom. Dr. Johnny Fever was actually based on the Atlanta DJ “Skinny” Bobby Harper, who was quite the character himself at the time.
More Than Unconventional Suits
One thing that became remarkable about the show were Herb Tarlek’s suits, played by actor Frank Bonner. They were all quite different from the norm and made a stand. Aside from that, his belt always matched his shoes. He was a fashion icon, for people who appreciate that type of fashion, of course.
However, some of his suits were more than unconventional. According to MeTV, one of his suits was made out of actual Volkswagen seats! If you ever looked at one of his leather suits and thought “Where can I buy one of these?” - Well, it turns out you cannot. Unless, of course, you are willing to give up your car seats.
David Cassidy Was Almost Cast
Although there was already a clear idea of how the character of Dr. Johnny Fever was going to be like, there was a back and forth regarding the actor. David Cassidy, who was best known for his role on ‘The Partridge Family’, auditioned for the role and was cast.
However, when he was finally offered the part, he ended up turning the producers down and gave then a big “no”, according to MeTV. Howard Hesseman was also originally meant to play the part of Herb Tarlek, but after hearing about the role of Fever, he refused to play any other part. And did he do an amazing job at it!
Sometimes, if you have different nicknames it is hard for other people to memorize it. When you are playing a role, it gets even harder when you are in character to remember which name you are going by. In the pilot episode, the DJ was actually presenting the morning and afternoon shows.
To make this memorizing task easier, his mug had all his nicknames on it from Johnny Fever to Johnny Duke, Johnny Cool, Johnny Sunshine, and Johnny Style. According to Throwbacks, whenever the actor was playing the role and had a hard time remembering, he would just look at the mug and see the name!
Creator Hugh Wilson’s Wife
While most of the characters were based on people from the radio station where he “interned” for inspiration or other radio personas, there was one very special character on the show that was based on someone quite close to the creator, Hugh Wilson.
According to MeTV, the character Bailey Quarters, played by Jan Smithers, was based on his wife which, according to Wilson was always quite shy and spoke in a way, most of the time, where you could barely hear her. However, much like the character, she was very articulate when the time came for her to make a point and she always knew how to make herself be heard.
WKRP Became Real
After the outstanding success of the show, it was only natural that some radio stations would inspire themselves in order to collect the rewards of the fan base. However, things became real when the show’s producers attempted to sue the first one, which was based in Georgia, according to Throwbacks.
Nonetheless, they were told that they could not go through with it due to it not being a real radio station. Later on, another radio station in Raleigh, North Carolina, was created and still exists to this day titled WKRP. It would appear that there are fans of the show all over the US!
The Bandage Signature
Have you ever wondered why Les Nessman, played by Richard Sanders, always had a bandage in every episode? It all started out as an accident, according to MeTV. Apparently, the actor injured his finger before shooting the first episode and ended up having to wear a bandage.
The producers just decided to roll with it and it became his signature. In every episode, there was a new bandage on a different spot and it was, later on, explained on the show that Nessman had a big dog and there was the reason for all the injuries. What started out as an accident, became the character’s signature.
A Gold Record Was Donated
At the time, the fictional radio station became known for launching real band careers to the stars. They launched bands such as the U2, Toto, and The Knack. However, there was one band that was especially grateful for the little push that threw them to the spotlight.
According to MeTV, ‘Parallel Lines’ by the band Blondie hit the roof and the album ended up becoming a gold record shortly after the sitcom played the song ‘Heart of Glass’. They were so grateful, they donated their gold record to ‘WKRP in Cincinnati’ and, if you pay close attention, you can see it hanging in the background.
John Lennon Tribute
The show, which originally ran from 1978 to 1982, decided to pay its tribute to legend John Lennon after his death. During the rest of the run of the show, they had a portray of the Lennon hanging in the background to honor his memory, as stated per Throwbacks.
Real DJs Had A Part
Being a show that was all about music, it was only natural that it would attract artists from all over the US. Also, as we have mentioned before, besides being a sitcom, they also wanted to launch the careers of great musicians that still had not been noticed.
According to Throwbacks, all the promo music that was on the show was sent from DJ fans that were eager to see their music on the famous fictional radio station. Now that we are talking about this, we are wondering how many careers did the show help. Did you know any of the musicians who had their music on the show?
Talking About DJs
All and any publicity is good for business, no one can deny that. Aside from sending their promo music to the show, all the decorations you saw on the walls of the radio station were all gifts from fans who were trying to get their work out there. Over the years they built quite a collection!
Their Awesome Theme Song
Hugh Wilson was not only the creator of the show, but he also took upon himself to come up with the catchy theme song, which also contributed to the success of the show. However, according to MeTV, the theme song at the end of the show was nothing but a draft.
It all started with a lot of singers from Atlanta recording a demo and, by the end of it, they had a lot of gibberish put together. Although it was meant to be replaced later, Wilson thought it would be a great joke since, according to him, rock lyrics do not make a lot of sense. It was only suitable for a rock radio station!
It’s All About Saving
When talking about any type of shows that are playing music, you need to keep in mind the bands’ reserved rights. The show’s producers found out that they would pay less for the records if the show was recorded on tape rather than on film, according to Throwbacks. Given that the sitcom was pretty much music all the time, they ended up saving a lot of money.
Why It Came To An End
No matter how good shows are it all comes down to audiences and ratings. Back in the day, there was no going back to watch a show that had been on a week before or even hours, and, for that reason, the shows relied on having a regular and firm schedule so that people would know when to turn on their TVs.
CBS repeatedly changed the sitcom’s timeslot which eventually led to it getting lower ratings and, ultimately, the cancellation of the show in 1982. However, its syndication had outstanding triumph for a decade and it even outperformed some of the most successful sitcoms at the time. Furthermore, from 1991 to 1993, there was a spin-off titled ‘The New WKRP in Cincinnati’.
WKRP For Life
Over the years, the show has gathered a fan base bigger than most shows and it surely made us laugh more than we care to admit. We have told you some of the secrets for the sitcom’s success, it is time for you to tell us if there was something that you thought was missing from the show? We would love to hear from you!