Funnily enough, just last night I was channel surfing and settled in to a WKRP in Cincinnati rerun (the program is one of Jennifer’s top 5 TV shows depicting radio). This one tackled the very serious issue of payola, wherein a new morning DJ is gifted some cocaine from a record promoter, and has to pass it off as foot powder to Mr. Carlson, who then rubs it all over his dogs. Hilarious!
Anyway, imagine my delight to read this morning that there’s a WKRP reunion happening this Wednesday at the Paley Center for Media in Beverley Hills. Howard Hesseman, “Johnny ‘Dr. Fever’ Caravella,” Loni Anderson, “Jennifer Marlowe,” and Tim Reid, “Venus Flytrap” are all scheduled to appear. Unfortunately, the aforementioned Mr. Carlson will not, since iconic actor–and Maytag Man–Gordon Jump passed away in 2003.
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the show’s debut season, a fact that is making me feel very, very old. Like many radio nerds who grew up in the intervening years, watching WKRP shaped my notion of what working in radio could, or maybe, should be like, from quirky local news on the hour from Les Nessman, to the passionate belief in the power of radio and rock n roll.
For years I remember trying to figure out what band did the catchy 70s hard rock tune that played over the show’s closing credits. I’m already not good at deciphering lyrics, but I could never figure out the words, not even the chorus. Googling around last night I learned the fun fact that the song was cut by a bunch of studio musicians, and that the version in the show actually has nonsense “scratch” vocals that were there just for the demo, before any lyrics were written, just to give a sense for what the vocal melody would be. In the end, the producers liked that version best, and that’s what made it into the show. Sort of like the 70s TV version of “Louie Louie.”
From the Paley Center announcement:
Though it possessed all of the traditional elements necessary for sitcom success, WKRP had a rock ‘n’ roll heart. As the New York Times noted, “The show reveled in black humor (“Turkeys Away,” about a Thanksgiving giveaway gone horribly, hysterically wrong) and had its share of somber moments (the pimp-dressing nighttime DJ Venus Flytrap is discovered to be a Vietnam deserter).” The influential series also seamlessly integrated rock music into its story lines with songs often tied to the plot of an episode, so much so that the producers were presented with a gold record award for the Blondie album Parallel Lines because their use of the song “Heart of Glass” was credited with helping the record become a major hit.
Tickets are available to the public, and the whole event will be streamed live beginning at 7:30 PM Pacific Time.