Quotes About "WKRP In Cincinnati"

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Suzanne Schaller's excellent site "Television's Other 10%" includes, at http://freepages.tv.rootsweb.com/~eeyore/wkrp/index.html, a terrific selection of quotes from episodes of "WKRP In Cincinnati." What I'm going to offer on this page is quotes *about* WKRP, interesting things that people have said, mostly in newspapers and magazines, about WKRP, its characters, and the people involved with the show. By no means do I agree with all the quotes below, but I do think they're all pretty interesting, either for what they say or for who's saying it. Here goes:


"MTM executives seem to be looking to WKRP to salvage their comedic reputation in much the same way the ravaged Republicans looked to Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 (and Richard Nixon in 1968) to salvage their political reputation. Toward that end, WKRP is going after a broader, somewhat different audience. The rock milieu provides instant identification for young viewers, of course. It helps, too, that the male lead is a handsome young man--and that there's a black character, a jive-talking disc jockey named Venus Flytrap. But the most egregious accommodation is the casting of a stunningly sexy blonde, clad in tight sweater and skirt, who manages, in the course of the pilot show, to thrust her very noticeable breasts under the noses of two different characters at particularly appropriate points in the dialogue. Although the comedy is still rather sophisticated, compromises have clearly been made; no one ever acted--or even looked--like that in the old MTM newsroom at WJM, Minneapolis."
-- David Shaw, TV GUIDE, 1978

"I happen to like the show. It's a funny show about funny people."
-- Colleen Dewhurst, 1979

"Cease transmission...inadequate scripts and characters who have too few personable attributes."
-- Tom Shales, WASHINGTON POST, 1979

Last week Steven Kampmann was talking about WKRP In Cincinnati. As story editor of the CBS comedy series, Kampmann is proud of the program`s quality, its popularity, and particularly the way WKRP regularly trounces Laverne and Shirley in the battle for viewers each Monday night. "By beating that show, we`re doing America a tremendous favor," he declared.

No thanks to the muddleheaded program bosses at CBS, WKRP IN CINCINNATI is a hit...the splendid show about a ramshackle radio station has taken its place alongside M*A*S*H and BARNEY MILLER as that rarest of TV commodities--a weekly series featuring comedy as a launching pad for stories about the human condition.

"Let me put it this way: I wouldn't watch it."
-- Mary Tyler Moore

It was an intelligent, well-crafted show that got good ratings and was well-liked by TV critics. Nevertheless, [Tim] Reid said, CBS and MTM didn't like the show and let it be known in a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle ways. For the show's first two years, the cast was "distinguished," if that's the word, by being the lowest-paid cast on TV..."MTM would never associate themselves with us," Reid said. "Whenever they spoke of shows from the MTM family, they would mention every show but ours." Even when the show was a proven success, Reid said, MTM wouldn't furnish money for little things such as promotional T- shirts, even though "WKRP" came in $2,000 a week under budget... The cast learned a lesson from that experience, he said. "They don't like intelligent actors. They like actors to do the work and go home and hopefully do drugs so they can be controlled. That's the hope of Hollywood, let's say, not any one person."

"WKRP [showed] something happening between people--there was something underneath about people trying to help each other out."
-- Howard Hesseman, 1986

The series was a bittersweet experience for [Tim] Reid. Although his work as the fast-living DJ Venus Flytrap brought him to the attention of the public, the critics and the network, he complains that WKRP was treated as the 'stepchild' of MTM, that the show is never mentioned when MTM officials list their successes ('The Mary Tyler Moore Show,' 'Hill Street Blues'), and that CBS didn't treat it much better. "In four years, we were moved sixteen times on the schedule [sic]," he said. "MTM thought we were poking fun at a sacred industry. And CBS never understood what we were all about."
-- NEWSDAY, 1987


"I've always done the flashy roles, but here I'm a straight man. I smile a lot, and I act forthright, and basically, I'm the cement that holds a lot of wonderfully crazy people together."
-- Gary Sandy, 1978

"Andy Travis never lets his feathers get ruffled, because he always knows exactly where he's at. He doesn't claim to be clever, but he's a hard worker who always does the best job he can."
-- Gary Sandy, 1986


"He's a combination of the men who mismanage radio stations, types I used to work with in my radio days. He's the antagonist in most of the episodes, a bungling character who manages to be likeable and human."
-- Gordon Jump, 1979

Jump was a broadcasting veteran himself, and knew the type. To make the role his own, he says, "I worked off of three general managers I knew. Whenever I had to come up with a take-charge attitude, the one guy I used was a guy from the station I worked at in Kansas. He was that kind of guy, no-nonsense: 'I don't care what you want, this is what I want, and this is what we're going to do. Got anything to say about it?' That was the attitude." He grins. "His wife shot him to death."


"I took matters in my own hands and decided that Bailey, while very insecure and totally unlike Jennifer because she's not together and not naturally outgoing, did have a lot of ambition and the capacity to grow. I think lots of people can relate to that and root for Bailey. That's the kind of mail I get--people say, 'I'm trying to gain more freedom, too.'"
-- Jan Smithers, 1980


"CBS has done nothing to help this show. The only thing CBS changed was our time slot. They seem to change our time slot every time we start to build an audience. Right now we're starting to show good numbers on Saturday, and so I figure it's just a matter of weeks before they move us to another night."
-- Howard Hesseman, 1981

Hesseman says CBS is particularly annoyed at any WKRP references to drugs--this despite the fact that such substances have been known to find their way into the world of rock radio. Furthermore, he claims, the specific CBS executive who tries to blue-pencil all dope gags is a heavy consumer of marijuana.
-- Gary Deeb, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1981

"This show has had more moves than a Cincinnati Bengals linebacker."
-- Gary Sandy, 1982

"We are being programmed by mental pygmies."
-- Howard Hesseman, 1982

If ever a network deserved a kick in the butt for insuring that an outstanding show failed to develop a huge audience, it has to be CBS in its dealings with "WKRP." The razor-sharp writing and offbeat characters created by producer Hugh Wilson never got much chance to succeed, thanks to the continual foolish shuffling of the program all over the CBS schedule. Since "WKRP" premiered in 1978, the CBS pooh-bahs changed its time slot nearly a dozen times, so often you needed a road map to find the show.
-- Gary Deeb, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1982

"I was on the show and I didn't know when it was on."
-- Richard Sanders, 1991

"There was a general sense that if you were going to get close enough to a CBS executive to tweak his nose, you'd only have one hand free because you were holding your own."
-- Howard Hesseman, 1994


Take a look at Monday night, once a linchpin of CBS's week. It was never stronger than when "WKRP" was at 9:30, following "M*A*S*H," building a logical audience for "Lou Grant." Soon, though, "WKRP" started getting jerked all over the schedule, replaced in that Monday time slot by a bunch of yahoo comedies, and people started switching to the football game or the movie after "M*A*S*H." Not surprisingly, the ratings for both "WKRP" and "Lou Grant" declined, and now, [Donald] Grant [CBS executive] has decided to kill them.

"But hey, we went down in a blaze of glory. I think it's better to go that way than just petering out like some shows."
-- Gary Sandy, 1982

"It was like losing your family suddenly on the freeway."
-- Gordon Jump, 1991


"The only problem is that there are eight regulars in the ensemble, so if you do 24 shows a season and try to feature everyone equally, thatís only three big shows a year for each character."
-- Jan Smithers, 1980

"One problem when you get energy and want to go with it is that with so large a cast of talented people, you have to wait three or four shows for some 'meat.'"
-- Tim Reid, 1981


"The only thing that disturbs me about Frank is that he is too consistently good and perfect. I am always looking for a crack in the facade. I want to know that Frank is a believable humanoid."
-- Howard Hesseman, 1982


"Herb is the kind of guy who gets so drunk at a business dinner that he forgets to make the deal. He is tasteless. Look at the clothes he wears, and the pinky ring. He's a redneck, a bigot and a hypocrite. He's the kind of guy who has a lovely wife at home and yet always tries to hit on some other woman, he's so insecure about his manhood that he hides a .38 revolver in the night stand next to his bed, and on weekends, mostly, he stays at home and hides."
-- Frank Bonner, 1982

"Herb is boisterous, aggressive...He's not a well-read man beyond the cartoons in the paper and the sports section. Herb is primarily lazy. He doesn't really want to work that much, but he certainly wants it all."
-- Frank Bonner, 1986

"The Herb Tarleks have multiplied and grown. They are a thriving breed."
-- Lee Abrams (program director for XM Satellite Radio), 1999


Actor Howard Hesseman, alias Dr. Johnny Fever of "WKRP in Cincinnati," sounds like he's in the wrong business: He says he doesn't like television, doesn't like to be recognized by fans and doesn't think much of the scripts of the successful CBS series. Nonetheless, Hesseman told the Cincinnati Enquirer he's an actor and he likes to work. "I can't imagine ever doing another series once WKRP' is over. But who knows? Maybe a deal could be struck; actors do a lot of things for greed," he said.


"He's a gentle, smiling young man who fondles each episode of WKRP as if it were a newborn baby. It's Wilson who's primarily responsible for the program's offbeat humor and its development into a crackerjack ensemble comedy."
-- Gary Deeb, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1981


"Recently, when I revealed a slight lust for Jan Smithers, it was a first in 35 years of column writing...Smithers was gorgeous and, in sweatshirt and jeans, made super-simonized Loni Anderson-Jennifer Marlowe look like a high-speed collision between a beauty salon and a cathouse."
-- Jim Fitzgerald, DETROIT FREE PRESS, 1986


"Johnny, like all the rest of the men she meets, longs for her, but when he's faced with her, just crumbles. So he becomes her friend."
-- Howard Hesseman, 1979

"Jennifer never had anyone who was really close to her. Jennifer was perfect. She never made any mistakes."
-- Loni Anderson, 1986

When she was offered the role of Jennifer in "WKRP," said Anderson, the character was there only for window dressing. She prevailed upon "WKRP" writer-producer Hugh Wilson and Grant Tinker, then president of MTM studios, to let her read the same lines with a note of sarcasm. "They loved it and took off with it," she said. The result was a wholly original character -- a beautiful blond receptionist with kewpie doll features and a spectacular figure, who also was smarter than everybody else on the show.


"Who says there can't be more than one very attractive woman on a show without it becoming CHARLIE'S ANGELS?"
-- Loni Anderson, 1980

"We're fortunate to have two women of the vastly different appeals of Loni and Jan. Men look at Loni's character in an animal-type way; they look at Jan's in a more reverent woman-on-a-pedestal sort of way."
-- Gordon Jump, 1980

"The Ginger and Mary Ann of the radio world."
-- Bruce Fretts, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, 1995


"Johnny Fever wore oddball clothes and didn't bother much with the conventions other people lived by. Howard Hesseman isn't much different."
-- Notes from a Los Angeles press conference, 1986


"Les Nessman was a perfectionist who didn't know how to relate to people at all. He was a very serious guy, kind of a throwback."
-- Richard Sanders, 1986


"Particularly fine is the top-heavy comedienne, Loni Anderson, as the receptionist whose movements turn men to stone...she keeps her head while all the men around her are losing theirs."
-- James Wolcott, THE VILLAGE VOICE, 1980


"Every time I meet people working in radio, I'm a little embarrassed. It's all pre-programmed, rigidly formatted stuff. Time and time again, when I talk to jocks, they say how jealous they are of the freedom we have on WKRP. I sometimes have to explain to them that it's not a real radio station."
-- Howard Hesseman, 1981

"Even though WKRP was fictional, many of the show's elements rang true for its era."
-- Frank Ahrens, WASHINGTON POST, 1999


"Richard knows his craft better than anyone in the cast, he's the most meticulous actor, but as a person he's a mystery."
-- Jan Smithers, 1981


The turkey-bombing wasn't imaginary. Advertising Age, a trade magazine, discovered while doing a story on radio promotional stunts that it was based on a real incident in Dallas. The launching point there was a speeding truck, not a helicopter, but the result was the same: instant turkey loaf.
-- Alexander Auerbach, LOS ANGELES TIMES, 1979


"What helped me get the part was that I turned it down. When I read the script, Venus was just a black guy who came in wearing a big coat and a hat and making jive talk. I'd been up for so many of those! I'd had enough of caricatures, what white writers conceive blacks to be. I told the producer I wasn't interested in doing anything like that for three or four years. He said that it was just a pilot, that Venus would be given a human dimension and would be quiet off-the-air. I wanted that input. I thought that side was as important as the comic side. For 'WKRP,' too much of either would be bad."
-- Tim Reid, 1981

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