The show was videotaped instead of filmed because the rights to rock songs were cheaper for a taped show than for a filmed show.
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Les wears a bandage on some part of his body in almost every episode. Eventually, he reveals that he has a very large dog at home. In real life, Richard Sanders was injured before taping the pilot episode, and had to wear a bandage on the air. He decided to make it Les' trademark.
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In some scenes, bulletin boards or wall spaces are plastered with bumper stickers for radio stations across the USA. They were sent by real-life radio DJs who were avid fans of the show.
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The character of Bailey Quarters was based on Hugh Wilson's wife. Wilson wrote the character to be shy and soft-spoken, but very articulate when she did speak, because his wife was the same way.
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The show was famous for playing music of up-and-coming bands. Many artists have said that their music being on the show helped their popularity, including Blondie, U2, The Cars, TOTO, The Knack, and Devo. Blondie was so grateful for the show making their song, "Heart of Glass," a hit that they gave their Gold Record to the producers. It's hanging in the WKRP bullpen in seasons 2 to 4.
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Loni Anderson refused to play the "dumb blonde" on the show. Her character was not only smart, but was also a journalism major.
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The ending theme song was done by a group of studio musicians in Atlanta, GA. The lyrics are unintelligible because it was recorded solely to help the musicians and the show's producers get a feel for the song and the lyric melody. The producers liked it, so it was never changed.
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While the series prided itself in both writing and acting with hit songs, keeping the rights to play the songs would've cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the 1990s reissues for syndication, nearly all of the music played by the DJs was replaced with generic studio music. Original generic music was replaced to avoid any possibility of later lawsuits. Because the actors often spoke over the music, voice impersonators were hired to emulate the actors in those scenes. In some cases, lines had to be revised so jokes about the song that just played were removed, and changed to often-meaningless new titles. In 2014, an agreement was reached for the rights to restore most of the real-life songs from the original broadcasts for forthcoming DVD releases.
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The character of Herb Tarlek was known for wearing very tacky suits. In one episode, when Herb wears a particularly outrageous suit, Venus Flytrap remarks, "Somewhere out there there's a Volkswagen with no seats." One of Herb's suits was actually made from the seat covers of an old Volkswagen.
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Hugh Wilson, a huge fan of The Beatles, wanted the show to include as many of their songs as possible. They were the most expensive artist to license a song from, even with an ASCAP licensing discount. As a result, only three Beatles songs were used in the entire series: "I'm Down" in WKRP in Cincinnati: Preacher (1979), "Here Comes The Sun" in WKRP in Cincinnati: Out to Lunch (1981), and "Come Together" in WKRP in Cincinnati: Jennifer and Johnny's Charity (1982).
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After John Lennon's assassination in December 1980, a photo of him was displayed in the background prominently as a memorial tribute. Amazingly though, they didn't address this issue on the show, like they addressed the 1979 The Who concert tragedy, or the Janet Cooke falsified article incident.
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Hugh Wilson did the warm-up during show tapings. During one warm-up, Wilson said he chose the call letters WKRP because they weren't being used by an actual station. He wanted to use WSOS or WHLP, but they were taken. During the show's run, a small AM radio station in Georgia applied to the FCC for the call letters WKRP. The show's producers considered legal action, but the FCC said that their trademark rights did not prevent a legitimate radio station from using the call letters, which were granted to the applicant. In March 2014, a non-profit organization was granted the call sign WKRP for a new FM radio station in Raleigh, NC. The station is expected to go on the air in 2015 at 101.9 FM. (Ironically, a Cincinnati TV and radio station has long used the call letters WKRC, but Wilson claims that this is just a coincidence. WKRC Channel 12 is now the Cincinnati CBS affiliate station, but during the show's original 1978-82 run, WKRC was the ABC affiliate. "WKRP" ran on WCPO Channel 9, which was then the Cincinnati CBS affiliate.)
WKRP was partially inspired by Harry Chapin's song "WOLD", about a wandering FM DJ looking to finally settle down.
In real life, Gordon Jump had worked as a disc jockey for a radio station in Dayton, OH.
Howard Hesseman was asked to audition for Herb Tarlek. After perusing the script, he felt he was only right for Johnny Fever. He refused to read for Herb, and won the role of Johnny.
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The characters of Arthur Carlson and Dr. Johnny Fever were based on real people in the radio industry.
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Herb Tarlek had a University of Arkansas Razorbacks coffee mug on his desk. Frank Bonner was born and raised in Arkansas.
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In close-ups, the names Johnny Fever used on air are all on the side of his coffee cup: Johnny Duke, Johnny Style, Johnny Cool, Johnny Sunshine, and Johnny Fever. In the pilot, the understaffed station had Johnny doing the morning and afternoon shows. Johnny had to look at his coffee mug to see which name he was supposed to use on-air.
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Dr. Johnny Fever is based on Atlanta DJ "Skinny" Bobby Harper, who was the morning drive DJ on WQXI ("Quixie in Dixie"), AM 790. Harper was famous for such morning stunts as the "morning moo cow report," i.e., "there are seven moo cows on the streets of Atlanta this morning." Hugh Wilson, the show's creator, once worked at WQXI with Harper.
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The final first-run episode to air on CBS was #7 in the weekly Nielsen ratings for all series, specials, and sports events. Prior to the airing, the series had already been canceled.
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David Cassidy turned down the role of Johnny "Dr. Johnny Fever" Caravella.
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Series writer Bill Dial made several appearances as the station's engineer, Bucky Dornster.
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Contrary to urban myth, Steve Carlisle sings the show's opening theme, not Richard Sanders.
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In the pilot, the wattage stated on the lobby wall was 50,000. In subsequent episodes it was reduced to 5,000 watts.
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The freestanding broadcast tower in the opening credits, as the singer sings "WKRP", belonged to WLWT Channel 5 in Cincinnati. It has since been dismantled.
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In 1980 Hanna-Barbera planned to collaborate with Hugh Wilson to make an animated series of "WKRP", with all eight characters as dogs. The series never got off the ground.
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William Woodson is uncredited as the announcer for the tag scenes and the intros and outros for Les' newscasts.
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Sylvia Sidney played "Mama" Carlson in the pilot. Carol Bruce took over the role for the rest of the series. Executive producer/creator Hugh Wilson said Sidney was not pleasant to work with, didn't get along with the cast or producers, and thought the show was ridiculous.
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The full name of the building where WKRP is located is the Osgood R. Flimm Building. It's mentioned in WKRP in Cincinnati: Les on a Ledge (1978) because authorities need to know where to go to save Les.
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Venus Flytrap's real name was Gordon Sims. He was a schoolteacher before he became a DJ.
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Howard Hessman was happy on this show and did well with his Johnny Fever character. He followed up WKRP with another hit, One Day at a Time, which he was on for two seasons. He followed this up with another hit, the 80s show about a teacher and a precocious class of students Head of Class. Hessman played Mr Moore, an unconventional high school teacher. The class was basically an inversion of the cut-ups on Welcome Back, Kotter. At this point Howard Hessman's tendency to criticize Hollywood and the production sunk him. He started complaining about Head of the Class to a Chicago Tribune reporter in 1989, and the following article appeared: "Hesseman has been playing the plucky substitute teacher Charlie Moore for three years now, and it's not what he thought it would be. ''We're not doing the show that I was led to believe I'd do, and it's difficult for me to get off that,'' he says. ''I don't want to air dirty laundry in public, but I do feel that the educational arena is one that offers a variety of story ideas as a means of investigating our lives-what we mean to one another and what's important.''' Hessman went on in the article to criticize the production, shortly after this article appeared he was let go from Head of The Class, and that was pretty much the end of his career. Standup comedian Billy Connelly took Hessman's place on the hit show, and Hessman largely disappeared from the Hollywood landscape, although he did reprise his Johnny Fever role on the sequel series, The New WKRP in Cincinatti, from 1991 to 1993.
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Lyrics for the opening theme: "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 of packin' and unpackin', town to town up and down the dial. Maybe you and me were never meant to be, just maybe think of me once in a while. I'm at WKRP in Cincinnati."
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The series featured numerous references to Cincinnati's real-life pro sports teams. The satin WKRP staff jackets, usually worn by Andy and Venus, were modified Cincinnati Reds warm-up jackets. A placard with the logo for the Cincinnati Stingers, of the defunct World Hockey Association, often appeared in the background.
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The Venus Flytrap character became the inspiration for the Tim Meadows character Leon Phelps on the Saturday Night Live sketch The Ladies Man.
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Mr. Carlson served in the Marines in World War II, and Venus served in the Army in Vietnam.
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Rumors about references to "Mayor Springer" are an urban legend. Jerry Springer was mayor of Cincinnati at the time, but he was never mentioned by name on the show.
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Johnny Fever was fired from a previous job because he said the word "booger" on the air. When Andy changed the station's format in the middle of Johnny's show, he showed his joy by uttering the previously banned word.
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The Flimm Building is located at 615 Vine St., 1-1/2 blocks north of Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati. As of November 2015, it was a Homewood Suites/Hampton Inn.
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Both Gordon Jump and Howard Hessman made cameos on Soap while they were starring on WKRP.
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In early seasons, the view from Jennifer's apartment window is the city lights reflecting off the river, which means she lives in Kentucky.
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WKRP's phone number is 555-WKRP (555-9577)
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Sylvia Sidney starred in season one as the unpleasant Mama Carlson. She was also starring this year, 1978, as the unpleasant Aunt Harriet in Damien: Omen 2. Ironically, in a case of life imitating art, she was let go after the pilot episode of WKRP by show creator Hugh Wilson who said she was "unpleasant to work with". She was replaced by Carol Bruce, who played the role for the duration of the series.
Even though Carol Bruce and Gordon Jump played mother and son respectively, Bruce was only 13 years older than Jump in real life. Sylvia Sidney originally played Mrs. Carlson in the first season, and she was more age appropriate; she was 22 years Jump's senior. But Sidney was essentially fired after the first season because Hugh Wilson and the rest of the cast found her "unpleasant."
During its four-year run on CBS, the show had twelve different time slots. Richard Sanders admitted, "I starred in the show and I never knew when it was on."
WKRP creator Hugh Wilson would go on to be very successful in Hollwood in the 80s and 90s. He created the hugely profitable Police Academy franchise and directed box office hits like 1996's First Wives Club.
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Tim Reid, Richard Sanders, and Gordon Jump all appeared in the second episode of the TV series Lou Grant.
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In an episode on "EMMY TV LEGENDS" Show creator Hugh Wilson complained that WKRP was cancelled and Alice was kept on the air; and he made disparaging comments about the Linda Lavin sitcom .
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Real-life Cincinnati radio station WKRC 550 AM was active during the sitcom's run, and remains active as of October 2014.
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WKRP is the station identification for an independent television station, channel 25 in Cincinnati. The station first signed on the airwaves in 1990.
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Gordon Jump and Sam Anderson had made many appearance on the TV series Growing Pains (1985 - 1992) and Loni Anderson who plays Jennifer on the show has appeared on a poster in the episode Thank you Willie Nelson. Frank Bonner starred in the Growing Pains spin-off TV series Just the 10 of us (1988 - 1990)
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On June 17, 2021, Frank Bonner is the second regular cast member of the show to pass away. He's the first since Gordon Jump in 2003.
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Howard Hessman starred in the raunchy teen sex comedy blockbuster Private Lessons in 1980 while he was still starring on WKRP.
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Johnny's battle with his evil alter ego Rip Tide on WKRP is very similar to (and maybe a ripoff of) Latka's battle with his own ID/dual personality Vic Ferrari on Taxi. In both cases the awkward low key character is taken over by a flashy, sexy and hip counterpart; one who is more successful; but also one who is undoubtedly bad; a predator; a user; soulless.
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An abbreviated instrumental version of the song "Fly Me To The Moon" was used as the doorbell melody for Jennifer Marlowe's apartment.
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Hugh Wilson the creator/producer ran into legal trouble with the "Red Wigglers" joke ad he tried to slip into a couple episodes. Reason being the ad references "The Cadillac of Worms" and the Cadillac company took exception to their company being mentioned. Wilson obviously won the suit since the "Red Wigglers" ad made its way into the Johnny Comes Back episode.
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Doug Winter the evil cokeheaded DJ who replaces Johnny in the Johnny Comes Back episode is named the way he is for his substance abusing habit. (Cocaine=snow; snow=winter; etc).
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This is the first sitcom to show a character using or handling cocaine. (Johnny Comes Back, February 26th, 1979). It wasn't the first sitcom to show a character using or handling drugs though. That would be either Maude the Grass Story in 1972, or Good Times JJ's Fiance in 1976, both which showed the main character of the sitcom handling hard drugs.
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