Guest Author - Edie Dykeman
WKRP in Cincinnati was an American sitcom that displayed an ensemble cast who worked at a struggling radio station in Cincinnati, Ohio. The main players were Gary Sandy, Howard Hesseman, Gordon Jump, Loni Anderson, Tim Reid, Frank Bonner, Richard Sanders, and Jan Smithers.
The humor came as the bumbling staff tried to keep the station afloat in the midst of their own quirks and idiosyncrasies. The running gags kept the cast and viewers amused as the characters struggled to hold their own and keep their jobs.
The show premiered in September 18, 1978 and was bounced around during the third and fourth season to the point the cast did not even know when it was on. Shortly after the show was cancelled just before the start of its fourth season, the show premiered at number seven over all other shows.
Ironically, WKRP in Cincinnati became a huge hit for the next ten years while in syndication. The show still appears on various local and national stations.
Although the show is still doing well in syndication, let us see where the cast has been spending their time since the show ended.
Gary Sandy played Andy Travis who came on board as the new programming direction to try to turn the radio station, WKRP, around and get it back into the ratings game. Sandy was born December 25, 1945. He started acting in the soap As the World Turns in 1970. He was in several soaps over the next seven years, while he also acted on Broadway and guest starred on numerous TV shows. He eventually returned to theater.
The venerable Gordon Jump played bumbling station manger Arthur “Big Guy” Carlson. In real life, Jump (1932-2003) started acting in 1965 playing numerous roles throughout his busy career. He played the Maytag Repairman in 189 Maytag advertisements until he retired July 2003.
Howard Hesseman brilliantly portrayed Dr. Johnny Fever, a burned-out disc jockey who loved to push the limits of good taste. Hesseman was born February 25, 1940 and began on the Andy Griffith show in 1968. Besides WKRP, he was also on the Bob Newhart Show and SOAP. He had long runs on One Day at a Time and Head of the Class. According to the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDb), Hesseman is still going strong.
Les Nessman was played by Richard Sanders (1940) who began acting in 1950 at the age of ten on The Philco Television Playhouse. After a 1954 stint as Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, he was not seen again until 1971. On WKRP, Nessman was the quirky, incompetent, bow-tied news reporter who scrambled people’s names on-air, and was always striving for news awards.
Loni Anderson (1946) was the unforgettable Jennifer Marlowe, the station’s blonde bombshell of a secretary who proved to be the opposite of the typical stereotype. Married several times, most famously to Burt Reynolds, she is now married to Bob Fick of the Brothers Four whom she first dated when she was seventeen. They married in 2008.
Frank Bonner (1942) started his career in 1970. He played Herb Tarlek, the slick sales manager at WKRP known for his plaid sports coats. In real life, he directed all 92 episodes of the Saturday morning sitcom, City Guys (1997-2001).
Tim Reid (1944) was a writer, director, and producer in among other shows, Frank’s Place (1987-88), Simon and Simon as Detective Marcel “Downtown” Brown (1983-1987), Sister Sister (1994-1999). On WKRP, he played Venus Flytrap the funky smooth-talking evening DJ.
Baily Quarters was played by Jan Smithers (1949) who began acting in 1973 and was last seen in 1987. She was once married to James Brolin. She played a young ingénue who began with clerical duties an ended up as an on-air news reporter.
Although some ensemble shows seem to have a star or two take center stage, it is the cast as a whole that brings the whole production together. WKRP in Cincinnati would not be the success it is today, enjoying a long run in syndication, without every one of the cast members.