I was playing with my two-month-old the other day, and out of nowhere I started singing “Red Wigglers” to her, the jingle from a client advertising on “WKRP in Cincinnati.” “Red Wigglers, the Cadillac of worms…” Talk about an earworm. (Check it out: Zazzle.com is selling a Red Wigglers T-shirt.)
That got me thinking: Sweet Chai-Chai Rodrigwez, “WKRP in Cincinnati” was an awesome show. I haven’t watched it for years now – and a quick TiVo search tells me that the only way to check it out these days is online (Hulu.com has the first season.). No matter -- I’ve still got a highlight reel playing in my head:
• Les Nessman reporting on the infamous WKRP-organized Thanksgiving Day promotion, where they dropped turkeys from a helicopter. “As God as my witness,” Mr. Carlson says at the end. “I thought turkeys could fly.” Oh, the humanity.
• Venus Flytrap teaching a gang-banger about to drop out of school the parts of an atom. The kid explains to Venus that his teachers are letting him slide through school, citing Music Appreciation class. “They play music, and I say, ‘I appreciate that.’”
• Anything Herb does. Or wears.
All of the characters paid off, even Andy Travis, who I always thought was the weakest link. A few years ago, I interviewed Loni Anderson, who played Jennifer Marlowe, the receptionist – and smartest person on the radio station’s payroll. I thought it was interesting that she made a decision about her character early on – and it became a big part of the show.
Before she accepted the job, Anderson took a gutsy stand, insisting that the character be fleshed out as more than the stereotypical “blonde receptionist.” “It was a tough conversation because I thought I lost the part,” she said. “I thought when I said that that they’d say, ‘Thank you for coming in, and hopefully we’ll consider you for something else next time.’ But he went with it.”
To me, that sums up the appeal of the show. It didn’t pander with easy jokes. It was smart, populated with far-more-than-sitcom-deep characters – and damn funny.
Here's the clip of Venus explaining protons, neutrons and electrons. What’s your favorite WKRP memory?