More "WKRP" with Hugh Wilson
I had a terrific converation with "WKRP in Cincinnati" creator Hugh Wilson the other day, and not all of it could fit into my Sunday stories. So here are more comments. And you folks who are tired of reading about "WKRP" can skip this blog and come back another day...
--WKRP in Rochester?: Wilson considered all kinds of cities to set the radio station.... Rochester, Indianapolis, they just didn't click. Then he thought of Cincinnati, a city he had never seen. "It just sounded right-- WKRP in CINCINNATI."
--No 'KRP: Execs at either CBS or MTM first nixed the title, because Cincinnati already had a WKRC-AM and WKRQ-FM. (WKRC dates back to the Kodell Radio Co. ownership in the early 1920s.) Wilson said: "I remember in the beginning a note from the legal department saying we couldn't use WKRP because there was a WKRC in Cincinnati. And someone got in touch with them (WKRC), and they said, "Hell no, that's not a problem." And that's how the TV show got it's title. Long-time residents will recall that WKRC-AM, owned by Taft Broadcasting (owners of Kings Island and "The Flintstones," "Scooby-Do" and other Hanna-Barbera cartoons, reworked the TV theme to "WKRC in Cincinnati." Wonder if anyone at the station still has the ID? Wonder if we'll hear it again with all the renewed attention to "WKRP?"
--Cincinnati sentiment: Wilson was thrilled with the support from Cincinnati folks for the show 1978-82. "Anytime we asked anybody in Cincinnati for help, they said, 'Right away!' I hadn't been to Cncinnati, but I figured everybody there was nice folks. I always felt Cincinnati was full of nice people. I even liked Marge!" When I told him of Schott's practice of rubbing Schottzie hair on Reds players and managers for good luck, he said, "I would have used that in a hearbeat!"
--Springer break: Wilson says he came to Cincinnati only once or twice during the four-year production. He came to town to scout before the show premiered. During that trip he was supposed to meet the mayor -- Jerry Springer -- "but he was busy, and couldn't see us."
--Turkeys away: As an Atlanta advertising exec, Wilson began thinking of creating a pilot about a inept radio station. He contacted an Atlanta radio station manager, toured the station and
went to lunch with him to pump him for story ideas. They guy said he didn't have much... but did mention that he had worked at a station in Texas where they gave away turkeys at Thanksgiving by dropping them over a shopping center from a helicopter. That's when the station manager realized that "the @# things can't fly," Wilson said. Which inspired WKRP GM Arthur Carlson's famous line, "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."
--Off the air: I've often heard people say that WKRP was canceled too soon by CBS. Over four years, CBS moved it to 12(!) time slots, and it only made the Top 25 one season (#22 for the second season, 1979-80). It also was nominated three times in those four years for a best comedy Emmy. Yet Wilson wasn't surprised when CBS pulled the plug.
"Our (ratings) numbers wouldn't seem to go (up) anywhere. I knew we were dead in the water. I was disappointed, but not surprised."
--Caught on tape: "WKRP" was shot on tape, when all of the other Mary Tyler Moore Productions (Mary Tyler Moore, Newhart, etc.) were on film, because the music rights were much cheaper. Being on tape, the half-hour sitcom fell under classification of a TV variety show, with lower costs for music. But to release on DVD, the cost of using original 1970s and '80s rock was prohibitive, he says. "Music license fees have gotten out of sight. They just can't afford to pay the license fees," he says.
--Programming WKRP: Howard Hesseman and Tim Reid picked much of the music their characters played on the show. (They were actually programming WKRP!) Howard first asked to do it, and then Tim heard about it and made the same reuqest. "They were really into music, and did a good job, and had good taste in music. And I wanted to keep them happy. I'm a scribbler (writer). I was usually up in the writers room. So anything that would make the actors happy was OK with me."
Now for my questions: I've seen some comments on chat boards complaining about the generic music on the "WKRP" DVD. Obviously, some consider "WKRP" a music show with some comedy. I've always considered it a comedy show with some music. So which is it? It is an outrage that the original music has been deleted? Or is it a comedy show in which the music was secondary?
And one more question, if you're still with me. (I apologize for the long blog today, but wanted to wrap up all the "WKRP" stuff in one hit.) What's your favorite episode? And if you say "Turkeys Away," what's your second favorite?
You've been a wonderful audience. Thank you very much.