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John Kiesewetter on the world of local and national TV

Senior Entertainment Reporter John Kiesewetter has been covering TV and media issues for 20 years. After joining the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1975 as a summer intern, he worked as a county government and suburban reporter; assistant city editor and suburban editor; and features editor supervising the Life section. He has a B.S. in journalism from Ohio University.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

"WKRP" Now & Then

I had a fun day Friday with photographer Glenn Hartong tying to replicate the scenes in the "WKRP in Cincinnati" opening credits (now posted at My stories about WKRP, the theme song lyrics and other fun stuff will be in Sunday's Enquirer, and more on line tomorrow.

It was amazing how much the city skyline had changed in 29 years, since "WKRP" premiered in 1978. Of course Riverfront Stadium is gone, and replaced with two new riverfront ballparks and the Underground Railroad Freedom Center. But so many other changes: The Genius of Water statue is rotated on Fountain Square. The Central Trust Bank tower is now PNC. Fort Washington has been rebuilt and reconfigured. And there are all the new buildings since 1978 -- Scripps HQ, the Enquirer building, Newport on the Levee, even One Lytle Place.

First we had to figure out what scenes actually were in the open shot by local cinematographer Bob Gerding (PPS Group), who shot all the exteriors here for "WKRP." Most were easy to determine, though finding the exact locations to shoot them from was tricky. The toughest scene to decipher was the downtown street, with people crossing in front of traffic, with two skywalk bridges in the background. We finally figured out it was shot from Fountain Square looking west down Fifth Street. To the right is the old Woolworth's store, and in the next block was the Fifth & Race building (now demolished) which had the Arbys, bookstore (Waldens?) and Arthur Treachers, the Cincinnati Visitor's Bureau, and a skywalk to the Hyatt.

Glenn and I spent about five hours Friday cruising around town trying to match the scenes. The hardest to replicate was the one I thought would be the easiest: zooming in on the WLWT-TV (C h 5) tower in Clifton Heights. We thought it was shot from Central Parkway near Music Hall -- a great view of the tower -- but old Hughes High School was on the wrong side of the TV tower! So we drove along Liberty Street and Central Parkway to Mount Adams, but couldn't figure it out.... until, as a last gasp, went to Union Terminal. That was fairly close. Actually we think it was shot from the Freeman Ave overpass over I-75.

My one regret was that the open did not include the zoom from Fountain Square to the old Enquirer building at 617 Vine, which was the exterior for the station. (Do you remember what they called the Enquirer building in "WKRP?" It's one of the questions in our quiz to be posted Sunday on But it turned out the new Enquirer building at 312 Elm is located on a 3rd Street stretch from the original opening.

I thought you'd like to see our shot sheet for the opening credits:
--Car radio
--I-75 northbound shot from Freeman Ave. overpass
--Buildings along 3rd Street, going from east to west.
--Car radio again.
--Fort Washington Way, west from Main Street looking toward Dixie Terminal Building (gone are the bus ramps and Riverfront Stadium walks over Fort Washington Way).
--I-75 northbound again from Freeman Ave., tighter shot
--Pan of Fountain Square (we couldn't find a bird to shoot), west to east.
--Zoom on Tyler Davidson Fountain "To The People of Cincinnati" (harder to read without the gold lettering from 1978) , then wide shot. (Background now smaller 5th/3rd building to north, not DuBois tower to east).
--Fifth Street, looking west from Fountain Square.
--WLWT (Ch 5) tower from Union Terminal.
--Top of Roebling Suspension Bridge, opening to wide shot to see PNC Tower and Carew Tower. Shot from base of Roebling Bridge (east side) in Covington.
--Barge going up river, shot from Cincinnati side.
--From Immaculata Church in Mount Adams, pan from Newport on Levee to Cincinnati riverfront.
--Cincinnati skyline from Newport.

By the way, all the credit for the "WKRP" Then & Now video goes to our photographer Glenn Hartong. He's a true wizard with a camera, still or video. He did the shooting and editing, all I did was drive the car and be the hand model for the shot tuning a car radio. He's an award-winning photog that does wonderful work, and he's the nicest guy on earth to work with.

Later I'll post more of my interview with Hugh Wilson, good stuff that didn't make Sunday's story. I hope you 'KRP fans enjoy.


at 4/21/2007 10:19 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

The WKRP love fest is becoming nauseating. The show wasn't that good.

at 4/21/2007 2:25 PM Anonymous Jeff Davis said...


I wish I could have tagged along on that trip.

The thing about the WLWT-TV tower is that the one used on the show was taken down a couple years ago. Remember there used to be two towers next to each other on Chickasaw, and now there's only the big one with the strobe lights. It was built in 1978 after the WKRP exteriors were shot.

There's a mistaken notion that the old WSAI/current WIZF tower on Price Hill was used, but if it had been you'd see the Queen's Tower in the shot.

at 4/23/2007 12:03 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure if this is Urban Legend but...

soon after the KRP open was shot, WCET revised their sign-on/sign-off. On this film included the one shot that alleged Bob Gerding forgot about: A zoom out from Vine Street/old Kroger (Blue and White Exterior) to the skyline on TOP of the Roebling Suspension Bridge, high atop the Covington end.

Legend has it that Bob Gerding was kicking himself because he didn't include the shot.

PS#1: I thought the film footage was actually shot by John Gutzelman,who worked at Gerdin/PPS and who's brother worked on WKRP.

PS#2: I have a copy of the WKRC in Cincinnati jingle. My guess, anyone working at 55KRC back in the late 70's/early 80's has a copy.

PS#3: The open/close wasn't the only footage shot in Cincinnati. The episode regarding Veteran's Day (with Les in a bi-plane) had all of the aerial footage shot above Cincinnati (and Loveland too!)

at 4/23/2007 9:15 AM Blogger John Kiesewetter said...

Yes, a 1980 episode was shot here with Less doing traffic from a World War I biplane.
And I was surprised in my research to see that the open changed several times. In later seasons, the show had a skyline scene shot while crossing an Ohio River bridge coming into town.

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