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'WKRP' Is Returning To Cincinnati Airwaves

CBS Television
WKRP cast clockwise from bottom left: Loni Anderson, Richard Sanders, Frank Bonner, Gary Sandy, Jan Smithers, Gordon Jump, Tim Reid and Howard Hesseman

WKRP will be living on the air in Cincinnati again starting April 2.

Dr. Johnny Fever, Venus Flytrap, and Les Nessman from the beloved CBS sitcom (1978-82) will be seen in reruns on Me TV, the classic television network broadcast by WLWT on Channel 5.2.

WKRP in Cincinnati will air 9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. It will also be seen on Me TV in Dayton on WHIO-TV Channel 7.2.

Credit Media Heritage
Newsman Les Nessman (Richard Sanders) contemplates suicide in "Les on the Ledge," the third episode on Oct. 2, 1978.

Taped at MTM Studios in Studio City near Los Angeles, WKRP featured many Cincinnati exteriors to establish its setting – Fountain Square, the Brent Spence Bridge, the Roebling Suspension Bridge, Fifth Street, Fort Washington Way, WLWT-TV's TV tower on Chickasaw Street, and the old Enquirer building at 617 Vine St, which the sitcom called the Osgood R. Flimm Building. Many of the  scenes were shot by local videographer Bob Gerding.

WKRP premiered Sept. 18, 1978, with new program director Andy Travis (Gary Sandy) changing the station's format from sleepy elevator music to rock 'n' roll.  His staff included Fever (Howard Hesseman), Flytrap (Tim Reid), Nessman (Richard Sanders), and producer Bailey Quarters (Jan Smithers).

They worked for inept station manager Arthur "Big Guy" Carlson (Gordon Jump), who was kept on track by efficient receptionist Jennifer Marlowe (Loni Anderson). Frank Bonner played salesman Herb Tarlek, who tried to convince the "Big Guy" to dump rock music and Travis.

Credit MTM Productions
Les Nessman (Sanders) broadcasts the WKRP turkey drop in "Turkeys Away," the seventh episode on Oct. 30, 1978.

If Me TV airs WKRP in order, the famous Thanksgiving turkey drop show ("Turkeys Away") would be seen on Tuesday April 10, as the seventh episode.

No, there never was a radio station called WKRP in Cincinnati. There are WKRC-AM and WKRQ-FM, and a low-power television station technically licensed WBQC-TV (Channel 25) which brands itself as "WKRP TV."

Hugh Wilson, a former Atlanta advertising executive, created WKRP for CBS in 1978 based on crazy radio antics he had heard about in Georgia. He had never been to Cincinnati when he finished the pilot script, after writing for The Bob Newhart Show and The Tony Randall Show.  Wilson, who died in January at age 74, once told me that the "WKRP" stood for "crap" station, and that he set it in Cincinnati because it rhymed with WKRP.

WKRP also was beloved because of the great 1970s and '80s rock music it featured, unlike any sitcom or drama on at the time. More than 100 musical artists were heard, including Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Paul McCartney; Bruce Springsteen; Eric Clapton; The Rolling Stones; The Who; Elvis Presley; Stevie Wonder;  AC/DC; Booker T And The MG’s; Jackson Browne;  Elvis Costello; Creedence Clearwater Revival; Crosby, Stills Nash & Young; The Doors; Bob Dylan; Earth, Wind & Fire; Marvin Gaye; Grateful Dead; Elton John; Janis Joplin; B.B. King; Jerry Lee Lewis; Bob Marley; Van Morrison; Randy Newman; O’Jays; Tom Petty; Wilson Pickett; The Police; Linda Ronstadt; Sam & Dave; Bob Seger; Steely Dan; James Taylor; and Ray Charles.

Most of the original music was included in the Shout Factory! 13-disc DVD boxed set released in fall 2014. The the first season DVD release by Twentieth Century Fox in 2006 came with generic rock rifts instead of the real songs.

Since it was canceled in 1982, WKRP reruns have aired on WXIX-TV, WKRC-TV, Nickelodeon, Antenna TV and WGN.

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.