Baby, if you ever wondered… Wondered whatever became of me?
I’m living on the air in Cincinnati… Cincinnati, WKRP.
I don’t think that there’s a television lover around who doesn’t know that those words are the beginning of the theme song to WKRP in Cincinnati. Premiering in 1978, WKRP in Cincinnati was never a ratings smash. It ran for 88 episodes and four seasons and at the end of each season, it was in danger of cancellation.
However, once syndicated the show took on new life and created a brand new fanbase. Starring Loni Anderson, Gordon Jump, Tim Reid, Howard Hessman and more, WKRP in Cincinnati is considered one of the greatest television sitcoms ever created.
The Paley Center hosted a rare reunion featuring Loni Anderson, Tim Reid, creator Hugh Wilson, Jan Smithers, Howard Hessman and director Asaad Kelada. It was a very funny and informative panel and it was a treat to see the stars of the show in such a relaxed setting.
Creator Hugh Wilson is hysterical and should have his own television series that he stars in. Seriously.
Once the panel started cast member Gary Sandy called in to say hi. He couldn’t be at the panel because of his work schedule.
“It is a family, everyone is a sweetheart, I love everyone. My favorite episode is Les on a Ledge, that’s a real scream.” Gary said. “One of my fondest memories is how you could come in and start rehearsal on Monday and right away the writers would know exactly what wasn’t working and these pages would just come right down to the set.”
Tim Reid played Venus Flytrap on the series, and he immediately became an iconic television character.
“Actually the character in the pilot was written to be this flamboyant black man, but the wonderfulness of Hugh is he could see actors. I remember when I read for it, I don’t think I was ‘black‘ enough. They wanted a Jimmie Walker type character.” Tim said, “I didn’t want the part because of that, and I actually mentioned that. The jocks of the day were really split personalities, there was always another side. Hugh assured me that they would develop that other side. He allowed me to explore that.”
Jan Smithers played Baily on the series.
“I didn’t know what I was doing in the beginning. I had three lines I think on the interview, and they were me, and me and me. I had to make some sense of that.” Jan said.
Loni Anderson was Jennifer the secretary who held the station together.
“Hugh was instrumental with me creating Jennifer. He said, let’s make her Lana Turner and make her the smartest person in the room. And I was so thrilled, I had been a brunette at the time and blondness was not something I was interested in. I spoke seven languages, I cut everyone off at the knees if they came on to me, but I took care of Mr. Carlson like a mother, I loved everyone, I nurtured everyone, yet I didn’t do anything.” Loni said, “I dated men with lots of money, I had unexplained wealth, I just loved being at the station. Hugh said, let’s have the glamorous woman, be the smartest woman.”
Dr. Jonny Fever was an iconic character played by Howard Hessman.
“It was there on the page for the most part, and at the same time I knew a half dozen guys in radio that were trying to play music that meant something to them.” Howard went on, “In meeting Hugh to audition for this role, I thought gee I know who this guy is. Components of him already existed of him in my experience. But as Hugh said it became a collaborate experience. Writers would come on the set and would say, ‘What do you think Fever would do in this situation…’ We were encouraged to show alternatives, largely through improv or just not knowing the lines.”
“You always thought that no matter what your input was it was given due consideration.” Howard said.
It was a very interesting panel and almost a history lesson about this time of classic television as well.
There were so many highlights that these were only a few of the amazing tidbits.
Even Edie Mcclurg from Ferris Bueller was in the audience, which was a real treat.
After the panel was over the cast and crew stayed to greet the fans for a long time. Suddenly Susan and I had a couple things to get signed. Tim Reid was so kind and chatting with everyone.
Loni Anderson was as nice as you would expect her to be. I had a logo from the series printed up as well as a cast photo. I also found this great publicity photo that Loni said was a publicity still from CBS.
Howard Hessman was a bit grumpy but still made sure to sign and take photos with everyone. He signed both of my cast pieces and was very cordial to everyone who wanted a photo.
Jan Smithers was also really kind and very cordial. In fact everyone was so nice and accommodating. It was so fun.
Until next time kids…
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