Thursday, November 22, 2007

WKRP in Cincinnati

First off: Please tell me you weren't one of those people who got up at 4 a.m. to attend the Mervyn's sale.

Now for today's post.

WKRP in Cincinnati was a moderate hit when it originally aired on CBS and for some reason became a huge hit when it went into syndication. It was created by Hugh Wilson who went on to direct POLICE ACADEMY and FIRST WIVES CLUB. We worked together on THE TONY RANDALL SHOW. I went on to direct ENCORE ENCORE.

I also knew Jan Smithers. We went to high school together although she was ahead of me. But I think I once drooled on her. In 1966 NEWSWEEK did a big feature article on "the teenagers" and Jan was on the cover (looking spectacular of course). Talk about a big celeb on campus. She was the star of Taft High. And at the time we had future Houston Astro Larry Dierker and a member of the Electric Prunes. There are rumors she's having some hard times. I know you join me in wishing her the best.

Now, as promised...

WKRP had a great theme song (back in the days when shows even had theme songs). Sung by Steve Carlisle, here is the hard-to-find full length version.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

My wife and I always thought the theme was sung by Les Nesman. I'll start the fight now, I thought Bailey was hotter than Jennifer.
Joe

Alex Epstein said...

Syndication ... you know, like what the AMPTP doesn't want to pay writers for when it's on the Internet...

Geoduck said...

Did anyone who was not an actor reading lines off a WKRP script like Jennifer better than Bailey?

dumbfounded said...

Yes, I always thought Jan was hotter than Loni in a more subliminal sort of way. I wish her a quick recovery and hope to see her on screen again someday. I am a longtime fan.

maven said...

I didn't know Jan Smithers was a Toreador! Of course, I'm proud to say I knew YOU when.

flem snopes said...

No argument from me, Joe.

Paul Duca said...

Ken, you also ought to share the full length version of the CHEERS theme, featuring the lyric "And your husband wants to be...a girl"

Anonymous said...

I can't voich for the reliability of these folks, but here it goes:

Entertainment
News - Music, movie, Entertainment
BROLIN'S EX RECOVERING AFTER FREAK TRAFFIC ACCIDENT

Barbra Streisand - © ddp
2007-11-09 03:09:02 -

The ex-wife of BARBRA STREISAND's husband JAMES BROLIN is recovering in hospital after a bizarre traffic accident.
Actress Jan Smithers, a star of beloved U.S. TV sitcom WKRP In Cincinnati, was driving naked when she stopped for help after her car broke down on a remote California highway in the middle of the night.
She was hit by a truck after the driver caught sight of the 58-year-old waving him down too late.
She has been recovering from her injuries ever since the September (07) accident, but family members fear her health issues might be more than a few broken bones.
A family friend tells U.S. tabloid the National Enquirer she fears Smithers suffered a mental breakdown following the death of her father.
The pal says, "Everyone thinks Jan felt abandoned and snapped - a complete meltdown." Ironically, police called to the scene of the accident found nothing wrong with her car and are puzzled as to why the actress stopped for help.
Smithers can't remember anything about the accident or why she was driving naked in the middle of the night.
She and Brolin wed in 1985 and had one daughter, Molly, together. They divorced in 1995, three years before the actor wed Streisand.

Ken Levine said...

My next post will feature the full-length CHEERS theme and the rather fascinating story of how it came to be.

Anonymous said...

LOVE "Cheers". Anything you can share about it, Ken, would be awesome.

JackFM streaming radio sometimes plays the "WKRP" theme, as well as other vintage TV show themes.

John said...

The sad thing about WKRP today is, thanks to musical rights issues and the lack of faith Fox has in DVD sales (having acquired home video rights to the MTM shows), if you buy Season 1 of WKRP, you're not going to get anything near what most of the shows sounded like on their original network or even syndication runs, because only a few of the original songs used are still there. The others have been replaced by either alternate tunes or generic music (which at least shows the studios are as cheap to ASCAP and BMI music rights holders as they are to the writers when it comes to non-broadcast royalties).

Fortunately, the original words are still there, and the Thanksgiving episode was one of those that wasn't dependent on current music.

estiv said...

Somehow I'd never before noticed that the very end of the WKRP theme song is meant to sound like a typical station ID, like the kind you posted that huge medley of a while back. Nice touch.

Anonymous said...

New topic for debate. Whom would you rather run into driving naked - Jennifer or Bailey?

benson said...

A buddy has the ALN channel, which runs MTM shows including WKRP. He says he just saw an episode with the Pink Floyd music left in, so apparently the syndication package may have been left uncut.

Bevo said...

Once upon a time, the theme songs from television shows made the Billboard Top 40 charts. I did not recall the theme song from WKRP making the charts because I was too young to listen to top 40 music when WKRP originally aired.

Thanks for sharing Ken. It is this kind of stuff that makes me a regular reader of this blog.

As to Jennifer vs. Bailey... When I saw the show in original airings, I was 8 or 9. I liked Jennifer. A LOT. As did all my friends.

When I was in college, one of the high number television stations (back when UHF and VHF meant something) showed WKRP. At that point, most of my fraternity brothers who watched the show and I agreed: Bailey hands down.

Anonymous said...

Awwww hell, Carol Bruce was hotter than Loni Anderson.

Tim W. said...

I always thought that I was unique for thinking Bailey was better looking than Jennifer. Apparently not.

I just checked out WKRP on IMBD and found out a bit of interesting trivia. The lyrics for the music at the end of the show are complete gibberish. I always wondered what they were saying, and now I know. Nothing.

Ken,

Were you attached to the show at all? You obviously aren't credited, but you seem to have a lot of connections to it. I also noticed that Richard Sanders, Tim Reid and Howard Hessman were all credited with writing episodes. The ones that Richard wrote are actually some of my favourites.

alan said...

The best thing about WKRP is that the characters were mostly fully formed. From Les's mysterious moving bandage in every episode to Herb's belt matching the shoes, the writers knew who those characters were from the beginning. I think the biggest change was Johnny's insistence to play 50s music rather than the hits that came later on.

Tim W. said...

Since we're on the topic of WKRP, there was one thing that always bothered me. Andy and Venus were always supposed to have known each other before they worked WKRP, and in a flashback episode, Andy helped him pick out his new name (Andy liked Venus Flytrap, Venus liked Venus Rising). Yet in the episode where we find out that Venus is really a deserter (not really), no one, including Andy, knew his real name. Why isn't this sort of thing caught by the showrunners? It was obviously quite troubling to a 10 year old.

Jaime J. Weinman said...

Yet in the episode where we find out that Venus is really a deserter (not really), no one, including Andy, knew his real name. Why isn't this sort of thing caught by the showrunners?

The flashback episode you mention was one of the last episodes produced, and writer/producer Blake Hunter, a continuity buff, said he wrote it precisely because he was bothered by continuity problems with Venus and wanted to straighten them out as much as possible. (Specifically, in the pilot he was introduced as a jivin' DJ from New Orleans, but later episodes showed him as an uptight ex-schoolteacher.) But to explain away all those other continuity problems, he had to make it so Venus was Andy's old friend, and that meant creating an inconsistency with the deserter episode. Maybe they'd have straightened that out too if it had gone on long enough.

jbryant said...

Credit where it's due: WKRP theme music: Tom Wells; lyrics: Hugh Wilson.

Does anyone remember "The New WKRP in Cincinnati," which I suppose got produced on the strength of the original's syndication success? Don't recall ever seeing it, but I get the impression it's about as fondly remembered as "After MASH."

Tim W. said...

Jaime,

Thanks for the info. I was always bothered by continuity problems in shows when I was young, for some reason. The shows original airing and it's syndication have pretty much been blurred together, so I was never really aware of any timeline.

jbryant,

I remember the New WKRP, but was vastly disappointed in it. Since I was so young when the original was on, and wasn't really aware of it ending, I wasn't aware of how much time had passed when the new one aired, so I was shocked at how much the characters had aged. It was also then that I realized just how much chemistry is important on a show.

Jaime J. Weinman said...

The shows original airing and it's syndication have pretty much been blurred together, so I was never really aware of any timeline.

Me too -- when I was a kid I never really noticed the difference between a show's first season and its last, unless there were cast changes.

That flashback episode is pretty terrific for the way it takes the plot of the pilot (including some actual pilot scenes re-shot) and fleshes it out with everything we've learned about the characters since then. It's an interesting lesson in how a pilot is only a blueprint and the interesting things are what happen to the characters after they're established in the pilot script.

RAC said...

Happy Thanksgiving, Ken, et al.,

And best wishes to Jan Smithers (who will always be hotter than Loni or Barbra, you know!)

For my first real job, I worked at a small, midwestern TV station, and whenever the WKRP theme song came on, we'd crank up all the monitors to 10. There was a real, palpable sense of broadcasting comaraderie in those days when cart machines and backtiming was the name of the game, not computers.

Even today, listening to Ken's link, I felt more than a twinge of homesickness for the control room, the reel-to-reel decks, the stale studio air, stale pepperoni pizza, and hot, stale coffee.

Tallulah Morehead said...

Darling, of course I didn't get up at 4 AM for the Mervyn's sale. But I did insist that Little Dougie go down at 4 AM and wait outside The Liquor Barn for their annual Fall Vodka clearance sale. The amusing part is Dougie doesn't drink, but he's stuck waiting with the winos for the great booze celarance prices. Given my annual vodka consumption, I can save up to $700 at The Liquor Barn's clearance sale.

Ever catch Frank Bonner, WKRP's Herb, in his movie debut? It's a little-known stop-motion-animated-monsters movie called EQUINOX, now out on a, believe it or not, deluxe Criterion 2-disc edition. It was originally directed by Dennis Muren when he was 19, though these days he has 9 Oscars for special effects (STAR WARS movies, Indiana Jones movies, Jurassic Park movies, etc.), and features teenagers, including Bonner, being chased by monsters through the mountains north of Los Angeles. Bonner turns into a demon onscreen near teh climax. A scream, if not the kind of scream they were looking for.

Cheers all.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Smithers by a long shot. I'm sorry to hear of her woes and wish her the best.

tb said...

Michael Des Barres and Tawny Kitaen
starred in the "new" WKRP. Not sure why I know that, but there it is.

ajmilner said...

Question: How could the same guy, Hugh Wilson, have conceived both WKRP -- one of the smartest, savviest, well-rounded comedies of all time -- and Police Academy?

Mike Barer said...

That reminds me of the supposed Ginger vs Marianne debate.
I always like Mariane, but then I thought Kate Jackson was the cutest Charlie's Angel.
Cheers.

Captain Obvious said...

Thanks for the MP3, Ken!

You are a champ!

Anonymous said...

One of the writers on The New WKRP -- Doug McIntire -- is the morning drive host on L.A. talk station KABC. He was also a writer toward the end of Married with Children.


And remember: "Police Academy" jokes might have been low, but the series was a very successful franchise.

If I were in the business of taking pitches, my door would always be open to Hugh Wilson.

The Crutnacker said...

If you want to read about why the music was replaced with LOTS of detail, including why some people may have seen episodes with the music intact recently, check this article out:

http://members.allstream.net/~jacjud/wkrpmusic.html

Music rights are ungodly expensive (which seems a bit silly to me, considering that they're excellent music promoters (look at sales of Don't Stop Believin on iTunes after the Sopranos final episode). This is one area where I can understand studios getting cheap. Why pay several hundred thousand for music rights on a music heavy show when the DVD may not sell that well.

Anonymous said...

Same thing happened with Crime Story. I was really looking forward to the DVD release until I discovered that much (probably most) of the music had been replaced by cheap generic stuff.

That show owed a lot to the music, supervised at various times by Todd Rundgren and Al Kooper.

Jim E. Ceb said...

Sorry to hear Jan's hit a rough patch lately...I'm a Bailey booster myself. I hope she gets whatever help she may possibly need; I wish her the best in her recovery and that she can do so in peace.

Joe Siegler said...

I don't suppose you have a link to the end credits theme, do you? I find that a lot more interesting than the opening theme.

'Becca in WV said...

I am very skeptical that she was driving naked and was flagging down stange men due to imaginary car problems. She sounds like she was very stable her entire life. People don't just up and become completely disassociated from reality out of the blue. She had suffered the death of her mother and sister, as well as a divorce, without breakdowns. Without a reliable source, it's highly unlikely to be true.

Rabbi Adam J. Bernay, MRbs said...

Although I only saw it in reruns, this show really influenced me to get into radio (I am "bi-vocational," as we say in ministry). Loved it, loved it. (I work for ClearChannel in Fresno.)

Do you have any idea where I can track down the lyrics for the long-form version of this theme song? (The best theme song in the history of TV.)

Ben Kubelsky said...

The full-length version of the WKRP theme includes extra lyrics by Buckner & Garcia, writers/performers of "Pac-Man Fever" (which happens to feature Steve Carlisle on backing vocals). Garcia, by the way, died last November. I interviewed him once - nice guy. Kept asking me for quarters. Weird.