Here’s a Friday Question worthy of an entire post. It’s from Bob Summers, although a number of you have asked the same thing.
Can you talk about the inaccuracies on WKRP?
As I point these out, please understand that these inaccuracies did nothing to harm the show creatively. I loved WKRP and didn’t give a shit about the inaccuracies. So as a long time disc jockey myself during the period when WKRP was on I’m pointing these out, but this is not a criticism.
First off, a major Cincinnati radio station would have a much larger air staff. There would be seven or eight disc jockeys, not two. (On the other hand, CHEERS would have more than two bartenders and two waitresses.)
Real jocks always cued up their next record before the song on the air finished. So it was ready to go. The jock never cued up the record while talking.
Also, the speaker in the studio would cut off anytime the microphone was on. Otherwise it would feedback and cause that bone-jarring loud screech. Jocks always wore headphones when they were on the air, and took them off when they were off the air.
Jocks always had to follow strict formats. The station sound was most important. How you said the call letters, when you said the call letters, what phrases you said, even the way you gave the time was carefully spelled out. Top 40 stations in the ‘70s always gave the time digitally. “It’s 6:45” not “It’s a quarter to seven.” This was created by Bill Drake in the '60s as part of his streamlined Boss Radio sound.
By the ‘70s stations were adopting a technique created by brilliant programmer Buzz Bennett. The first words out of the jock’s mouth after every record was the call letters. You didn’t say, “Those were the Beatles on KCBQ.” You said, “KCBQ with the Beatles.” Small touch immediately tying the music in with your station but practically every station did it.
The deejays on WKRP had way more freedom than in real life. If WKRP wanted to be accurate, the jocks would follow a very tight format clock, they would read one-liners at certain times, play specific jingles at certain times, use certain catch phrases. And if they didn’t the hotline would ring in the booth and the program director would ream their ass.
A top Cincinnati radio station would have more than one newsman and more than one salesman. And program directors at that level had a lot more knowledge in actual programming, music research, promotion, and competing with other stations. P.D. Andy Travis was just a nice guy but a complete simpleton.
There was a lot more drinking and way more drugs in real radio. There was also more paranoia. And in truth, most jocks in Cincinnati were constantly sending out tapes hoping to get to bigger markets like Chicago and Los Angeles. Except for a few, Cincinnati was just considered a stepping-stone. Better than Dayton, not as good as Boston.
All that said, a doctor in Korea could just as easily pick apart MASH. No one ever paid for a drink at CHEERS. And most lawyers find lawyer shows downright laughable.
The point is, whatever its inaccuracies, WKRP IN CINCINNATI was a highly entertaining show. That’s all that really matters.