In every large ensemble
TV show cast,
there’s one character
you identify with
more than the others.
Today the show under discussion is the classic WKRP in Cincinnati, which is more than due for rediscovery now that the full series has been FINALLY released to DVD after expensive music rights issues kept the show–as it had originally aired–away from viewers for almost 20 years. For those unfamiliar, here’s a quick breakdown of its noteworthy and highly memorable cast of characters:
Andy Travis (Gary Sandy): The general manager of WKRP, a local Cincinatti AM rock station, Andy is the ocean of sanity in a sea of craziness. Also, he sometimes wears a cowboy hat and had the best hair.
Arthur “Big Guy” Carlson (Gordon Jump): The son of the station’s owner, Arthur prefers to stay in his office and avoid anything that requires making a decision or taking on responsibility–except when he’s inspired and wants to see turkeys fly.
Johnny “Dr. Fever” Caravella (Howard Hesseman): The station’s near-burn out morning man. Always broke, he’s the kind of guy who will take a sniff of chalk on a baseball field JUST IN CASE, but ultimately a kind, if slightly rebellious dude.
Venus Flytrap (Tim Reid): Born Gordon Simms, Venus created his flamboyant on-air persona to help him escape his memories of the Vietnam war. His flashy, stylish outfits belie the fact that he’s the second smartest person at the station and definitely the one you want handling your money.
Jennifer Marlowe (Loni Anderson): THE smartest person at the station–and also the highest paid–Jennifer is no mere receptionist, but the glue who holds it all together. Also, kinda attractive.
Bailey Quarters (Jan Smithers): The most competent member of the general staff, Bailey is held back by her lack of confidence and overwhelming shyness. She could run the station just as well as Andy, but first she has to learn how to speak up for herself. Also, kinda attractive.
Les Nessman (Richard Sanders): The station’s news director, Les sees himself etched in the mold of the great newsman of the day, even though he barely has any idea of what’s going on in the world outside of the farm reports that won him his beloved Silver Sow award. Is so desperate for the trappings of success and respectability, he has taped lines on the floor where he believes his office should be. Also, kinda attractive.
Herbert “Herb” Tarlek (Frank Bonner): The station’s ad salesman, Herb has arguably the most important job at WKRP, but he undermines this with his often-offensive and self-serving blowhard behaviour and penchant for tasteless wardrobe ensembles. Like Mr. Carlson, Herb is married and has kids, but unlike his boss, he would all leave them in a heartbeat for one night with Jennifer.
Having grown up watching the show (it ranked amongst my favourite daily syndicated repeats of my youth–I never saw a single episode when it originally aired), I always saw myself mostly as a Bailey, because I was naturally shy and I often felt that I was ignored because I didn’t have the aura of strength other folks wanted. But these days I see more of myself in Venus–a bit flashy and into making an impression, but ultimately someone with unexpected depth. Sometimes I fear, though, that I’m just fooling myself and I’m more of a Herb than I’d prefer.
How about you? Who do you most identify with? And for bonus points you can also name the person from NewsRadio you think you’re most like. (I’m totally a Bill McNeal.)