By HAYS DAVIS Special correspondent, Richmond (VA) Times Dispatch
For four seasons, the TV sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati” brought viewers into the office, the control booth, and the lives of a wildly varied and endearing cast of characters. And from 1978 to 1982, WKRP was one of the most influential radio stations in America, even though it didn’t exist.
Actors Tim Reid and Howard Hesseman, who played the DJs Venus Flytrap and Dr. Johnny Fever, respectively, selected the music themselves.
“We introduced a lot of music,” said Reid, speaking from his Petersburg studio of Tim Reid Productions. “We got two gold records: one for breaking ‘Heart of Glass’ (by) Blondie, and we got one for ‘After the Love Is Gone,’ the Earth, Wind & Fire song.” Reid was even thanked by Bob Marley for helping to break out the reggae giant on U.S. radio.
“We had an incredible record collection, because, back in the day, the music companies would flood us with records to try to get us to play music. Once (Howard and I) would get the script, we would get a look at what we had to say, what the scene was about, and I would listen to music to find the music that fit more for what I felt I would be playing under those circumstances.”
Ironically, the music has prevented fans from seeing complete episodes since their original airings, because of licensing issues. Later video releases could be confusing, edited around songs that were intricately involved with the action but could no longer be included in the show. A new box set of the complete series, recently issued by Shout! Factory, goes a long way toward rectifying the matter, restoring about 80 percent of the original music as well as the minute or more per episode that had been cut to add commercial time during syndication.
“The show broke a lot of barriers,” recalled Reid, “both for character interpretation and the kind of stories that we were doing, but it all came from the willingness of the creator and producer, Hugh Wilson, to allow actors to bring to the role a part of themselves that made it all rich and interesting.”
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