Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Vital Viewing (Guglielmo Marconi Edition)



Actor Howard Hesseman, best known for playing deejay Dr. Johnny Fever on WKRP in Cincinnati, was born on this day in 1940. In this clip from 2013, he gives a brief interview on what was then the very funny 1970s sitcom's 35th anniversary:


"What a cool camera pack!" Unfortunately, the camera pack that so caught Hesseman's attention is not visible in the video, and it has me wondering what exactly it looked like. Some possibilities:













I'll leave it up to you to decide which camera pack is the coolest.

Anyway, here's two clips (originally one long extended scene) from the pilot episode of WKRP. A bit of background here. Dr. Johnny Fever was a popular LA rock-oriented deejay in the 1960s, until he said "booger" on the air. His radio career now in shambles, he eventually ends up at a low-rated station in Cincinnati playing the musical genre known in the 1970s as "easy listening", a.k.a. "elevator music", a musical genre that bores the hell out of him. Fortunately, a new program manager has just been hired who wants to change the format to rock, and Dr. Fever is in ecstasy:



Now, that was cool!


 Not so cool.


 

13 comments:

  1. Hi, Kirk!

    You had me worried for a few seconds, good buddy. It seems most of your posts are bios of people who have recently died. I'm happy to know that Howard Hesseman aka Johnny Fever is still above ground. Happy 78th birthday to Howard!

    Last year Howard turned up in one of my favorite modern day television sitcoms Fresh off The Boat. I must confess that I was not a regular viewer of WKRP In Cincinnati. Howard's Johnny Fever character was so over-the-top that I found him more annoying than funny. It was the same with Tim Reid's stereotypical Venus Flytrap, and "it girl" Loni Anderson (Jennifer) was not as appealing to me as she was to Burt Reynolds and millions of other men. There's a pattern here. On Three's Company, blonde dazzler Suzanne Somers as Chrissy did not appeal to me nearly as much as the perky, brunette, girl next door type Janet played by Joyce DeWitt, and on Gilligan's Island my dream girl was another wholesome, brunette girl next door type, Mary Ann, played by Dawn Wells. Me no likey the glamorous movie star Ginger.

    I enjoyed listening to Hesseman's interview. Clearly the cast had fun making WKRP, but I believe the series was canceled after four seasons because it was not as funny as it thought it was. It dealt with broad stereotypes, played the sex card too often and went for cheap laughs, just saying.

    Thanks, good buddy Kirk, and enjoy the rest of your week!

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    1. Shady, I wrote a very long reply that didn't post for some reason. I try and duplicate it tomorrow as I'm running out of time, but thanks for leaving
      a comment

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    2. OK, Shady, I'm back. I had to start work early yesterday, and had to rush through things.

      Shady, it's all subjective. I can't "prove" WKRP was funny. You either laughed or you didn't. But as to whether Venus Flytrap was a stereotype, I wonder if you're not basing that view on the very first episode, when Venus shows up at the end dressed like a pimp, shocking everybody at the conservative radio station. But in subsequent episodes, Venus is shown to be an average fellow, and often acts as the Richie Cunningham to Johnny Fever's Fonzie. As for Fever himself, yes the scripts demanded he be over-the-top (in one episode, a superhuman tolerance for alcohol causes his reaction time to IMPROVE the more he has to drink) but I thought the talented Mr. Hesseman played that character as realistically as he could, and made it all seem believable. Loni Anderson? I think she was a talent comic actress who was basically satirizing the blond bombshell and then ended up becoming the real thing (as arguably happened to two other talented comic actresses, Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield.) And WKRP did have a girl-next-door type, Bailey, played by Jan Smithers.

      Even if you didn't like the show, shady, I'm glad you dropped by. Oh, and you were on your sabbatical and probably missed it, but a couple of weeks ago I did do a post on another living person, Burt Reynolds. I didn't show him with Loni though, but with a certain 1970s talk show hostess who liked to cook on the air.

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    3. Dinah
      Is there anyone finer
      In the state of Carolina?

      Hi, Kirk!

      Thanks for taking time to compose a second reply, good buddy! It is very possible that I formed my opinion of WKRP from the pilot episode. In fact, I doubt that I watched more than one or two episodes overall. With such a limited sampling, it is likely that my impression of WKRP would have become more favorable as the characters grew and the series evolved over time. Here is another example. The pilot episode of Great News, the Tina Fey series about which I recently posted, did not strike me as particularly funny, but I kept watching and by season two it turned into one of the funniest shows on television. The Newsroom starring Jeff Daniels is also excellent, a dramatic series laced with humorous situations and dialogue. I also liked News Radio back in the day along with Murphy Brown and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

      Thanks again for chatting with me, good buddy Kirk!

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  2. I LOVED Dr Johnny Fever and "WKRP in Cincinnati" -- one of the best sitcoms ever! Happy Bday to Howard Hesseman!

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    1. One thumbs down for WKRP, and one thumbs up. Thank you for your enthusiastic response, Debra.

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  3. Replies
    1. I wish you did, Adam. He's a very good actor.

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  4. Johnny Fever is 78!?! Holy crap. Great character. Great actor. Always memorable. I remember seeing him on the Andy Griffith Show way back before I even knew who he was or who anyone was. He was simply good at what he did!

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    1. Mitchell, do you remember the 1971 movie Billy Jack, about a karate-chopping avenger who protects hippies? Hesseman is in that! At the time he was a member of the real life improv group The Committee, and they're shown performing guerilla theater in this small town in the American Southwest, much to the consternation of some of the rednecks who live there (Billy Jack might have had to protect them, too.)

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    2. I DO remember Billy Jack and Hesseman in it. But the memory is vague (it WAS 1971 and I'm sure I was stoned). I'll have to watch it again now. The Committee! Don Sturdy!

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  5. The Turkeys the Turkeys the Turkeys !

    cheers, parsnip

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    Replies
    1. "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!"

      Thanks for dropping by, parsnip.

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