MTM Cincinnati: WKRP Vs. The Real Cincinnati


20th Television

Ever since I moved to the Queen City, people keep asking me if the city is like WKRP in Cincinnati.  The answer?

Yes and no.

Is there a station in Cincinnati WKRP was based on?

Actually, no.  WKRP was based on a couple of radio stations producer Hugh Wilson worked for.  However…

Retired afternoon drive jock Gary Burbank once described AM powerhouse WLW as “the real WKRP.”  Back when Burbank started in Cincinnati as the morning jock, WLW still played music.  The station, however, remains colorful enough to be its own sitcom.  In fact, current afternoon host Eddie Fingers was once the city’s equivalent of Johnny Fever.

The tower in the opening credits is no longer there.  It was originally the television transmitter for WLWT, Channel 5, and torn down five years ago.  I know.  I watched them take it down from my office back then.

Les Nessman – Yes, the gentle, stuck-in-the-fifties, pinko-fearing nerd was odd, even by Cincinnati’s conservative standards.  Still, for several years, Cincinnati was a one-helicopter town when it came to traffic.  It now has none since the advent of ARTEMIS.  Still, when I first moved to the city in 1991, WLW still ran farm reports during the morning broadcasts.  I haven’t heard them since about 1994 or so, but everytime they ran them, I kept thinking of Les Nessman’s hog reports.

Where did most of Jennifer’s boyfriend’s live?  Probably in tony Indian Hill (home of Peter Frampton, actually) or ritzy Amberly Village.  Though it was never mentioned in the show, Jennifer’s apartment could easily have been in One Lytle Place, downtown’s first upscale condo building.

So what was the Flynn Building?  The establishing shots for the station itself were actually of the old Cincinnati Enquirer Building on Vine Street.  The building is still there, but the Enquirer moved to a shiny new building on Third Street.  As far as I know, Abe Lincoln never set foot in the building as Mr. Carlson said in the episode where they attempted to keep the building from being condemned.  In fact, I don’t think the building existed until the 1920’s.

Where did turkeys fly?

As God as my witness, I thought they would fly over the Tri-County Mall, north of Cincinnati in Springdale.  In the show, it was called the Tri-State Mall.  Was it actually the Tri-County Mall?  Given that the show was in its second or third season when this infamous episode aired, it’s quite likely the writers were trying to sprinkle in some local color.

And finally, what the hell were the lyrics to the end credits?

Um…  Well…

I think these are the words.

More My Town Monday posts hosted by Travis here.

8 thoughts on “MTM Cincinnati: WKRP Vs. The Real Cincinnati

  1. I sometimes watch these on some Chicago station. They don’t hold up as well as other shows from the era, which makes me sad. The flying turkeys was the exception.

  2. That is a phenomenal posting.

    I had forgotten the turkey drop. And the inexplicable lyrics.

    And, generally, what a great post. If Austria can have the Sound of Music tours Cincinnati should have WKRP tours. And you should lead them.

  3. Just hearing that closing theme was awesome! It’s the kind of thing where I never realized how little I understood it- I just went with it.

    This is a great way to explore Cincinnati, but here’s a local fact I just learned from Kim Harrison, an author who sets her urban fantasy books in the fictional “Hollows” of your lovely town. She said that, among other exceptional qualities she discovered in her research, Cinci is also number one in graverobbing. Rock on!

  4. Just adding my two nickels worth. (inflation rates).
    As I was born and raised in Cinci, I loved wkrp from the first airing.
    Just one question though, as I recall, there was a building shown several times that was claimed to be the “home” of wkrp. It was not the old Enquirer building. It was an older brown brick building I beleive somewhere around the Reading Rd area as you go up the hill from 471.
    It was only shown a few times and I never recall seeing the Enquirer building in the tv show.
    Watch real close and you’ll see me in the opening scenes of the first season. I’m driving the yellow cab.

  5. Richard, if that’s true, it’s likely the building that now houses Q102 and WGRR.

    Which is kinda cool for me. My wife used to work overnights on GRR and on the air with Brian Douglas under the name Lynn Austin.

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