"Thus open the gates of paradise."

In this issue

Gordon Jump

26 Sep 2003

Gordon Jump (Photo: AP)
Should I attempt to explain "WKRP In Cincinnati"? I take it for granted that everyone knows what I'm talking about, though now that I check my calendar, I notice that it's been 20 years since the show was aired, and I know a number of people who weren't even alive then, so perhaps just a quick word -- it was a TV show about the people who worked at a second-tier radio station in Cincinnati. There was a program director with good hair, an oily ad salesman, eccentric DJs, the station owner (Jump's character, Mr. Carlson), and Bailey Quarters -- I've never known what she did exactly -- something to do with station promotions and events -- played by Jan Smithers. Know that even now, the thought of her gives my heart a little flutter.

Now, I will be first in line when the call goes out for rarefied intellectuals to trash television sitcoms. As a rult, they're forgettable. They're not Shakespeare. They're barely worth bothering with. And yet, in the day when television came on 12 channels, when a single company would sponsor a show, and when I didn't control the remote, WKRP, for some reason, meant something to me. It was funny and well-written, and that last point is important to me. You don't talk about something you saw on TV 20 years ago if it wasn't written well. A carp as a mascot. Herb Tarlek's belts. Les Nessman's bandage. Jan Smithers.

Hum the theme song, and like that, it's 1980, and I'm high school, at a point in my life where the future was wide open, and the choices seemed limitless. That's how I feel when I think about The Mighty KRP. For 22 minutes, I'm young again. And for that I thank you.

(Jump died on Monday, 22 September 2003. He was 71.)