Johnny Caravella [played by Howard Hesseman] [about changing the format of the station]: “Ah, listen, you, you do mean now?”
Andy Travis [played by Gary Sandy] [as he leaves the control booth]: “Yes. And... you can say ‘booger’ if you want to.”
Johnny [gleefully flinging an old record off a turntable]: “Well, it's good-bye to the elevator music!”
[Johnny laughs as he carefully places a different record on the turntable]
Johnny [with a sinister grin slowly emerging on his face]: “Do it!”
Johnny [making the needles scratching the record sound effect, as he begins to speak on the air excitedly]: “All right, Cincinnati, it is time for this town to get down! Now, you got Johnny...Dr. Johnny Fever, and I am burnin' up in here! Whoo! Whoo! We all in critical condition, babies, but you can tell me where it hurts, because I got the healing prescription here from the big 'KRP musical medicine cabinet. Now I am talking about your 50,000-watt intensive care unit, babies! So just sit right down, relax, open your ears real wide and say, ‘Give it to me straight, Doctor, I can take it!’"
[Johnny starts Ted Nugent's "Queen of the Forest" on the record, flails his arms in the air in excitement, then sits in his chair grabbing the mic.]
Johnny [putting on his sunglasses]: “I almost forgot, fellow babies: ‘booger!’"— WKRP in Cincinnati, Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot: Part 1,” original air date Sept. 18, 1978, teleplay by Hugh Wilson, directed by Jay Sandrich
The four-year run of the fine sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati covered exactly my time as an undergrad. No matter how busy I got, I always tried to make room in my schedule for the show.
Although the kind of workplace ensemble comedy that became so common in the decade after the premiere of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, WKRP seemed to reach its zany heights with its most extreme character, Dr. Johnny Fever. I felt particularly sad, then, when I read that the man who brought him to life, Howard Hesseman, had passed away this weekend.
Hesseman would have similar moderately long stints over the following decade—in the final season of One Day at a Time, as Ann Romano’s second husband, and Head of the Class, as a teacher of exceptional students. But he made his biggest impact with WKRP, perhaps because, back in the day, he was familiar with Johnny’s lifestyle.
None of that is meant to deny Hesseman’s very real talent as a versatile character actor, demonstrated in over 50 years of TV credits (starting with a distinct contrast with Dr. Johnny: a hot dog vendor in an auto show, in the final season of The Andy Griffith Show.)
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