Give It To Me Straight, Doctor, I Can Take It: Howard Hesseman, 1940-2022

Yes, time passes, and yes, death is inevitable when people are in their 70s, 80s, 90s.  But that doesn’t make it suck any less.

Howard Hesseman is better known to Millennials as teacher Charlie Moore from “Head Of The Class”.  But to GenXers, he will be forever remembered as Dr. Johnny Fever of WKRP In Cincinnati.  I didn’t know until I read some of his obituaries, but Hesseman actually worked as a radio DJ in his younger years, and that was partly why he was chosen for the role.

I loved WKRP for more than the comedy.  Every character on the show was a decent person, each someone that different viewers could identify with.  The only character that didn’t age well was Herb Tarlek; being an “ex-gay” would be handled very differently today, or the the character would have been openly gay or LGBTQIA.  WKRP won a Humanitas Award, which as the Humanitas website describes, “Humanitas honors and empowers film and television writers whose work explores the human condition in a nuanced, meaningful way which brings the global community closer.”

WKRP was record on video instead of film as a cost cutting measure.  By using video, the show’s creators paid a lower royalty rate for using hit songs of the era.  This is why you heard song clips by the original artists.  Other shows of the era used recordings by cover bands.  When the show was released on DVD, it was reformatted to film and the songs replaced by covers.  Bleah.


Other videos worth watching:

When Johnny Fever’s reactions improved during a drinking reaction time test.

When Fever confronts Mrs. Carlson Sr. about how she runs the station.

Anyone who grew up watching that show remembers it fondly.


  1. flex says

    “As God is my witness, I thought turkey’s could fly.”

    According to my uncle, who worked as a DJ in AM Rock in the mid-west for 20+ years, the Thanksgiving turkey give-away episode was based on a true event. Not with live turkey’s though.

    The story goes that a radio station in Texas in the 1960’s decided on a promotional event of a turkey give-away for Thanksgiving of dropping frozen turkey’s out of a helicopter. Free turkeys for those who catch them.

    When the first fully-frozen, 20lb, turkey hit the ground after a fall of between 30 and 40 feet, and cracked the pavement, they should have stopped. It was clear to the people gathered below that catching one of these plummeting masses of frozen turkey could be fatal, so they panicked and fled. But the people in the helicopter couldn’t see what was happening very well, so they continued. About 20 turkey’s were dropped, landing on cars and crushing in their hoods and roofs, ricocheting into the streets, damaging the very pavement of the sidewalks as they hit. From what I understand, no one was injured. But it did tens of thousands of dollars of damage, and provided a story for WKRP.