Debuting September 18, 1978 on CBS, WKRP in Cincinnati was a weekly, half-hour "ensemble" sitcom largely set in the offices of a Major-Market radio station. Languishing at the bottom of the ratings chart with its moribund "beautiful music" format, WKRP was given a major shot in the arm with the arrival of ambitious new program director Andy Travis (Gary Sandy), who tossed out all the old Lawrence Welk records and installed an ultrahip Top-40 rock format. As WKRP's ratings rose slowly but steadily, Andy and the other staffers did their best to keep the momentum flowing despite an unprepossessing lineup of sponsors (ranging from nursing homes to funeral parlors) and the formidable opposition of WKRP's wealthy, imperious owner, Mrs. Lillian Carlson (played by Sylvia Sidney in the pilot episode, and thereafter by Carol Bruce). The other regulars included station manager Arthur "The Big Guy" Carlson (Gordon Jump), a well-meaning but ineffectual oaf who kept his job only because he was the owner's son; WKRP's sales manager Herb Tarlek (Frank Bonner), whose boorish behavior was rivaled only by his garish wardrobe; prissy, uptight and incredibly naïve newscaster Les Nessman (Richard Sanders), whose mission in life was to win the coveted Buckeye Newshawk Award; Dr. Johnny Fever, aka Johnny Caravella (Howard Hesseman), the station's mercurial, all-but-burned-out morning DJ; Venus Flytrap, aka Gordon Sims (Tim Reid), the funky, low-key nighttime platter-spinner; and Ms. Bailey Quarters (Jan Smithers, Andy's ebullient young assistant and traffic-and-billing expert, a classic example of "still waters run deep." Ultimately emerging as the true star of the series was Loni Anderson as WKRP's blonde, curvaceous receptionist Jennifer Marlowe, who though she refused to type or take dictation was the station's most efficient and level-headed employee, forever running interference for her bosses and coming up with last-minute solutions to otherwise insoluable problems (appropriately, Jennifer was the station's highest-paid staffer). One of the series' many running gags found Jennifer forever fending off the advances of the libidinous (and very married) Herb Tarlek, while simultaneously dating a never-ending parade of elderly millionaires. Created by Hugh Wilson, who drew extensively from his own professional experiences at various local radio stations (notably in the classic first-season episode "Turkeys Away"), WKRP in Cincinnati almost instantly built up a loyal critical and fan following, though thanks to CBS's haphazard scheduling practices it never truly clicked in the ratings. Nevertheless, the series lasted four seasons, ending its network run on September 20, 1982, and later yielding a moderately successful first-run syndicated spinoff (with a largely different cast), The New WKRP in Cincinnati (1991-1993). The catchy opening-theme music for the original WKRP was written by Tom Wells and Hugh Wilson, and performed by Steve Carlisle, while the closing-credits rock tune was composed and peformed by Jim Ellis.
Introduced with a five-week trial run beginning on April 2, 1978, and ultimately lasting 14 seasons and 357 hour-long episodes, the CBS series Dallas was not only the most successful prime-time serial of all time, but also one of the few American programs of any kind to achieve "hit" status virtually all over the world. Set (where else?) in Texas -- specifically, Braddock County -- the series' million-and-one intrigues were largely motivated by the feud between two families, the oil-rich Ewings and the cash-poor but ruthlessly ambitious Barnes clan. Living in their luxurious mansion, Southfork, the Ewings included patriarch Jock Ewing (Jim Davis); his wife, Eleanor (aka "Miss Ellie," played by Barbara Bel Geddes for most of the run, and by Donna Reed during the 1984-1985 season); and their adult sons, J.R. (Larry Hagman), Gary (played first by David Ackroyd, then by Ted Shackelford), and Bobby (Patrick Duffy). J.R. was originally married to Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), but toward the end of the series divorced her when he was forced into a shotgun wedding with Arkansas hillbilly Cally Harper (Cathy Podewell). J.R. and Sue Ellen had one son, John Ross Ewing III, played by Tyler Banks until 1983, and thereafter by Omri Katz. Bobby's first wife was Pamela Barnes (Victoria Principal), the daughter of Jock Ewing's former partner and later bitter rival Willard "Digger" Barnes (David Wayne, then Keenan Wynn). Though Pam could not conceive, she and Bobby adopted Christopher (Joshua Harris), the illegitimate son of Sue Ellen Ewing's younger sister Kristin (Mary Crosby). After Pam and Bobby were divorced and Pam was killed in a car accident, Bobby went on to marry April Stevens (Sheree J. Wilson), the ex-wife of his cousin Jack Ewing (Dack Rambo). And after Jock Ewing perished in a plane crash in South America (Jim Davis died in the spring of 1981, but his character wasn't entirely written out of the show until the following year), Miss Ellie became the wife of Texas millionaire Clayton Farlow (Howard Keel). Also living in Southfork was the promiscuous Lucy Ewing (Charlene Tilton), daughter of the seldom-seen Gary Ewing (whose character was elevated to leading-man status on the Dallas spin-off Knots Landing); Lucy would briefly become the wife of Mitch Cooper (Leigh J. McCloskey), a poor-but-proud medical student. The Ewing ranch was managed by Ray Krebbs (Steve Kanaly), who turned out to be Jock Ewing's bastard son. The Barnes household included the aforementioned Digger -- who had carried a grudge against Jock Ewing ever since Jock had cheated him out of his share of a valuable oil strike, and stole his sweetheart to boot -- and Pamela, as well as Pamela's attorney brother, Cliff (Ken Kercheval), who in a variety of political and executive positions waged a never-ending battle against J.R. Ewing, the sneakiest and most unscrupulous member of the Ewing family (and also the most popular with the series' fans). Cliff was determined to destroy J.R.'s oil empire, or throw him in jail, or both; as a result, he found himself the target of many of J.R.'s nastiest and most underhanded schemes. At the same time, J.R. and his comparatively honest brother, Bobby, were entangled in a seemingly endless power play, with control of Ewing Oil as the big prize. Just as ruthless in dealing with family members with business rivals, J.R. stopped at nothing to crush his foes and fatten his bank account -- all the while cheating shamelessly on Sue Ellen, who in turn took to philandering herself, and became an alcoholic in the bargain. Ultimately, J.R. would be hoist on his own petard, largely through the machinations of his illegitimate son, James Beaumont (Sasha Mitchell), who was every bit as reprehensible (though not quite as charismatic) as his dad. Even if it was all but impossible to keep track of the scores of principal characters the myriad of plotlines, and the innumerable sexual and corporate intrigues on Dallas, the series would have carved a comfortable niche in pop-culture history purely on the strength of its third-season finale, in which J.R. was shot down in his office by an unknown assailant. By the time the question of "who shot J.R?" was answered five episodes into season four, speculation over the identity of the would-be killer had captured the collection imagination of millions upon millions of fans throughout the world -- and the episode that finally solved the mystery, originally telecast November 21, 1980, ended up as the second most-watched program in the history of television. Less salutary but no less famous was the series' notorious "lost season" of 1984-1985, in which Pam Ewing mourned the death of her ex-husband Bobby, who had died at the end of the previous season (actually, Patrick Duffy had decided to leave the series). With viewers tuning out in droves, the decision was made to bring Bobby back to life at the beginning of the 1985-1986 season -- and to explain away the entire 1984-1985 season as Pamela's bad dream! This ludicrous turn of events proved to be the beginning of the end for Dallas, which never regained its former level of popularity and viewership. Even so, the series managed to stay on the air for five more years, signing off with its surrealistic final episode -- a bizarro version of It's a Wonderful Life -- on May 3, 1991. During the series' CBS run, the network offered the feature-length prequel Dallas: The Early Years on March 23, 1986. After the series had run its course, a pair of TV-movie "updates" were produced: Dallas: J.R. Returns (telecast November 15, 1996) and Dallas: War of the Ewings (April 24, 1998).
The pilot for the long-running CBS sitcom The Andy Griffith Show was seen on February 15, 1960, as an episode of The Danny Thomas Show, "Danny Meets Andy Griffith." As originally conceived, Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) was not only the sheriff of the sleepy North Carolina town of Mayberry, but he was also the mayor, justice of the peace, and newspaper editor. Child actor Ronny Howard (who, as Ron Howard, would in adulthood enjoy a spectacularly successful career as a film director) was seen in the pilot as the widowed Andy's son Opie, but Frances Bavier played an entirely different role than she would in the actual series, while Frank Cady rather than Hal Smith was cast as town drunk Otis Campbell. While there would be changes in concept and casting, the laid-back character of Andy Taylor "clicked" with TV audiences, ensuring that The Andy Griffith Show would join the Monday night CBS lineup come October 3, 1960. Introduced as regulars during season one were of course Andy Griffith, Ronny Howard, and Frances Bavier (now as Aunt Bee, housekeeper for Andy and Opie Taylor), with the significant and salutary addition of Don Knotts as Andy's tightly wound deputy Barney Fife. The rapport between Andy and Barney contributed mightily to the series' success during its shakedown season, with nominal leading character Andy often voluntarily taking a back seat to Barney's overzealous antics. Subsequent additions to the cast included Jim Nabors as bucolic gas station attendant Gomer Pyle (later spun off into his own series, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.); George Lindsey as Gomer's cousin, Goober Pyle; Howard McNear as dithery barber Floyd Lawson; and Hal Smith as the aforementioned Otis Campbell. Taking advantage of Andy Taylor's widower status, the series' writers tried to pair the character off with a number of eligible young ladies, beginning in the first season with Elinor Donahue as drugstore sales clerk Ellie Walker. But only when Aneta Corsaut joined the cast as Opie's schoolteacher Helen Crump did Andy find the "right" girl. Indeed, Andy and Helen would become engaged during the series' final season. Conversely, Barney Fife had but one steady girlfriend, Thelma Lou, played by Betty Lynn. Don Knotts left the series at the outset of its sixth season (the show switched from black-and-white to color at the same time); it was explained that Barney had accepted a deputy position in Raleigh, permitting Knotts to make a handful of memorable return guest appearances. Barney was briefly replaced by Deputy Warren Ferguson, played by Jack Burns; later on, Goober Pyle became Andy's unofficial deputy. The post-Don Knotts episodes brought forth several other new recurring characters: Jack Dodson as town clerk Howard Sprague, Paul Hartman as handyman Emmet Clark, and Hope Summers as Aunt Bee's best friend, Clara. During the Emmy-winning series' eighth season, Andy Griffith decided to leave the show. At this point, Ken Berry was added to the cast as widowed farmer and later town councilman Sam Jones, with Buddy Foster as Sam's son Mike and Arlene Golonka as Sam's girlfriend, Millie Hutchins. After the final telecast of The Andy Griffith Show on September 16, 1968, the series continued for three additional seasons under the title Mayberry RFD, with Ken Berry taking over as star and with most of the familiar Andy Griffith Show supporting characters still in attendance. One of the most consistently popular sitcoms of all time, The Andy Griffith Show lasted 249 half-hour episodes, and also spawned the high-rated 1986 TV movie Return to Mayberry.
One of TV's most durable and wholesome sitcoms is about widower Steve Douglas and his boys, who shared a house with their maternal grandfather, and later, their crotchety uncle. The series was originally scheduled to be a vehicle for the Lennon Sisters of 'Lawrence Welk Show' fame. Characters came and went, but this was an endearing, highly rated series throughout its 1960-72 run; when it moved from ABC to CBS in 1965, Mike, the eldest, was written out, and replaced by adopted son Ernie.
GHOSTS is a single-camera comedy about Samantha and Jay, a cheerful freelance journalist and up-and-coming chef from the city, respectively, who throw both caution and money to the wind when they decide to convert a huge rundown country estate they inherited into a bed & breakfast.