Sunday evening I was writing and working on some projects in the hotel room while the TV was on and WGN was airing a “WKRP” marathon. I love WKRP and the only thing that has really kept me from purchasing the series on DVD is that I worry the “emotional feeling” of certain scenes may be different since the producers of the DVD were not able to secure usage rights to a lot of the original songs used in various episodes when it was broadcast.
Although I’m sure that part of my attraction to WKRP was the fact that at one point in my life I almost pursued a career as a radio DJ/personality (ultimately deciding that broadcast school was too expensive and the job assignments too unpredictable unless you were a top talent), the most fundamental reason was that the cast worked so well together on screen with the great material the writers gave them. It was an extremely well-presented and balanced ensemble show.
But the inevitable comparisons between the show’s two regular female leads has always been present in the form of the “Who would you choose” question; Jennifer or Bailey? Much like the Betty or Veronica, Wilma or Betty, Gwen or MJ, Ginger or MaryAnn, Jeannie or Jeannie and Samantha or Serena questions borne of other TV shows or comic books, the Jennifer or Bailey question sought to draw out a distinction among male (usually, though I’d be just as interested in hearing those of females) viewers over their preference.
There is no question that Loni Anderson as receptionist Jennifer Marlowe was a glamorous portrayal. She was the personification of the kind of woman most men, unless they were possessed of a large amount of self-confidence, would be afraid to approach and yet would desire. However, one tiny bit of attention from her would cause them to fall all over themselves to please her. One of my favorite lines of Jennifer’s was when she said to DJ Johnny Fever, “I never loan money to men. It’s makes them feel weak.” LOL, men always felt weak around Jennifer. But the refreshing thing about Jennifer is that she was not just another dumb blonde bimbo, despite her looks. She was smart, witty, always on top of situations in the station, and she had her boundaries. Nobody pushed her around or got the best of her.
Jan Smithers as the intern/gopher Bailey Quarters (who eventually rose to news broadcaster) was more like the girl next door. Her natural, fresh-faced beauty and her character’s wide-eyed innocence and naivete was balanced out by her determination to make it in the broadcasting business, especially in the back offices where it was a man’s world. Though the writers tried to mute that fresh-faced beauty with large, owlish horn-rimmed glasses and clothes that detracted from her shapely figure (and to offer a contrast to Jennifer Marlowe’s clothes which emphasized her hourglass figure), they were completely unsuccessful. Bailey was the best of both worlds. She was approachable in ways Jennifer could never be and the kind of person you could get a bottle of beer with at the local dive or take out for an eight-course meal at a five-star restaurant, and she would fit into either situation.
And I have to point out that one of things I always appreciated from the writers was that they did not try to make the two characters compete with each other. There were never any “catty” remarks or exchanges between Jennifer and Bailey, no obvious scenes in which they tried to elevate Jennifer’s glamour above Bailey’s “everygirl” qualities or vice versa. In fact, they were more like sisters who loved and supported each other. They never tried to get humor by having them be mean to each other.
Thus the “Jennifer or Bailey” question has always been difficult for me because, aside from obvious physical contrasts, they weren’t really all that different. They were both attractive, intelligent and had great personalities. Yes, Bailey was easier to approach, but Jennifer would let her walls down once she got to know you. Yes, Jennifer was more “savvy” about the world, but Bailey just had the innocence of youth to overcome with experience.
So, if I were not a happily married man and were forced to (reluctantly) choose between the two, my choice would have to be
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