display | more...

Les: All right, Travis, what about the really important stuff?
Andy: You mean the hog reports.
Les: Yes, of course.

Les Nessman was the news director character on WKRP. He was played by actor Richard Sanders. Les was a seemingly mild-mannered, bespectacled, bow-tie wearing newscaster who had a highly repressed firebrand streak to him.

For many, Les is probably the patron saint of cubicle workers who long for a real office. There was an running joke on the show that Les felt his position as news director warranted an office. News directors at, you know, CBS got offices. However with the exception of station owner Arthur Carlson and station manager Andy Travis no one else got an office. One day, in protest, Les put masking tape around his desk where he believed the walls and door should be. If a character wanted to talk to Les he had to step into his office. If the character attempted to talk to him on the other side of the tape line, Les would pretend he not only couldn’t hear the person but Les acted unaware the person was even trying to talk to him. To enter Les’ office, one had to even pretend to open an invisible door. While quirky at first, most of the other characters soon came to respect Les’ walls. In one episode, Les started dating a groupie who began to take over his life. At some point she started tearing up Les’ tape walls and proclaimed them silly, over the loud protest of Les’ coworkers. “We respect Les’ walls.”

Aside from the wall gag, the WKRP writers had a large number of other running jokes involving Les, many of which were used in a very subtle fashion. Many times a scene would be punctuated by walking into the on-air booth while Les was just completing an on-air news commentary that made you wish you heard the full commentary. One classic ended “And we could take out Iraq too claiming it was a typographical error.”

Another running joke was Les’ news sounder which introduced his daily news broadcast. With a booming triumphal backing march, reminiscent of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Procession Of The Nobles”, the sounder’s voice over would inform the listener that a crack team of news reporters was scouring the earth to bring WKRP’s listeners the most important news of the day.

"LONDON! MADRID! BANGKOK! MOSCOW! CINCINNATI! From the four corners of the world, from the news capitals at home and abroad, the day's headlines brought into focus. The issues and events that shape our times. WKRP, information bureau of the Ohio Valley, presents LES NESSMAN AND THE NEWS!" 1

Les would then, invariably, open with the hog report. Les’ efforts at promoting pertinent porcine particulars2 won Les many a “Silver Sow” award. In much the same way the station’s music was regularly sponsored by Red Wigglers (the Cadillac of worms beep beep) Les’ news break was frequently sponsored by Porker's Paradise Sweetmeat Treats (“purveyors of pork-like products to the tri-counties”). The Silver Sow was also part of another running joke where Les would win (and covet) weird podunk news awards. In addition to the Silver Sow Les won five yearly Buckeye News Hawk Awards and once he captured the Silver Soy Bean Award (which is given by the Plowing Patriots of Omaha, Nebraska).
Les: Monster lizard ravages east coast! Mayors in five New England cities have issued emergency requests for federal disaster relief as a result of a giant lizard that descended on the east coast last night! Officials say that this lizard, the worst since '78, has devastated transportation, disrupted communication, and left many hundreds homeless!
Johnny: Monster lizard?
Les: The wire service never lies!
Johnny: Les, the "B" is out on the printer! It's monster blizzard!

At some point, the actor Richard Sanders had a small cut on his face and showed up for taping with a band-aid. Instead of make up removing the band-aid, they decided it was very much in character. That started yet another subtle joke about Les. Much like how some editorial cartoonists hide a little cartoon character in every drawing (like a small cat), every episode Les would have a band-aid on him. For viewers who caught on, the game was to spot the band-aid. The show never explained why Les was always injuring himself facially, although in one episode it was revealed Les owned a very vicious dog and this was possibly a hint as to the origin of many of his facial abrasions.

Les’ main nemesis was a radio station called WPIG. Not only did the station mock the good name of pigs, but they had a traffic helicopter. This shall not stand! Les felt his newscast would gain extra cred if he too had a traffic copter (“Mr Carlson, what we've got here is a helicopter gap”). Much like his imaginary walls, Les would stage traffic copter reports. In a fake voice, and rhythmically beating his chest to mimic the whirling blades of a chopper, he would give a traffic report.

Les frequently entertained small conspiracy theories. Les was convinced that the “dungarees” (Les’ term for people who wear blue jeans) were out to control the world. Les believed that the rutabaga was going to disappear from the American diet within a century through a combination of disinterest, apathy, and open contempt.
____________

1Les usually ended his news report with “good day, and may the good news be yours”.

2Johnny: Les, correct me if I'm wrong, but have you developed a recent fondness for alliteration? | Les: Well, I'm trying to find a style, Johnny. All good newsmen nowadays have to have a style in order to stand out from the crowd.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.