Welcome to the 2019 Reel Infatuation Blogathon!
Baby, If You’ve Ever Wondered:
It still seems like yesterday that the idea for RI popped in my head. It was actually in December 2015, while in a hotel room getting ready for a holiday party, when it occurred to me that there was a gap in the classic film blogathon world. White Christmas (1954) was playing in the background. Dean Jagger, as The General, was onscreen. Until that moment, I’d long since forgotten my teenage crush on this unlikely character. Character. Boom. There it was: A blogathon focused on specific fictional characters, rather than their dreamy performers. The following day, I recruited Ruth (best decision ever!). It was a go!
And here we are, in 2019.
The Reel Infatuation Blogathon is in its fourth edition. Stronger than ever, thanks to you. Yay you!
Speaking of thanks, I owe my co-hostess with the mostest, Ruth of Silver Screenings, a shout-out for being the best. This year’s banners are remarkable, aren’t they?
A WEE NOTE:
Andy Travis is the sixth character crush I’ve written about, across the span of four RI blogathons. You can read up on the others here:
Aside from the literary Archie Goodwin (of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series), all of these characters have one major thing in common: the actors who portrayed them are all dead.
- ROSS MARTIN (1981)
- WILLIAM TALMAN (1968)
- DARREN MCGAVIN (2006)
- DEAN JAGGER (1991)
Gary Sandy is very much alive, making this my first #charactercrush subject whose actor is still with us. That’s a bit awkward, no? (If you’re reading this, Mr. Sandy: Hey! Let’s feel awkward together. Whether or not that halves or doubles the cringe factor, depends on your viewpoint…) Since awkwardness is a currency I’m familiar with (obviously), and writing about living people is an extremely foreign concept, it’s easy to see which way the wind is starting to blow here…Or, to put it in WKRP terms: You couldn’t take early-series Bailey out of this gal if you tried.
I also wouldn’t let you, but that is a conversation for another essay.
Moving on to why we’re here: Andy Travis.
BUT BABY THINK OF ME ONCE IN AWHILE:
With more than a century under its belt, modern pop culture is full of fictional bosses who cover the spectrum from bad to absurd to good. See: Dabney Coleman as Franklin Hart, Jr. in 9 to 5 (1980), Ford Sterling as a chief of police in various silent Keystone productions, and Gary Sandy as Andy Travis on WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-1982). Surrounded by domineering, colorful figures like the former two, it can be hard for a decent authority figure to gain attention or respect. In a universe where most bosses are either hell-hounds or Dada-inspired clowns, there is scant room for down-to-earth mentors to ply their trade(s) and make a positive difference in the lives of their employees. Among the few who have met and surpassed the challenge is a laid-back son of Santa Fe, New Mexico: radio program director Andy Travis.
For the uninitiated, WKRP in Cincinnati is a workplace comedy which follows the antics of the employees of a second-tier radio station set, of course, in the title city. . In the first episode, new program director Andy Travis rolls into town. Although young, he is a veteran at turning around failing stations. He brings in new on-air talent, changes the format to rock and roll, and begins the gargantuan task of pushing WKRP up the ratings ladder. In management, someone has to know what they’re doing. At WKRP, that person is Andy. Naturally, this being a sitcom, his ability, ego, and professionalism are about to be challenged and vexed at almost every turn in a host of unexpected, laugh-inducing ways.
Four seasons follow.
HOW TO BE A FINE BOSS (AND HUMAN BEING) ANDY TRAVIS-STYLE:
- Kindness matters. Pass it on.
- Be patient.
- Everyone is the new kid on the block at some point, even you. Fitting in can take time.
- Know that fair play is for everyone.
- Don’t micromanage. Believe in your employees, even if they don’t believe in themselves. Trust them to do their jobs.
- If you think someone is capable of taking on more or different work, give them the chance to shine. Confidence is contagious.
- Sometimes being the person in charge means that you have to make tough decisions.
- Sometimes being the person in charge means that you have to be brave, physically or mentally.
- Have a sense of humor, and let it shine.
- Know your job. Do your job. Never be your job. That last one can be hard, especially if you move from town to town and up and down the dial, but is worth working through.
- Friendship is as important as success. Know when to be a boss, know when to be a friend. Always be nice.
- Take vacation, even if it’s just a quick getaway to a nearby city. (Columbus likes you, too, Andy.) Me-time is healthy.
- If you know you are right about a decision, stay the course.
- A relaxed attitude carries you a long way.
- Be open-minded.
- Ambition + a grounded perspective is a winning combination.
- Develop a distinctive personal style.
- If your hair is your crowning glory, let it shine.
- Teamwork is dreamwork. Things are easier if you all band together.
- People are weird. Just go with it. Life, and bosshood, is easier that way.
- You can be professional and in charge without being a soulless automaton.
- Be supportive.
If you do these things, you just might end up being the kind of person people want to work for and/or befriend.
This is where things get murky, y’all. Although Reel Infatuation emphasizes the character over the actor, the former obviously could not exist without the latter. Cue: Gary Sandy.
As embodied by the charmingly skillful Gary Sandy, Andy Travis is a warm, human, funny, likable, guy-next-door, albeit one with better-than-average hair and a mania for exceedingly tight jeans and shirts. (File under: if you’ve got it, flaunt it.) Unlike his workmates, Andy rarely gets into weird situations of his own making. When your character is the one extricating others from plot point shenanigans, the spotlight doesn’t always shine in quite as direct a way. Fortunately for viewers of WKRP in Cincinnati, Gary Sandy is just really damn talented at reacting to what is happening around his character. A good thing, that, as Andy is often chilling in the background while his co-workers are doing odd shit in front of him. By reacting, I don’t mean old school, theatrical scenery-chewing, but, rather, the natural expressions of a person engaged in living. This quiet finesse grounds his scenes in both the moment and reality.
Functioning as the warm, moral center of a workplace (and straight man on a sitcom) is obviously an easier-said-than-done, arduous task. It’s a position often decried as weak, unimportant, or forgettable. Uh-huh. Businesses and shows can’t survive without the ideal people in those roles. Andy Travis is the just-right grease that keeps the station running, as sure as Gary Sandy is the center of the television show WKRP in Cincinnati. You can’t have one without the other, and why would you want to?
Leading man? Check.
Resident hunk? Double-check.
BOSS RATING (TELEVISION DIVISION): A+++
WKRP IN CINCINNATI (1978-1982):
- CREATED BY: HUGH WILSON
- CAST: GARY SANDY (Andy Travis: Program Director), GORDON JUMP (Arthur “The Big Guy” Carlson: General Manager), LONI ANDERSON (Jennifer Marlowe: Receptionist), HOWARD HESSEMAN (Dr. Johnny Fever: Disc Jockey), RICHARD SANDERS (Les Nessman: News Director), FRANK BONNER (Herb Tarlek: Sales Manager), TIM REID (Venus Flytrap: Disc Jockey), JAN SMITHERS (Bailey Quarters: News, etc.), CAROL BRUCE (Lillian “Mama” Carlson: Station Owner)
- EPISODE COUNT: 90
- SEASONS: 4
- FIRST EPISODE: PILOT PART 1, 18 SEPTEMBER 1978
- LAST EPISODE: UP AND DOWN THE DIAL, 21 APRIL 1982
Gary Sandy was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio (as was older WKRP castmate Gordon Jump), and attended college in nearby Wilmington.
1930s movie star Sylvia Sidney played Lillian Carlson in the pilot only.
The show was nominated for ten Emmy awards, winning one for videotape editor Andy Ackerman.
*Sorry for the horrible quality screenshots. Sometimes tech doesn’t cooperate, and time is finite.