An Appreciation – Sparky Anderson as Himself on WKRP in Cincinnati

Sparky Anderson / WKRP in Cincinnati (Screen: MTM Enterprises)
Sparky Anderson / WKRP in Cincinnati (Screen: MTM Enterprises)

WKRP in Cincinnati Season 2 Episode 12: “Sparky” —Former Reds manager Sparky Anderson gets a warm welcome back to Cincinnati from everyone at WKRP (except Les Nessman)
Here’s a find for all you baseball-loving classic TV fans – “Sparky”, an aptly titled second season episode of WKRP in Cincinnati. Bumbling, affable station head Arthur Carlson finally dreams up a great programming idea, a sports talk show hosted by the Cincinnati Reds’ beloved former manager, Sparky Anderson. In real life, Anderson was fired by the Reds the year prior (despite having won two World Series during his nine season tenure) and had moved on to the Detroit Tigers. In need of a postseason gig, Sparky agrees, much to the chagrin of nebbish news/sports/weather/farm report guy, Les Nessman.

Everyone else at the station is in awe of Anderson. Sleazy, leisure suit clad ad salesman Herb Tarlek is stunned silent when Sparky greets him by name (only after the sports legend is warned by Dr. Johnny Fever, “Herb is a jackass.”) Meanwhile, an initially bashful Venus Flytrap is soon waxing nostalgic to his hero about a failed minor league career. And even resident sexpot Jennifer Marlowe is, for once, as enthralled with the guest star as he is with her. And so are we. With that snow white mane, Gene Kelly grin, and a natty plaid suit that makes everyone else look like a Tarlek in comparison, Sparky exudes enough personality to guarantee a regular guest spot. Too bad he completely tanks behind the mic, forcing Carlson to fire the man who should never have been thrown out of Cincinnati in the first place.

Underrated as it is in the annals of TV history, WKRP remains a great show because of its finely tuned characters and completely authentic sense of time and place. Leave it to them to pay proper tribute to an under appreciated hometown hero like Anderson, who would later win another World Series for Detroit. If you love cheering the underdog, do yourself a favor and get to know the staff at WKRP in Cincinnati on Hulu Plus.

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Tara Rose
About Tara Rose 106 Articles
Since 2009, Tara has been writing snarky essays about pop culture, motherhood and her various neuroses at Rare Oats. She spends most of her other time selling cheese, raising a small human and goofing off with her husband Dan. E-mail: tara@whatelseison.tv
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  • Aaron Mucciolo

    I’m guessing this was better than the episode of ‘Cosby’ with Joe Torre (and I think David Cone) as himself. Not that Joe didn’t have some convincing line deliveries, but never has a 90s-onward show had such a “Oh look! A beloved local icon is guest starring!” sort of moment.

  • Tara Rose

    Oh, wow! Didn’t know about that. While Mr. Torre is quite lovable in his own way, he doesn’t exactly scream “show business!”