File:WKRP Bailey and Andy.jpg

Bailey Quarters (Jan Smithers) and Andy Travis (Gary Sandy)

Bailey Quarters is a character on the television sitcom, WKRP in Cincinnati. She was played by actress Jan Smithers, and was based on creator Hugh Wilson's wife.[1]

WKRP roles[]

Bailey originally came from Chicago[1] with a degree in journalism[2] from The Ohio State University, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude.[3] Her ambition is eventually to be a broadcasting executive, but though intelligent and talented, she was held back early on by her extreme shyness and fear of speaking up. In the earliest episodes, station manager Arthur Carlson could not even remember who she was or whether "Bailey" was a man or a woman.

She is originally in charge of just the billing and station traffic, but that changes when Andy Travis takes over as the program director of WKRP. One of his first acts is to give Bailey more duties, including being an on-air news reporter, over the strenuous objections of sexist sales manager Herb Tarlek and news director Les Nessman, who feels threatened. In the episode "Dear Liar," a take-off on the Janet Cooke scandal, Bailey writes a news story that is partly fictional, which could have cost the station its broadcast license, though she decides against using it. It only becomes an issue when Les jealously plagiarizes it on the air. Eventually the professional relationship between Les and Bailey becomes less strained, with Les allowing her more freedom and input on the station's news reporting. During the episode "In Concert", when reporting on a tragedy at a concert (which Bailey had attended and Les didn't), Les brings a depressed Bailey's spirits up by telling her "we're newsmen...well, newspersons" and telling her he needs her help to cover the story responsibly.[1]

As the series goes on, Bailey becomes more assertive and more able to speak up for herself. She also undergoes subtle changes in her hairstyle and appears in eyeglasses less and less. She also becomes better at standing up to her nemesis Herb; in one episode, she throws lighted matches at Herb's polyester suit, threatening to set it on fire. By the second season, she has evolved into a serious and dependable career-minded woman who brings "a measure of sanity" to the station. [4]

She also becomes increasingly associated with environmentalism and other activist causes. One episode begins with her circulating a petition against nuclear power; in another episode, she mentions that she spent the weekend campaigning for the Equal Rights Amendment. In the episode "Circumstantial Evidence," while testifying in court, she starts complaining to the judge about the plight of baby seals and dolphins. Some of these character traits came from the actress who played Bailey, Jan Smithers, who was herself involved with animal-rights and clean-energy causes; as with many of the WKRP characters, elements of the actor were incorporated into the character, giving the character more depth as the show went on.

Bailey's character was overshadowed by that of Jennifer Marlowe (played by Loni Anderson), the blonde bombshell of the station. The relationship between Jennifer and Bailey has often been likened to that between Ginger and Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island.

Personal life[]

Bailey has an on-again, off-again romance with Dr. Johnny Fever. In the early episodes, it is suggested that Bailey looks up to Johnny as her mentor in the world of broadcasting, but that she also has a crush on him, which leads her to ask him out on a date in the second-season opener, "For Love Or Money." However, their relationship never seems to go farther than the occasional date. (It is implied at the end of "For Love or Money" and "Mike Fright" that they have had at least casual sexual relations, though in both cases, it could be discounted as hyperbole.) In season 4's "Rumors," when Johnny stays at Bailey's place for a few days, Bailey is infuriated by the gossip that they are sleeping together, disappointing Johnny, who was hoping that the rumors would come true. [1]

Unlike her friend Jennifer, who mostly dates wealthy older men, Bailey seems to have a different taste in men, dating not only Johnny, but (in the episode "In Concert") a manic-depressive divinity student with a serious drinking problem. In the episode "The Americanization of Ivan", Bailey is the focus of a Russian defector's attentions; although he wishes her help in defecting to the U.S., the Russian is also smitten with her good looks. In the episode "Jennifer Falls in Love", Bailey enters a nearly daydream-like state when merely listening to Jennifer's description of her new blond repairman boyfriend named Steel, and is almost incapable of coherent conversation when she finally meets him.

There were slight hints of mutual attraction between Bailey and Andy Travis at different times in the show, as well; Andy would at times ask Bailey to accompany him to radio industry functions (though, usually after his attempts to get other dates had failed), and in the episode "Dear Liar", while delivering a reprimand to Bailey regarding the fake news story, Andy concludes by saying should she ever pull a stunt like that again, she would be "the best-looking woman on the unemployment line". Bailey's response is purely non-verbal, but her appreciation of the compliment is quite plain.

Her occasional references to her family suggest that she does not get along well with her parents, which may explain why she left Chicago. In one episode, she mentions that a visit home consists of relatives asking her if she's "Involved? Engaged? Pregnant?" In another episode, she attempts to describe her relationship with her father, but is left speechless with anger. In a third episode, Mr. Carlson mentions that "I talked to Bailey's father and he said I could shoot her."

Bailey's best friend at the station is Jennifer, who she often discusses relationship matters with (such as obliquely referring to her crush on Johnny, or giving Jennifer advice on how to deal with Herb). She also has a strong friendship with Venus Flytrap (WKRP in Cincinnati).


Jan Smithers was one of the few WKRP cast members who was the first choice for the role she played (Gordon Jump being the other one).[1] Creator Hugh Wilson said that despite Smithers' lack of experience (she had never done a situation comedy before), she was perfect for the character of Bailey as he had conceived her: "Other actresses read better for the part," Wilson recalled, "but they were playing shy. Jan was shy."[1]

Cultural references and gender roles[]

Bailey Quarters is cited as an example of how 1970s' sitcoms reflected changing views of gender and women's roles in society and the workplace.[5] One aspect of this is the expectation that women would be treated as people, not as women, a concept that gained rapid acceptance because it conformed to traditional American beliefs about fairness and mobility. The character of Bailey joined WKRP with a journalism degree and advanced from creating promotions to writing news copy to news broadcasting. This progression confirmed that hard work and talent would be rewarded, reinforced values of equality and diversity, and provided female viewers with reassurance of seeing a friendly, supportive workplace, and a character that struggled to be assertive and to overcome shyness, succeeding in gaining the respect of her coworkers.[6]

Bailey Quarters is contrasted not only with the other principal female character, receptionist Jennifer Marlowe, but also with the male characters. Jennifer and Bailey offer, in a blonde-brunette dyad typical of sitcoms of the era, contrasting portrayals of female sexuality from opposite ends of the spectrum.[7] Bailey demonstrated that a woman could be smart and nerdy, but also beautiful.[8] In contrast to Jennifer, Bailey seeks recognition in a "man's" field of journalism.[9] Insecure, shy and chauvinistic newsman Les learns to accept assistance in his job from a woman.[10]

Bailey Quarters was one of the first media examples of the popular naming convention of use of a surname as a first name.[11]

Bailey is one of many television characters referenced in Canadian poet David McGimpsey's book, Sitcom.[12]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 "Kassel, Michael B., ''America's Favorite Radio Station: WKRP in Cincinnati'' Popular Press (1993) ISBN 0879725842, 9780879725846". 2003-06-26. Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  2. "Dalton, Mary M. and Linder, Laur R., ''The Sitcom Reader: America Viewed and Skewed'', SUNY Press (2005) ISBN 0791465691, 9780791465691 |pp 8,20". Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  3. "Straight from the Heart", WKRP in Cincinnati , Season 4 Episode 5 (November 4, 1981)
  4. ""WKRP returns for second season", ''Bulletin-Journal''(Cape Girarardau, MO) (August 30, 1979) p 4". 1979-08-30. Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  5. "Spangler, Lynn C.' ''Television Women from Lucy to Friends: Fifty Years of Sitcoms and Feminism'' Praeger, 2003 ISBN 0313287813, 9780313287817 p.140". 2008-05-20. Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  6. "Dalton, Mary M. and Linder, Laura R., ''The Sitcom Reader: America Viewed and Skewed'', SUNY Press, (2005)ISBN 0791465691, 9780791465691 pp. 220-221". Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  7. "Pagano, Mary E. "Sexual revolution, sexual exploitation and sexual difference: The 'jiggly' terrain of 1970's TV". ''Jump Cut'' Vol 50, Spring 2008". 1999-02-22. Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  8. "Ariano, Tara and Bunting, Sarah, ''Television Without Pity: 752 Things We Love to Hate (and Hate to Love) About TV'' Quirk Books, 2006 ISBN 1594741174, 9781594741173 p 298". Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  9. Kesler, Jennifer (April 4, 2005). "'Baby, if you ever wondered..' WKRP: Bailey Quarters". The Hathor Legacy. Retrieved 2010-01-27. 
  10. "Castleman, Harry and Podrazik, Walter J., ''Watching TV-Four Decades of American Television'' McGraw-Hill, 1982 ISBN 0070102686, 9780070102682 p 291". 2008-05-20. Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  11. "Rosencrantz, Linda and Satran, Pamela, ''The Last Word on First Names'', Macmillan, 1997 ISBN 0312961065, 9780312961060 p 21". Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  12. McGimpsey, David (2007). Sitcom. Coach House Books. ISBN 1552451887. Retrieved 2010-01-26.