WKRP Season 1 DVD Cuts

I was minding my business on a Sunday night when Eve emailed me a link to this blog regarding music changes and scene deletions in the first season DVDs for the fine show WKRP In Cincinnati.

What a shame, I thought to myself, a damn shame.

WKRP was one of those touchstone television shows for me. It aired at the exact right time and place in my life to fully understand all aspects of the humor and of the music.

The show started in 1978, when I was 12 going on 13. I was already a big rock-and-roll fan and also very interested in radio. (In fact, at times I dreamed of working at WLS in Chicago, the huge AM radio station that played the hits and had the coolest DJs I could here in Indiana.) This was a show right up my alley, and I was so happy when after a rocky start, the show survived and lasted for four seasons.

It earned a rightful place as one of the best comedies ever. The outright buffoonery of Les Nessman, Herb Tarlick, and Arthur Carlson was perfectly balanced by the normalcy of Andy Travis, Bailey Quarters, and Jennifer Marlowe. Plus, Dr. Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap were the coolest DJs ever.

To this day, I can break out laughing at the mere thought of the Thanksgiving Day episode, or the episode where Venus and Johnny Fever get drunk on the air (well, Venus does) and probably the most hilarious thing, for me, was the jingle that they produced for the funeral home.

Aside from the comedy, there was the music. Now, it may be a stretch now to think of a radio station that would play Dr. Johnny Fever’s rock-and-roll in the morning, and have Venus’ soul in the afternoon, but back then some radio stations still had the DJs program their own shows to an extent, so it didn’t seem THAT odd to me. But the best thing as a music fan was hearing the snippets of actual songs, just like they were playing them on the air.

And yes, having worked in radio, once you start the song and close the mike, all KINDS of discussions can happen in the control room. Trust me.

So when I read that the music had to be changed due to rights issues with the DVDs, I was saddened.

One of the shows that they mentioned that had to be altered was “The Contest Nobody Could Win.” WLS in Chicago used to have contests where you had to guess the song, title, and artist in order based on hearing about 10 one-second (or less) snippets. WKRP had this nailed, and it was just hilarious when even after the hard work by everyone someone nails it pretty quickly.

But I read on that blog that for that episode, all of the songs were replaced.

Well, that kills the episode then. They may as well not have that episode on the DVD.

Rights issues for DVD releases are tricky, mainly because the format did not exist until just recently, and standard releases didn’t cover them. I’ll write more in another posting as that pertains to some great music films from the ’80s, but I wanted to point out a couple of things to holders of these rights.

Permitting this music protects the integrity of the work, whether it is a serious drama or a comedy like WKRP. You would not want to have the integrity of the music compromised, why compromise another’s work?

Allowing this music on the DVDs, or in syndications, will expose others to this music and could generate even more sales. Thanks to the simplicity of online music stores like iTunes, if I hear a song on TV that I know I don’t have in my collection, it takes very few clicks to search and buy that song.

Let’s hope that the lawyers, the rights holders, and the studios can work out some equitable arrangements, and they can restore the music to WKRP as the creators intended.

But if they don’t, in the words of Dr. Johnny Fever, “BOOOGER!”

1 Comment »

  1. “The Contest That Nobody Could Win” always reminds me of a radio contest I heard on a visit to New York City in the late 80’s. The contest was “play one beat from a particular song and from that identify the song”. Naturally, the second call they took was the correct answer (Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl”). Life does imitate art.

    Comment by Dr. Geek, Ph.D. — April 3, 2007 @ 8:42 am

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