Fox: How About WKRP Without the Music?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Jaime_Weinman, Jun 4, 2002.

  1. Jaime_Weinman

    Jaime_Weinman Supporting Actor

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    I appreciated Peter Staddon's point, a while back, that Fox couldn't release WKRP In Cincinnati on DVD because of the prohibitive music licensing costs. So I would like to throw out a suggestion: How about releasing the show with sound-alikes and music library material in place of many of the songs?

    I know that music changes in syndication have infuriated many viewers, but that's in large part because the changes have been done badly, with obviously generic music, bad voice dubbing, and no sense of what function the music is supposed to serve in a particular scene. Done with greater care and sensitivity, it could work and music costs for the show could be considerably reduced.

    Not all of the real songs played on the show absolutely have to be retained. Occasionally a song is integral to a scene -- like "Hot Blooded" in the episode where Les tries on a wig, or "Tiny Dancer" in the Russian Defector episode. But far more often, a song is just there as an example of stuff a DJ might play, and a soundalike could be used with minimal damage to the scene. Even when characters are speaking over the music, it's sometimes possible to change the music because much of it was apparently dubbed in during editing rather than recorded on the set (and if a line of dialogue or an announcement needs to be changed, the solution would be to get the original actors -- all of whom are still alive -- to do the redubbing, rather than use bad voice replacements as they do in syndication).

    The point of this longish post from a WKRP In Cincinnati fan is that I think it would be possible for Fox to bring the music licensing costs down to an acceptable level if music substitutions could be carried out with sensitivity and an understanding of which songs are essential and which are not.

    I know this sounds like a terrible suggestion, and I hoped I wouldn't have to make it, but I no longer see the point of insisting on "original music or nothing," because WKRP needs a DVD release for other reasons than music -- namely that it's chopped to pieces in syndication and many of the syndication tapes look terrible and need remastering. It would be a shame, at a time when so many classic sitcoms seem likely to make it to DVD, if WKRP continued to languish in the vaults because of music issues. And it's become pretty obvious that a totally "authentic" WKRP would be too much of a licensing nightmare to ever see the light of day on DVD. With careful music substitution, the show might be cleared for DVD, most viewers wouldn't be aware of the changes, and there would still be enough real music -- when it counts -- to suggest the way music was used on this show. Basically I would rather push for a "compromised" WKRP on DVD, but with the episodes uncut and remastered, than be resigned to its never coming out at all.

    I don't know if Mr. Staddon is reading this, but I hope Fox might give it some thought... BTW, thanks for the Mary Tyler Moore Show. I'm saving up for all seven seasons.
     
  2. John Berggren

    John Berggren Producer

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    I would have thought these music rights situations would be a thing of the past having had problems with WKRP and other programs that were never thought to have a future beyond syndication, but I've come to learn that recent programs, even those in the last 3 years only have broadcast/rebroadcast rights with regards to the musical content. I hope newer music contracts include any redistribution rights. It's not fair to the people who worked hard on the program for their work to be tied up as such... and it isn't fair to the fans.

    That being said, WKRP is an unfortunate product of it's times. Nobody would have ever thought about committing it to VHS, much less would they have ever thought full seasons would be wanted on a format like DVD. As a result, vast numbers of songs were used with no future clearance settled. It's too bad a blanket deal can't be made with each recording studio over the songs contained in such programs. However, I have to imagine somebody on such a staff (probably the label's legal department) would rather press for a fortune they'll never get than settle for a smaller peice of the pie that they COULD get.

    Fox does a lovely job of providing TV product on DVD. I'm in the process of buying the X-files (though after the dismal conclusion, I may stop at set 7), Simpsons, and Buffy. I'm undecided on M*A*S*H* but may get that as well. I certainly am more likely to consider a title from this studio. If ever there is a chance to get WKRP out, I'm sure they'll do it RIGHT. I doubt they release it until which time (even if it's never) that the music rights can be cleared.
     
  3. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    I still think it would be insulting to do it without the original music. Sorry.

    Jaime, please don't lower your standards. Continue petitioning Fox to do what they need to do.
     
  4. James Norman

    James Norman Auditioning

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    I'm confused what difference the music would make unless it has a specific context in the plot. I watched WKRP for the comedy between several interesting characters, and as I became a teenager, Loni Anderson's breasts. :b How many people watched WKRP for its music content?

     
  5. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    If you don't understand the importance of the original music, then I don't think I could explain it to you. Suffice it to say, that to many, many fans of the series, it's a must.
     
  6. Jaime_Weinman

    Jaime_Weinman Supporting Actor

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    I'm confused what difference the music would make unless it has a specific context in the plot.

    The music does make a big difference. The whole point of using real music was to make WKRP sound like a real radio station, and the characters of the DJs were established in part by the type of music they chose to play. The ideal thing would be to see this show again with all the music heard in its network run. But I don't think this will ever happen, and music licensing fees are going to just keep going up, not down. As such, I would rather see the show released with some changed music than never see it realeased at all. But there is no "good" solution to the problem.

    I watched WKRP for the comedy
    between several interesting characters, and as I became a teenager, Loni Anderson's breasts.


    Jan Smithers was hotter. This is established fact. :>
     
  7. James Norman

    James Norman Auditioning

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  8. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

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    I agree on the Jan vs. Loni issue...Jan rules.

    I was just discussing TV-on-DVD with a friend at work today. We discussed Miami Vice - a show he'd love to have on disc - and reasons why it won't come out, among them music rights issues.

    As we talked, I thought of WKRP and decided then-and-there that I would love the show to be put on DVD, even if the original music could not all be cleared. I thought, "It would be better than what we have now, which is nothing."

    Then I read Jaime's thread-opening post, and got offended by the idea all over again that we should settle for anything less than the ORIGINAL version of the product!

    As you can see, I'm heading in the direction of desperate to even consider the concept of not getting everything. But, as I've followed Jason Rosenberg's posts about the music clearance issues he went through on My So Called Life, a show with much LESS to worry about than WKRP (or MV for that matter), I realize that we may never get "everything" where shows like this are concerned.

    Perhaps the best compromise is going to be for Fox to put together a couple of "Best of" discs, using a few popular episodes that are worth clearing the music rights on (the "Turkeys Flying" episode comes to mind) combined with perhaps a few lesser episodes without need for large music clearance issues.

    Although I HIGHLY disapprove of the concept of non-seasonal sets for any reason, in this case it would be a way to test the DVD waters and see if there is indeed a reasonable way to secure the rest of the shows for a complete set release.

    Also, if the "test-the-waters" discs take off extremely well, it will be easier to perhaps convince the owners of the musical rights to take a percentage of sales rather than a flat fee up-front. Just an idea.
     
  9. Jaime_Weinman

    Jaime_Weinman Supporting Actor

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    David: I agree with much of what you say, and frankly, I waffle on the issue -- I really do hate the idea of settling for anything less than the original version, but on the other hand I'm trying to be pragmatic. WKRP only included as much music as it did because there was a special ASCAP rule at the time making music-licensing costs much less for videotaped shows. That's why MTM shot the show on videotape, when they had originally intended to do it on film a la The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The rule no longer applies, and the once-affordable music has become an albatross around the show's neck. My feeling is now that I'd accept changes in the short snippets of music (the tail ends of songs that sometimes get played at the beginning of a scene) for the sake of the restoration of the really essential pieces of music that were clumsily changed in syndication. For example, in "Turkeys Away" there is one piece of music that is integral to a scene (Pink Floyd's "Dogs"), but then there are two other song snippets that are simply played to lead in and out of a scene in the broadcast booth. I would rather sacrifice those short snippets than to have the only available version of WKRP be the chopped-up, nearly music-free versions seen in reruns today. But if it's any consolation, I kind of hate myself for saying this.

    Your suggestion of "testing the waters" is one I've made before, and I can think of a few good episodes that had little or no music originally:

    - "Les On a Ledge" (the only song is a brief snippet from "Don't Be Cruel" at the very beginning)
    - "Jennifer Falls in Love" (no music)
    - "Carlson For President" (the only song IIRC is the theme from Star Wars, which wouldn't be a problem for Fox), - "Daydreams" (the only song is the soundtrack recording of "As Time Goes By" from Casablanca, and this episode has the added "advantage" of having had entire scenes chopped out in syndication, making it a natural for an uncut home video release)
    - "The Consultant" (only one song, and the episode is a fan favorite)

    Of the episodes that a "best of" collection would have to contain, when I ran a WKRP website (that's why I know way too much about this show), the top choices in a "best episode" poll included "Turkeys Away" (natch) and "Real Families." The episodes that suffer the worst from music changes in syndication are "A Date With Jennifer" (removal of "Hot Blooded" by Foreigner) and "The Americanization of Ivan" (removal of "Tiny Dancer" by Elton John). I'd certainly buy a "best-of" collection that included some of these, but then again, I'd also buy season sets that changed some music but restored essential bits like the "Hot Blooded" scene. I wouldn't consider it ideal, but I'd consider it better than nothing.
     
  10. LarryDavenport

    LarryDavenport Cinematographer

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    WKRP got me into Pink Floyd because Johnny Fever was playing "Dogs." I'd be pissed if they cut that out or put in a "sound alike."
     
  11. Jeff Adkins

    Jeff Adkins Screenwriter

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  12. Jeff Adkins

    Jeff Adkins Screenwriter

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  13. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

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    The pilot episode tape shown in the red box on the right side of the 2nd auction, I own. I forget where I got it, but Wal-Mart feels right. It was a loooong time ago. I got it along with SOME Incredible Hulk tape, but I'd have to go look to see which one it is (probably its pilot as well).
     
  14. Jaime_Weinman

    Jaime_Weinman Supporting Actor

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    True story: I was in a video store last week, buying the second-season DVD of The Simpsons, and I was talking to the guy behind the counter (about my age, late '20s) about TV on DVD. I mentioned that WKRP probably would never be released because of the music issues, and he said, without any prompting, that that was too bad but as a fan of the show he'd happily buy a DVD set with music changes, as long as the episodes were uncut. He said he's noticed the music changes in reruns, but that except for the loss of "Tiny Dancer" in that one episode, they don't spoil his enjoyment of the show.
     
  15. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    They spoil my enjoyment. With TV on DVD making $100 million for Fox, they can probably afford music re-licensing. It's not as if all the songs were originally released on Cameo/Parkway records, whose successors won't let anyone use any recordings from this label for any purpose.

    I cannot believe people on this forum have decided to settle for less.
     
  16. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    I'd be against playing with the music on this series. Surely Fox can come up with the funds to license the original music, even if it means a paid preorder drive to get it done properly. It would set a very bad precident if this was redone with different bands, since that is part and parcel with the time it was originally released. Yes, it will be expensive, but once secured, I'm sure this will sell nicely, especially if it can be advertised as true to the original.
     
  17. Michael Allred

    Michael Allred Screenwriter

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    with the money FOX is reportedly making from their TV on DVD releases, I would imagine they could recoup their costs on WKRP sets. Has FOX really looked into the music license rights to get a factual idea of how much such clearences would run them?
     
  18. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    Hey, at least Disney doesn't own it! They're going downhill faster than they were in the late 1970s/early 1980s and they may lose their Winnie the Pooh merchandising license; if that happens, all bets are off.
     
  19. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    An interesting idea

    How about a subtitle track that would indicate what song SHOULD be playing?
     
  20. Eugene Esterly

    Eugene Esterly Supporting Actor

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    I'll have to disagree with Jaime_Weinman. IMO, Taking out or replacing the music that played during WKRP will change the TV show. I'm sorry but I am against editing anything out of TV shows or movies (I am against any form of censorship)

    Jeff Kleist's idea about How about a subtitle track that would indicate what song SHOULD be playing? is a good idea.

    Here is another idea to FOX. Maybe FOX should license the songs to the first season of WKRP. That way, FOX can test the waters by releaseing the first season of WKRP on DVD & if the first season of WKRP sells well then FOX can license the songs to the 2nd season & so forth & so on.
     

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