Monday, April 30, 2007

WKRP - Round Three

Sometime this week I will buy the Season One box set of WKRP in Cincinnati. It’s important that's understood as you read the rest of this entry.

A year ago I made much hay over the fact WKRP wasn’t on DVD due to the music licensing issues. Then in December the first season was announced – with rumors that “some” music would be replaced and that Fox had hired someone to find “appropriate” substitutions. I claimed I’d give it a shot regardless. A few weeks ago Jaime Weinman at Something Old, Something New received a press copy of the set and dropped the bomb: Not only had some of the music been replaced, but nearly all of it had and there were even some edits as well as three of the episodes being the shorter, syndicated versions. So much for The “Complete” First Season (as the set is labeled). I announced I'd likely have no part of it.

WKRP has a rabid following and with good reason. It’s dramatically and comedically stood the test of time more than many sitcoms that lasted longer, got higher ratings, and are generally thought of as cornerstones of American TV (I’m talking to you The Cosby Show). WKRP is one of the greats and why Fox didn’t see fit to honor it properly by going the distance remains a mystery. TVShowsonDVD recently ran a piece that was enlightening on numerous levels but still smacked of bullshit rationalizations (um, the guy at Fox). Yes, we (the fans) understand the music would have been expensive (and most of us would've paid double to get the real deal). Yet Universal has somehow managed to release Miami Vice season sets -- chock full of ‘80s music -- without too much problem. Same goes for Saturday Night Live Season One, which retains all the music performances (one can only imagine how much it cost to include ABBA!). As Jaime Weinman pointed out, if Fox had even paid for a handful of tunes from key scenes -- such as Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded” and Pink Floyd’s “Dogs” (the latter omission actually resulted in dialogue edits to the scene!) – fans probably wouldn’t have made such a fuss.

Yet what’s done is done, right? The other night I started reading reviews on Amazon and was swayed. Why? Because person after person who’d actually bought the set said that even though they noticed what’s missing, what remains is far more valuable. I thought about that -- I might not get to see Les Nessman putting on a toupee to Foreigner, but if I don’t buy it I certainly won’t be seeing Herb in a fish costume fighting with the WPIG pig in the men’s room. Or Johnny threatening the elderly in the DJ booth. Or Les reporting that the shopping mall is currently being bombed by live turkeys. Yeah, the music was a big part of WKRP, but not nearly as big as Gary Sandy, Gordon Jump, Howard Hesseman, Frank Bonner, Loni Anderson, Richard Sanders, Tim Reid, Jan Smithers & Hugh Wilson and all the other people who brought the show to life.

I wanna share WKRP with my kid – who’ll never notice the changes because he’s never seen it before. Sure, I’ll silently grumble every now and then, but I’ll probably laugh my ass off a hell of a lot more often. WKRP is an MTM production, and Fox has already had numerous problems with Mary Tyler Moore (another of my faves) and there are rumors that, due to poor sales, there isn’t going to be a Season Five set for that series. I’d like to own as much WKRP as possible, and maybe if Fox sees that it sells, they’ll work harder and spend a few more dollars on Season Two. But if it doesn’t sell at all, maybe there’ll never even be a Season Two DVD.

So if you’re against this DVD on principle (which believe me, I understand), I ask that you reconsider based on another principle: WKRP rocks without Foreigner making it rock a tad more. And if you've never seen WKRP at all, get thee to a DVD retailer pronto because none of this crap will make a difference.

Be sure and check out the Morgue WKRP DVD review as well as the other articles I've written on 'KRP by clicking here.