Monday, April 09, 2007

WKRP Music Addendum: What They Shoulda Done

Sitcoms Online has a review of the WKRP set that is more or less aligned with mine.

Also, since writing the original list, I've actually discovered still more cuts in the DVD set. In one episode, Johnny sings a line of "So Long For a While" and exits the room. Now he just leaves without saying anything. I would say that of the 22 episodes in this set, more than half of them have footage cut from them for one reason or another.

But one more thing I wanted to add, as a WKRP-ite, is this: what would a legitimate, acceptable DVD release be like? That is, I've said that a legitimate DVD release could change some music but not the "essential" songs. But which songs are "essential?"

So I went through this list which another fan compiled, of most of the songs used in the first season (there are a few he missed). As you can see, there were about 50 rock recordings used in that season alone.

Here are the recordings (not counting onscreen performances, admittedly) that are so important to the episodes -- either because they're timed to the action, related to the plot, or intertwined with the dialogue -- that the DVD should have kept them. It goes without saying that almost none of them are included on the current DVD.

Pilot (1)
Queen Of The Forest by Ted Nugent

Pilot (2)
Old Time Rock N Roll by Bob Seger

Bailey's Show
Boogie Oogie Oogie by Sukyaki
Jailhouse Rock by Elvis Presely

Turkeys Away
Dogs by Pink Floyd

Love Returns
Beast Of Burden by The Rolling Stones

A Date With Jennifer
Hot Blooded by Foreigner

Goon Squad By Elvis Costello and The Attractions

Goodbye, Johnny (1)
Surfin U.S. A. by The Beach Boys

Johnny Comes Back (2)
Into The Mystic by Van Morrison
Layla by Eric Clapton

Never Leave Me, Lucille
Everybody Rock N Roll The Place by Eddie Money

I Want To Keep My Baby
Baby by Carla Thomas
Lively Up Yourself by Bob Marley
Return To Sender by Elvis Presley
Your Smiling Face by James Taylor

Young Master Carlson
Caravan by Van Morrison
Patton Main Title - Jerry Goldsmith
Soul Man by Sam and Dave

Fish Story
Drinkin Wine Spo-de-o-de by Jerry Lee Lewis

The only recordings kept on the DVD are "Boogie Oogie Oogie" and "Lively Up Yourself." Why these two? I have no idea.

(I didn't count the song snippets in "The Contest Nobody Could Win" as essential songs because you're not supposed to recognize the excerpts as individual songs anyway, and I'm not even sure if they're actually the songs referred to.)

As you can see, even that whittled-down list amounts to about 20 songs, and that's not counting the onscreen performances like "Heartbreak Hotel" that Fox doesn't want to pay for either.

If a DVD release included the above songs and not the others, I would be OK with it and I think most fans would be, if not overjoyed, at least accepting. But of course, that list would simply cut the music licensing fees down from a large fortune to a small fortune. It would be, let us say, about what the music licensing costs might be for a season of The Simpsons (which seems to use an average of one real song per episode). And of course Fox, or Paramount, or whoever, doesn't want to expend that kind of music budget on a 1978 series.

What it comes down to, then, is that you can release an acceptable WKRP set with reduced music costs. But you can't release it on a very low budget. And Fox's mistake, I think, was not bailing on this project when the budget didn't allow for any kind of substantial music licensing.

Here's an example of how music licensing should have worked for this show. This is a clip from the second episode, where Johnny Fever plays three songs: one at the beginning of the scene, one at the end, and one in the middle. The songs at the beginning and end are very short and not really related to the scene except in the sense of being noisy. They are unimportant enough that they were actually replaced in the first syndication package (the one that kept most of the real music). But the song in the middle, "That Old Time Rock N' Roll," is specifically timed to the scene and set up by the dialogue. The scene makes no sense without it.

If a DVD set had changed those two shorter songs but kept "That Old Time Rock N' Roll," I'd be fine with that. But changing everything -- as in the version used on the DVD -- ruins the scene and severely weakens the whole episode.


Todd Lucas said...

Just bought the season two DVD set of Gomer Pyle and have noticed altered music in one episode, so far. Not that the show was packed with tunes but in the episode where Duke Slater enters the amateur night at the Jade Club and wins first prize doing imitations of Gomer and Sgt. Carter, a couple of musical changes take place, that are tangential to the show.

One guy plays "Roll Out The Barrel" on the trumpet in the original episode and its now been changed to something generic. Some other music of a similar nature was changed also. The good thing is, the music itself wasn't really a part of the joke, so it doesn't matter. And we still get to see Sgt. Carter singing "For Me And My Gal" at episode's end.

An interesting test for the series will be the "Go-Go Club" episode from, I think, season three. That's the one where the colonel's daughter drags Gomer to a go-go club and the band The Factory are heard doing their songs "Candy Cane Madness" and "Lost". I wonder if the music will remain in tact or be changed out for something generic, as the band is mostly background noise during the episode.

Todd Lucas said...

As an update to this, the episode where Gomer befriends a Colonel's daughter and sings "Put On A Happy Face" to her is altered. The scene is edited and, instead of Gomer singing, an non-descript instruemental is played. The scene is really chopped up and disappointing.

I can see some music being replaced, when it doesn't really affect the scene. However, in this case, the song that Gomer sang was an integral part of the scene. I won't be buying any more of the Gomer Pyle releases, as a result.