Saturday, December 29, 2007

WKRP Episode: "For Love Or Money"

After the debacle that was the season 1 set, it doesn't seem likely that Fox will release the other seasons of WKRP in Cincinnati any time soon. The first season sold well, but I've heard that Fox is still reluctant to spend actual money on music and doesn't want to deal with the flak they (quite rightly) received for cutting out entire scenes in the first season set. And of course in seasons 2-4, music was often heavily intertwined with dialogue; since there are no separate music and dialogue tracks, the choice would be between approving a decent music budget or cutting several minutes from many episodes. Until something changes -- like for instance Fox's current unwillingness to let an independent company have a crack at their catalogue properties -- the show is more or less lost.

And, wouldn't you know it, Fox has taken to pulling WKRP clips off YouTube and other sites (apparently they put the hacked-up season 1 DVD prints on and don't want the original versions competing with them). So any WKRP episode that goes online won't stay up for long.

With all that in mind, I want to at least dig out a few WKRP episodes from my own collection and present them more or less the way they originally aired. So once in a while -- I don't know how frequently -- I'll upload a WKRP episode complete and with the original music, and display it for as long as it's allowed to stay up.

I don't have all the episodes complete, and if anyone is reading this who has any episodes taped off CBS broadcasts (or off the CBC, which apparently showed this series uncut in the early '90s for a brief period), please contact me and maybe we can work out a trade. But I do have some episodes and in the absence of any other complete versions I might as well present them here, with some comments.


The one I'm starting with is the season 2 opener, a two-parter called "For Love Or Money." The script is credited to Mary Maguire, who was one of Hugh Wilson's two secretaries in the first season (his other secretary, Lissa Levin, became a staff writer on WKRP and a writer for Cheers and other shows). But a lot of it was apparently written by the staff at the last minute, because this episode was not actually planned as a two-parter.

According to the book America's Favorite Radio Station, it was written as a one-parter and got as far as the table read, or maybe even rehearsals, as a one-parter. But playing opposite Howard Hesseman was one of his colleagues from the comedy troupe The Committee, Julie Payne. (Committee-ites like Hesseman, Hamilton Camp, Peter Bonerz and Mel Stuart were all over TV sitcoms in the '70s; they were to '70s TV what SNL was to '80s movies.) The two started improvising a lot, and extending their scenes together longer than they'd been written. At some point it was suggested that instead of cutting down the scenes, the writers should let the scenes run long, write additional material and additional scenes, and make it a two-parter.

What that produced is an episode with an unusual feel for a two-part story. Most two-parters have bigger stories than a regular episode. This one really doesn't; it doesn't even have a B story. It's just a regular story -- Johnny forgets his date with Bailey and goes for what he thinks is a hot date with his ex-girlfriend, who announces that she wants to sue him for part of his earnings -- expanded to double length because every scene runs a little longer than it normally would. The first act of part 1 is mostly just a series of showcase scenes for the characters who are not involved in the plot (Herb, Les, Jennifer), and they're very leisurely character pieces; they have a little bit of relevance to the plot, but in a half-hour episode you'd just get the part that's relevant, whereas here you get extra stuff. It feels a bit like one of the super-sized episode of The Office in that it's a normal story but they can slow down and let the scenes have room to breathe.

It also has two memorable musical sequences. The opening features "Bad Case of Loving You" by Robert Palmer (a song that is sometimes called "Doctor, Doctor") and two scenes (really one scene divided between two parts) with "After the Love Has Gone" by Earth, Wind and Fire. Also a bit of "Rise" by Herb Alpert when Venus is on the air at the beginning of Act 2.

This is in four parts, two parts for each half-hour episode. (DailyMotion's 15 minute upper limit allows most episodes to be uploaded with clean breaks between acts, so the clip breaks are where commercial breaks would originally have been.) The copy is a composite, the version broadcast on the Comedy Network in Canada combined with the original music at the beginning.

Part 1, Cold Open and Act 1:

Part 1, Act 2:

Part 2, Recap and Act 1:

Part 2, conclusion:


Anthony Strand said...

Thank you! Good. Episode.

I wasn't alive when WKRP originally aired, and I caught a few episodes on Nick at Nite, but I really became a fan when you posted a bunch of episodes on YouTube summer before last or whenever that was. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

This just kills me that Fox doesn't know or doesn't care what a treasure they have . They won't let anyone else license it and work out the music issues for DVD release , so the show just sits and is , as you say, basically a lost show. The worst sort of dreck is available as complete DVD sets , but shows like WKRP or Mary Tyler Moore are just memories . Sad.

Anonymous said...

Great episode.

(and I must say that Jan Smithers still makes my heart go pitter-pat after all these years . She is so lovely !)

Anonymous said...

I cannot thank you enough for posting this episode, I have been searching for it for 32 years. I was 18 years old at the time when this episode was shown. Since then in my mind, I cannot ever forget the touching scene when Bailey got left out by Dr. Johnny Fever. Neither did I ever forget the song playing in the background, "After the Love Has Gone", which was a hit at the time. The song sealed the sentiment of the scene, everytime it played on the radio all these years, I would remember that touching scene. Unforgettable! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I like this episode even more than Turkey Drop. It's SO funny! And it's a great vehicle for Bailey's character even better than Bailey's Show at the start of the season. She's so good at playing the girl with the unrequited love for Johnny. And she showed she can be funny too! Oh, and this is the episode when Bailey and Johnny got together too! Perfect!