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If you've watched "WKRP In Cincinnati" on the Comedy Network in Canada, or on TNN in the United States, or on the commercial videotapes released in 1998, then you may have noticed that some of the music has been changed. You may have also noticed some dialogue changes, as in one episode that now has a nonsense line ("Hold my order, terrible dresser") replacing a quote from Elton John's "Tiny Dancer." This page will try to explain what's happened to the music on "WKRP," and why. Originally, nearly all the music played on the show was real rock music by real artists, both in "WKRP"'s CBS run and in the subsequent syndicated reruns. But in the last few years, a new package of "WKRP" episodes has been distributed, and much of the music has been replaced by generic instrumental music from a music library, or by sound-alike "fake" songs. Also, some of the dialogue has been redubbed by voice impersonators, usually when the actors were speaking over the music, but sometimes to remove references to songs that have been replaced. Since these "redubbed" versions of "WKRP" first appeared, the questions that have most often been asked are:
1) Who did this?
2) Why was the music replaced?
3) How come some stations still show "WKRP" with the original music?
4) Which episodes have had songs replaced?
1) WHO DID THIS?
Well, it's not the station showing WKRP, that's for sure. Back when Nick at Nite was broadcasting "WKRP," there were a lot of internet posts blaming Nick at Nite for changing the music, but in fact Nick at Nite was merely showing the tapes of WKRP they were sent; ditto for the Comedy Network and TNN. The music changes were made by the company that distributes WKRP.
As to *which* company that is, that's a bit complicated. WKRP was produced by MTM Enterprises, but in the mid-'90s MTM was bought out by Pat Robertson's International Family Entertainment (which also owned the Family Channel in the U.S.), and then in 1997 International Family Entertainment was bought by 20th Century-Fox. Fox soon shut down the struggling MTM Enterprises. So currently Fox owns the rights to WKRP, and since the "redubbed" versions did not start to appear until the videotape set in 1998, a year after Fox bought MTM, I think it's quite possible that the music changes were made by Fox (other MTM shows, like "St. Elsewhere," also had some music changed around this time). But on the other hand, it's equally possible that the changes were made while MTM was the nominally independent but financially-strapped property of International Family Entertainment. If anyone knows for sure when the music changes were made and by whom, please write and tell me.
2) WHY WAS THE MUSIC REPLACED?
The simple answer is: Money. The reason WKRP was shot on videotape (unlike the other MTM sitcoms like "Bob Newhart" and "Mary Tyler Moore," which were on film) was that it was the only way they could afford to use a lot of real rock songs on the show. At the time, ASCAP had a different licensing arrangement for taped shows than for filmed shows; licensing the music for WKRP cost something like half of what it would have cost had it been filmed.
Well, the music licenses expired by the time the show was being prepared for re-distribution in the mid-'90s, and by then ASCAP no longer had a "discount" for videotaped shows. Also by then, the cost of licensing songs had skyrocketed across the board. So it would have been prohibitively expensive for the distributor to re-license all the songs used on the show. They certainly could have done a better job of replacing the songs they couldn't pay for, but it was inevitable that some of the songs would be gone due to rising costs, and that's all there is to it.
Strangely enough, sometimes music has been replaced even when it was generic music to begin with! Generic music was occasionally used on the show, mainly for fake commercials, but since the new distributors probably no longer knew exactly where some of that generic music came from (and since even stuff from a music library has to be paid for), they frequently replaced it with generic music from their own music library. This of course is not as bad as replacing real music, but I'll note it when it happens.
3. HOW COME SOME STATIONS STILL SHOW "WKRP" WITH THE ORIGINAL MUSIC?
Some local TV stations still show "WKRP" episodes with most of the music intact (but with two minutes cut from every episode). The version of "WKRP" that these stations are showing is the old syndication package, prepared in the '80s when a lot of the music licenses were still intact and licensing the music was cheaper anyway. This package apparently still can be shown by stations that already have it, but it's not actually being sold anymore and is gradually going out of circulation. When channels order "WKRP" for the first time, they're sent the new package with the "redubbed" music.
One thing to be noted is that the syndicated episodes were not completely free from music substitutions. In the syndicated version of "Pilot, part 2," for example, two of the three songs played by Johnny were different from the ones he played in the CBS airing, though the "main" song--Bob Segar's "That Old Time Rock N' Roll"--was intact. Still, the old syndication versions, while sometimes brutally cut, had more of the original music than we're ever likely to hear in WKRP reruns again, so if someone's showing those versions in your area, I'd suggest taping them while you can.
4) WHICH EPISODES HAVE HAD SONGS REPLACED?
Some of this list is based on educated guessing (it's often easy to spot a piece of stock music or a scene where actors' dialogue has been re-recorded), some of it on comparing the "new" music in a scene with the real music in the old syndication version. There may be a few changes I missed, or a few real songs that I mistook for substitutions, but I know I have most of the changes listed here. Episodes are listed here in order of production:
Episode 1. "Pilot" A Ted Nugent song (the very first rock song Johnny Fever played on WKRP) is replaced with generic music. (Interestingly, though, the Nugent song is intact when this scene is repeated in two other episodes--"Mama's Review" and "The Creation of Venus." Which proves nothing except that the process of licensing music for this package seems to have been pretty haphazard.) At least that's Howard Hesseman's real voice saying "booger." In the tag, the song Venus plays has been replaced. 2. "Pilot, part 2" All songs have been replaced with generic music. 3. "Preacher" All the songs Johnny plays have been replaced. 5. "Les On a Ledge" The song Johnny plays at the beginning has been replaced. The generic music for Les's introductory fanfare has been replaced with different generic music. 7. "Hold-Up" All songs replaced. Andy, Herb, and "Bob Boogie" have some of their lines dubbed over by voice impersonators. 8. "Turkeys Away" Two songs (the ones Johnny plays just before and just after the turkey drop) replaced. 9. "Goodbye Johnny" All recordings replaced, and Les has a line dubbed over by a voice impersonator ("No time for pleasantries, Johnny, we've got an emergency here"). The first song Johnny plays (which is repeated at the end of the episode) was replaced in the '80s syndication version as well. 10. "Johnny Comes Back" Two of the songs Doug Winner plays have been replaced, and two of Johnny's as well. 11. "Love Returns" The first song Johnny plays at the beginning of act 2 (originally a Ray Charles song) has been replaced. 12. "I Want To Keep My Baby" All but two of the songs in this episode have been replaced, often by "soundalike" songs, that is, songs that have lyrics and seek to mimic the mood and theme of the songs they're replacing. Example: At the end, "Your Smiling Face" is replaced by a song that starts "I just can't wait to see the smile on your face." Some footage has been cut to eliminate Johnny's announcements of songs that have been replaced. 13. "Fish Story" One of the hardest-hit. All songs are replaced, and all of Johnny's announcements are either dubbed over (so that "That was the Doors" becomes "That was the Swords") or cut. 14. "The Contest Nobody Could Win" A bit of footage is cut at the beginning of the episode, to eliminate one of the songs Johnny plays. A couple of other songs are replaced by generic music, but, unusually, Johnny's announcements are not dubbed over, so Johnny still announces "There's no holding back Eric Clapton" even though the music he proceeds to play is not Clapton's. The song at the end of the episode is replaced by a reprise of the WKRP closing theme. 15. "Mama's Review" Music is replaced in the clip from "Pilot, part 2." 16. "A Date With Jennifer" In the big scene where Les tries on his wig, the song "Hot Blooded" by Foreigner has been replaced by a soundalike entitled "You're Much Too Much." 18. "Young Master Carlson" The theme from the movie "Patton" was originally used as a running gag throughout this episode; it's been replaced by generic trumpet music. [Thanks to Jon Stadter for pointing this one out.] The song Johnny sings along to in the scene in the booth has been replaced. 20. "A Commercial Break" The songs at the beginning of act 2 are replaced. Some dialogue between Johnny and Bailey is dubbed over during the music, and Johnny's subsequent announcement has been changed from "That was the Coasters in a classic vein with 'Young Bloods'" to "That was the Young Bloods in a classic vein with 'Coasters.'" 25. "Carlson For President" The music just before Carlson's campaign commercial is replaced with a recording of a piano playing very fast in a vaguely '50s style. The music that accompanied Carlson's commercial was originally the theme from "Star Wars"; it's been replaced. The generic music that accompanies the beginning and end of the debate scene is replaced with different generic music; because of this, some of the host's lines are dubbed over. 26. "For Love Or Money" At the beginning (when Bailey walks into the booth) "Bad Case of Lovin' You" is replaced with what seems like a soundalike (something about "I'll bring the blanket and six pack of love"). Bailey's first line and Johnny's reply appear to have been dubbed over by voice impersonators. At the beginning of act 2, during the establishing shot of Jennifer's apartment building, Venus's voice-over has been redubbed and the music replaced. 28. "Bad Risk" Songs replaced with generic music. 29. "Put Up Or Shut Up" The song Herb sang as he exits the lobby in the teaser has been removed. They've also redubbed the line he says to Bailey as he leaves; it was originally "Hi, Bailey," but whoever was in charge of the dubbing must have mis-heard it, because now Herb says (in a voice that's all-too-clearly not his own) "Hi, babe." (Actually, I kind of like that new line.) 30. "Baby, If You've Ever Wondered" The song that accompanied the last scene of act 1 (with Andy pushing things off his desk) has been replaced. Bailey's line in this scene ("Nothing") has been dubbed over by a voice impersonator. 31. "Patter of Little Feet" The "soft and sweet" song played at the end of the show was originally "Thank Heaven For Little Girls" from the movie GIGI (notice that Venus is holding the cover of the GIGI soundtrack album). However, at some point in the middle of the original syndication run, and in all reruns since, that song is replaced by "We've Only Just Begun" by the Carpenters (which doesn't fit the scene nearly as well) and the dialogue is dubbed over. Why this change was made is beyond me; it can't be a money issue, since the Carpenters would presumably be more expensive to license than a song by Lerner and Loewe. 32. "God Talks To Johnny" All songs replaced and all dialogue dubbed over during the replaced music. 34. "Mike Fright" Songs in the teaser and act 1 are replaced. A bit of footage is cut from the teaser (the shot where Johnny announces the previous song as being "The Sports with 'Who Listens To the Radio`"). The song Johnny is playing when he first hears that people are dumping their garbage (underscoring the scene where he and Venus are discussing football odds) was first replaced in the '80s syndication version. The generic music in the commercials has been replaced by different generic music. 36. "A Family Affair" All songs replaced in the teaser and act 1. Some footage cut from the teaser to eliminate Johnny's announcement of one of the replaced songs. 37. "Jennifer's Home For Christmas" Whatever Christmas-related song Johnny was originally playing at the very beginning has been replaced with a piano playing "Jingle Bells." 38. "Sparky" The song Venus plays before Sparky's show is replaced; Venus's announcement is dubbed over (Originally "Yes, Brother Marlon, we are the Survivors," it's been changed to "Yes, that was Brother Marlin and the Surf Riders"). 39. "The Americanization of Ivan" Music changes: Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" replaced. Dialogue changes: Every time Ivan quotes a line from the song "Tiny Dancer," it's replaced. At one point he calls Bailey "blue jean baby"; this has been changed to something that sounds like "Bejing baby." Ivan's line "Hold me closer, tiny dancer" is replaced twice; the first time (to Bailey) it becomes "Hold me closer, [mumble mumble]," the second time (to Les) it becomes "Hold my order, terrible dresser." 41. "The Doctor's Daughter" One song in the tag (the one playing at the very beginning of the scene, right before Johnny switches over to "The Long Run" by the Eagles) has been replaced, and Laurie's voice-over may have been redubbed during the replaced music. Otherwise, this episode's music is surprisingly intact (Frankie Lymon, Bo Diddley, the Eagles), and from this point on in the series the distributors appear to have left in somewhat more real music than before. 42. "Venus Rising" Two songs replaced in act 1 (one as Bailey leaves the DJ booth, the other played by the WREQ machine). Dialogue dubbed over during the replaced music. In the tag, the music is replaced with stock jazz music, but the dialogue remains intact. 43. "In Concert" The first few seconds of the teaser are cut (to eliminate the song by the Pretenders that Johnny proceeds to announce), and the song Johnny plays immediately after is replaced. 46. "Most Improved Station" The song Johnny sings along to with the headphones is intact, but when we briefly hear the music coming out of the headphones, it sounds like stock music. Best guess would be that the distributor licensed the song but not the recording. 47. "The Airplane Show" One instrumental song (playing in the first scene in the booth with Johnny, Venus, and Bailey) may be a substitution; I'm not sure. 49. "Real Families" The generic music that served as the "Real Families" theme is replaced with different generic music. The announcer's voice is redubbed during the replaced music (which is unfortunate, since the original announcer was Johnny Olsen from "The Price Is Right"). This episode seems to have most of its real music intact, but one piece of music (playing as Bailey mentions Herb's "dancing ducks promotion") sounds like it might be stock music. 50. "Hotel Oceanview" In the teaser, the song Herb is singing as he enters the lobby has been dubbed over. In the tag, the song that underscores the scene has been removed rather than replaced, so there is no longer any music in this scene. This makes it pretty strange when Jennifer goes over to the speaker, which is now playing nothing, and turns down the volume on a song that isn't there anymore. 52. "Bah, Humbug" The song playing over the closing credits was originally a vocal version of Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride"; it's been replaced with an instrumental version of the non-copyrighted "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." 53. "A Mile In My Shoes" One song replaced (at the beginning of act 1). This song was also replaced in the '80s syndication version. 54. "Baby, It's Cold Inside" One song replaced (the one Johnny plays right before Mama Carlson orders him to play Gershwin). Mama Carlson, Herb and Johnny have lines dubbed over. 55. "The Painting" There are two different "redubbed" versions of this scene. In some versions, the song playing in the scene in Andy's office is replaced with instrumental music. In other versions, the scene is left without any music at all. 57. "Frog Story" A song by the Kinks (act 1) is replaced with generic music. Johnny's announcement during the music has been changed to "These are the *Kings*, from was back in '64." 59. "Dr. Fever and Mr. Tide, part 2" In the '80s syndication version and all subsequent versions, the song playing in the lobby when Andy first enters has been replaced with generic disco music. The music stays at the same volume even after Jennifer turns down the volume on the speaker, and the subsequent conversation is practically drowned out by the music. The recording of "Ready Teddy" near the end ("nobody said you can't pick good music") has been replaced by a '50s-style generic piano recording. 60. "Venus and the Man" The song Venus plays in the teaser, by Candi Staton, has been replaced and Venus's announcement has been changed to something like "Andi Tayton." 61. "Ask Jennifer" This isn't actually a music change (there is no music in this episode), but the voice of Joan, the woman who calls Jennifer about her philandering husband and is eventually beaten up by him, has been re-recorded by a different actress. Compared to the quiet, meek voice that was originally used, the new voice is stronger and more confident-sounding, almost inappropriately so. I have no idea why this change was made; my best guess would be that MTM might have lost the tapes of the original voice actress. 62. "I Am Woman" The music that accompanies Venus's on-air announcement ("All you dudes who dig deco, start dialing") has been replaced, and Venus's announcement re-recorded by a voice impersonator. 63. "Secrets of Dayton Heights" The songs playing on Harvey's radio in the barbershop have been replaced. Harvey is dubbed over when he says "Hi" to Les. 65. "A Simple Little Wedding" One song (in the striptease scene) seems to have been replaced with instrumental music. 66. "Nothing To Fear But..." The song played at the very beginning (the one Johnny mis-identifies as "Dominique-nique" from THE SINGING NUN) has been replaced with instrumental music. 67. "Till Debt Do Us Part" The song playing at the very beginning has been replaced. 68. "Clean Up Radio Everywhere" Mr. Carlson's video baseball game originally played "Take Me Out To the Ballgame." The song has been replaced. 73. "Straight From the Heart" One song (underscoring a scene in the booth with Bailey, Johnny, and Venus) may be a substitution. 75. "Three Days of The Condo" The "Gone With the Wind" theme is dubbed over with generic music whenever it's played instrumentally, though it's intact when Venus and Johnny sing it. 80. "Pills" The song played by the "guy on tape from Los Angeles" has been replaced. Johnny and Bailey's dialogue is dubbed over during the replaced music. 84. "Fire" At the beginning of act 2, Johnny originally sang a line to the tune of "Over the Rainbow"; it's been dubbed over with a different tune. 89. "To Err Is Human" Act 1 now starts a few seconds late in order to eliminate the first song Johnny plays. The second song Johnny plays is replaced with instrumental music, but Johnny's announcement of the group remains intact. 90. "Up and Down the Dial" The first song playing in the first scene in the booth (underscoring a scene with Herb, Johnny and Venus) seems to have been replaced with instrumental music. ---------------------------------------------------------------------
You might notice that the changes seem to become less and less as the series goes on, so that most of the music is intact in the fourth season, whereas most of the first season's music has been replaced.