Well, WKRP in Cincinnati is finally out on DVD. I saw it in the store, and grabbed the box off the shelf before I even finished reading the title. I'm not given to impulse buys where DVDs are concerned, but WKRP was an old favorite of mine. I had to have it.
So, I sat down to watch the first episode. It was as funny as I remembered. Except . . .
I remember how the first episode was originally. Andy hands Johnny a stack of rock albums and tells him to change the program immediately. Johnny--awake and alive for the first time--enthusiastically reintroduces himself, picking his new name, Dr. Johnny Fever, apparently out of thin air. Then he goes off on a mini-rant, ending with a bold shout, "Give it to me straight, doctor. I can take it!" And then the song bursts in loud and strong, "Just take those old records off the shelf," like a prescription straight from the doctor's mouth. That scene had power and flair in spades.
Except the song is gone from the DVD. Johnny still does his rant, but instead of Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock & Roll” there is this painfully bland instrumental. It sucks all the energy right out of the scene. In fact, it just sucks.
Yes, it's true. The copyright beast has gotten its claws into WKRP and ripped it to shreds.
For a list of music replacements, see Jaime J. Weinman's blog:
Copyright serves a good and useful purpose. It protects artists from having their works stolen. I'm all for that. As a writer, I definitely want my works protected by copyright.
However, sometimes it just goes too far.
I honestly think that if a work including excerpts from other copyrighted works was produced within the boundaries of copyright law at the time, then that work should be able to be reprinted without editing in the future.
A sitcom, while not a record of factual events, still captures the attitudes and styles of the time period in which it was made. And thus, in its own way, it has value as a historical artifact. I do not like it when works--printed, visual, or audio--are expurgated or otherwise edited from their original published form.
Yes, I realize that there are lots of special circumstances regarding WKRP. It would have been phenomenally expensive to buy the rights to every song used. But it's like the people who made the DVDs didn't even try. Why didn't they pony up the money for important songs that are integral to various scenes, and replace only those that are more incidental?
So the WKRP DVD release is rather disappointing. I'll still watch it to enjoy the witty dialogue and antics, but the cut music does rather ruin some scenes. Your mileage may vary.
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