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Hulu, OpenHulu and WKRP

I've been sitting on a beta invite to Hulu for a couple weeks now, and just barely peeked inside. (I don't find myself with a lot of free time on my hands lately, and it's all the wife and I can do fit in our nightly episode of Doctor Who (Series 1 DVDs that she bought on Amazon.)

But I've been pretty impressed from what little I've seen. Decent selection, for a beta: everything from Heroes to Doogie Howser, M.D. to old episodes of Emergency! (It's a Randy Mantooth Renaissance, I tell ya.)

Talking with my friend Steve on the phone tonight who is (believe it or not, they exist) an absolute WKRP aficionado, he reminded me that is surpassingly rare—nay, all but impossible—to experience WKRP in the format that the shows originally aired in any more. He actually has old VHS recordings that he's lovingly preserved and revisits from time to time, but everywhere else that episodes air (including Hulu and syndication and boxed DVDs, VHS, etc. etc.) you're getting a neutered and artistically compromised version of the show.

Why? (I'm sure you've guessed it already.) The prohibitive costs of licensing the music. Or, rather, the fact that CBS's rights to the original rock songs licensed by the show didn't extend down through the years and couple of times that the distribution rights have exchanged corporate hands. (This is explained with much greater clarity over here.)

At the time, it was an incredibly bold move to soundtrack WKRP with music from Bob Seger, The Rolling Stones, The Doors. But today, you can only get lame nondescript "rock track" stand-ins. So instead of Dr. Johnny Fever's historical format-changing blowout (originally accompanied by a blast of Ted Nugent), we get this… ahem… perfectly competent blast of studio surf guitar?!?

Perhaps even more egregious than the music substitutions are the dialog substitutions: yep, WKRPs original dialog was liberally sprinkled with hip lyrical references to the songs of the day. All of those bits had to go.

Or sometimes, the words merely refer to the songs being played (Arthur Carlson enters the deejay booth to the strains of Pink Floyd's Dogs: "Do you hear dogs barking?"—Fever: "I do.") Once the original tracks were excised, then entire sequences no longer make sense. So they gotta go.

I'm not gonna get my Cory Doctorow on here, but you gotta admit—it is kinda lame how this affects our experience of the culture, subverts the intended context of the show.

Also… until you can get a Hulu pass, you can watch 'em all on OpenHulu. (Until that's cease-and-desisted out of existence.)



This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 22, 2007 10:43 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Cool in Columbus: The Sho'Nuff.

The next post in this blog is Batman's Christmas List.

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