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Don't Bother Watching 'WKRP' Without Original Music

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WKRP in Cincinnati
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The "WKRP in Cincinnati" opening showed WLWT-TV's tower in Fairview Heights.

So "WKRP" is back living on the air in Cincinnati?

No, it was dead on arrival.

Don't waste your time watching "WKRP In Cincinnati" on WLWT-TV's MeTV (9:30 p.m. weekdays on Channel 5.2), because all the great, old rock 'n' roll has been removed.

Me TV – short for Memorable Entertainment Television – is broadcasting 20th Century Fox's cost-cutter edited version, with all the original hit music from the original CBS broadcast (1978-82) replaced with forgettable, generic rock riffs.

On the second episode Tuesday night, when Dr. Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) cued up two record albums in the studio, viewers heard bland rock noise instead of Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock & Roll" and the Rolling Stone's "Lies" and "Shattered."

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Credit WKRP in Cincinnati
Dr. Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) playing Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock & Roll" in the second "WKRP" episode.

It's the cheap, sanitized version released on home video in 2006 by Fox, instead of paying for the music rights which made "WKRP" rock.  

MeTV  programmers are either cheap or ignorant. Don't they realize that the great rock music played a vital  supporting role, like when boss Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump) hears Fever (Howard Hesseman) playing Pink Floyd's barking "Dogs," or newsman Les Nessman (Richard Sanders) pulls on a wig for his big date with Jennifer (Loni Anderson) to Foreigner's "Hot Blooded."

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Credit Shout! Factory
"WKRP" starred (front row) Loni Anderson, Howard Hesseman, Jan Smithers, (back row) Richard Sanders, Frank Bonner, Gordon Jump, Gary Sandy and Tim Reid.

I feel like we're victims of a bait-and-switch. We were promised this great classic MTM sitcom, in promos with Anderson and Hesseman, and instead we get this awful knock-off. You can see what songs we're missing in my story last week, Your Guide To 'WKRP' Episodes, Music Starting April 2.

"We certainly would like to see the unedited version, but assume the music license fees were prohibitive," says Branden Frantz, WLWT-TV president and general manager, in an email to me this morning.

Baby, if you've ever wondered, wondered what the sitcom really sounded like, get the "WKRP in Cincinnati: The Complete Series" box set released in 2014 by Shout! Factory ($120; shoutfactory.com). Music from more than 110 artists was restored to the 13 DVDs.  That's the version I'll watch.

"WKRP" on MeTV ain't for me.