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WPVI - The New Action News Theme - 1996

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Published on Dec 22, 2008

Here's the local television equivalent of "New Coke" - WPVI's short-lived attempt at changing the Action News theme music. I have the open and part of the close, as it was recorded. This and a bumper is all I have of this newscast.

Move Closer To Your World - WPVI's anthem - was two decades old at this point. WPVI had decided by 1996 that instead of giving the old theme constant remastering, it would be a good idea to bring the theme into the 1990s with a brand new arrangement.

WPVI spent $20,000 on the new theme, and this was considered a bargain price. The melody of the theme was to remain unchanged - all of the pieces in the theme were direct updates - but the feel has changed from "high school marching band" to "John Williams Symphony". And the symphony label is accurate - as noted in the Inquirer, the theme was recorded in London using 400 members of the London Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestra - quite unusual for a news theme. The new theme debuted at 5pm on September 20, 1996, coinciding with a fresh batch of open montages. (In 1996, montages only changed in three-year intervals; nowadays they are revised yearly.)

Viewers howled in protest. The station was blindsided by the amount of angry calls and e-mail complaints. So, in just four days, "Move Closer To Your World" became probably the first and only news theme to be reinstated due to popular demand. I think the reason is obvious once you hear it. The theme sounds nice, but is quite jarring when juxtaposed with the fast-paced Action News flourishes.

The theme has not been replaced since then, and while WPVI has modernized some elements of its presentation, it has done so in a very gradual way. For example - the magnetic board weather was phased out very slowly from 1999-2001 for a giant video screen. Chromakey weather did not come to Action News until 2005. 615 Music composed some nice-sounding updates to the theme, but those have been used almost entirely in promos.

As for the new theme? Well, I do remember it being used for a special on the Republican convention in 2000, but that's about it...

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