« George Carlin's gone, but the Seven Dirty Words are with us in profusion | Main | The columnist was a commie »

Who messed with the music in 'The Fugitive' DVD? Hint: It wasn't the one-armed man

I can just imagine the conversation when the bosses at CBS Paramount discovered there was a conflict over ownership of some of the background music used in the second season of The Fugitive, which they were getting ready to release on DVD. "What are we going to do?" says Executive No. 1. "We're already pre-sold tens of thousands of these DVDs. If we cancel, we'd have to [visible shudder] give back the money." Executive No. 2 is sanguine: "Hey, let's just get Alvin & The Chipmunks or somebody to write and record new music. It's been 44 years since this show aired -- who's even going to notice a few seconds of different music here or there?"

Fugitivedvd You can read the answer to his hypothetical question for yourselves at Amazon.com, where Fugitive fans are in a frothing rage. "CBS/Paramount destroyed its own property -- STAY AWAY," writes one outraged customer. "All the music is changed -- this is not The Fugitive I love," mourns another. "Do not reward CBS Paramount by buying this butchered-up set!" demands a third. The complaints, threats, and prediction of end times go on for pages and pages.

These aren't the first fans to be outraged by a bait-and-switch on a video soundtrack. The earliest videotape versions of Animal House substituted music in the background of some scenes. The most notable, and irritating, was the removal of Sam Cooke's Wonderful World (Don't know much about history/Don't know much biology/Don't know much about a science book/Don't know much about the French I took...) from a scene featuring John Belushi's barbaric Bluto character. The DVD versions of music-heavy TV shows like WKRP In Cincinnati and Northern Exposure made extensive changes in the songs.

The problem is that until about 20 years, deals for music for a movie or TV-show soundtrack didn't automatically include the rights for spinoffs like videotapes or DVDs. And when studios dig up older material for DVD release, they often find the cost of obtaining the rights is astronomical. Variety recently reported that the Motown songs in just the first season of Murphy Brown cost Time Warner nearly $1 million.

At those prices, the studios are tempted to look for cheaper alternatives -- or just give up. That's why neither China Beach nor The Wonder Years, with their non-stop soundtracks of 1960s rock and roll, have ever made it to DVD. Director John Sayles once warned me that if I wanted a copy of of his 1960s high school tale Baby, It's You, I should tape it myself off HBO or Showtime because nobody would ever cough up enough money for the music to put it out on video. (He was wrong, but it took 15 years.)

The Fugitive, unlike the movies and shows I've mentioned so far, didn't use popular music for its soundtrack. What's been changed are the things known in the business as cues, the little bits of original music that introduce a character or underline a scene. The problem is that some of them were written specifically for the show (no payments necessary) and some were drawn from a commercial music library (payments very necessary), and nobody could figure out which were which. To make matters worse, the music library is now out of business, so it wasn't even clear who CBS Paramount should negotiate with. In the end, the company bagged all the music and started from scratch.

I'm sure that at the time it sounded like a great -- or at least good -- idea. But try telling that to the fan who wrote on Amazon that The Fugitive is "absolutely the DVD defamation of the year."

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

HoCo

These fans need to get a life. The Fugitive had nothing to do with music, it was incidental cues in the background. As if anyone REALLY remembers what they were and thinks that had a major impact on this drama. It's not as if the songs commented on the plot the way the hit pop songs of the day colored the script of WKRP in Cincinnatti. That DVD was marred by the 'fake' songs they had to use because it changed the joke. When the nebbish character Les Nessman got duded up along to Foreigner's macho "Hot Blooded" on the original broadcast, that song telegraphed the joke. The generic replacement song sapped the humor from the scene on the DVD.
But The Fugitive? C'mon people, get over it. It was a script and acting and action driven show, the instrumental cues are not nearly so important in it today. That old Quinn Martin classic still holds up to these eyes, background score or no.
Now, if this reads too much like a defense of the music industry, let me make sure to say that I think they are greedy and short sighted and ridiculous. They've held up the release of many classic shows with their greedy demands. So, they wind up with nothing when a show is held back.

runner

HoCo, you are an idiot.

Clugul

How can you let this latest DVD release become the permanent record of The Fugitive when so clearly it does not reflect the original broadcast of this classic series. Just go to YouTube if you want to hear how emotive the original music is - (the below link was posted when the Season 1 DVD set was first released):
http://snipurl.com/2od2w

If the problem truly is researching the rights to a handful of music cues, then CBS/Paramount should take the time to do so. Fugitive fans have waited decades for a professional release of this series, and they will gladly wait a little longer if they know they're getting the show as its originators intended it to be seen and heard. At least CBS/Paramount should restore the original music and cues where there is no legal issue. A complete Season 2 box set with as much of the original soundtrack as possible would certainly rectify the situation and restore confidence in CBS/Paramount products.

Joyce Andrews

IMPORTANT UPDATE regarding the music replacement on The Fugitive, Season Two, Vol. 1 --

CBS/Paramount has now restored much of The Fugitive's original music and is offering a replacement program to those who buy (or already bought) Season Two, Vol. 1. Then, for the price of a stamp, the buyers just mail in the form along with the 2 Proof-of-Purchase tabs, and within 4-6 weeks, they'll receive 4 replacement discs, plus a new paper insert. Read about it at the below link to TVShowsonDVD.com -
http://snipurl.com/c2nwq
And here's the link to the form:
http://www.paramount.com/fugitive/FugitiveS2V1_DVDReturnProgram.pdf

Also, a very knowledgeable fan posting on Home Theater Forum was given a review set of the replacement discs and here's his opinion:
"... let me be clear about something. When I said in my review that a "vast amount" of the music had been restored, I was speaking in terms of a comparison to the prior Season Two, Vol. 1 set. And that would be true. Now if you want to compare the replacement discs to the standards of Season One, I would say, roughly, 75-80% of the music in the episodes I have seen has been restored, the bulk of that being Rugolo. But that is just one man's estimate. Everyone is going to have a different reaction to the set, but I am safe in saying it is a great improvement ... The shows feel like The Fugitive again, even if synthesizers ocassionally pop up. But having the show FEEL like The Fugitive is the main thing.
... No matter to what degree of detail I go, or what conclusions I draw, if you are a Fugitive fan I believe you owe it to yourself to get this new replacement set and give it a chance. Decide for yourself."
Home Theater Forum http://snipurl.com/c9lrs

Cheers to all of us who wrote letters, sent emails, and posted online to Amazon and other websites.
Here's to the power of the pen and the Internet!!
Thanks also to CBS/Paramount for now trying to do the right thing.

The comments to this entry are closed.

-
 
Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About The Miami Herald | Advertise