Normally, my blog talks about positive things in the world of entertainment. But I want to bring up one big negative, for the sake of warning you. CBS DVD has put out a series of “Beverly Hills, 90210” DVDs (the ninth of the 10 seasons was recently released) that do not contain the original music from the show.
As Donald Liebenson reported in his Season 2 DVD review for Amazon.com:
Throwing something of a wet blanket on precious memories of the show is the substitution of generic songs for ‘90210’s’ killer soundtracks of alternative and classic rock and golden oldies. One would think that the Peach Pit has the lamest jukebox on Earth.
It’s more than a wet blanket. The show is flat-out ruined by not having its original music.
In the original show, the Peach Pit had an awesome 1960s-vintage jukebox; later, the Peach Pit After Dark brought in ’90s acts for live shows. “Beverly Hills, 90210” was the first in a wave of shows where music was instrumental in the storytelling; “Buffy,” “Gilmore Girls,” “The O.C.” and many more followed. If you wanted to, you could listen to an episode instead of watching it, and you’d get all the emotions just from the soundtrack. For example, R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” aurally signified Brenda and Dylan’s relationship in multiple scenes.
Not on the DVD, though. Now it’s a generic track that screams “1980s straight-to-video movie.”
With very few exceptions, the music has been replaced by softly played generic studio tracks and the occasional softly played generic pop song. In cases where characters sing (notably, Donna’s boyfriend Ray Pruit, from the college years, was a singer-songwriter), entire scenes are chopped out of the episode.
I hadn’t seen Season 1 before I watched it on DVD recently (I got into “90210” via SoapNet reruns a couple years ago, but I had dipped in around Season 2), but even I could tell the soul had been ripped from it. For example, there’s a montage of Brenda trying on a series of outfits that has a cheesy keyboard track playing over it, and I just knew there was supposed to be a peppy ’80s tune playing there.
The packaging includes a small disclaimer that says “Music has been changed for this home entertainment version,” and starting with Season 6 CBS DVD dropped “Complete” from the title (as in “The Complete Fifth Season”), since of course, these sets aren’t complete.
Some fans blame the greedy music business for demanding too high of a fee. Others blame short-sighted TV producers for not buying the home-video music rights in the beginning, when they would’ve been cheaper.
But in this case, I say it’s the DVD distributor who is greedy, releasing these subpar sets, tricking and pilfering fans. That’s why I was able to find Season 1 used for $4.49 (tons of fans bought it and then got rid of it) but the subsequent seasons aren’t as cheap (not as many people bought them).
Before you buy a TV-on-DVD set, check out the reviews at Amazon.com or TVshowsonDVD.com to see if the music has been replaced, what it has been replaced with, and who did the replacing. In the cases of “Roswell” and “Dawson’s Creek” (after Season 1), some music was replaced; however, the original music producers for “Roswell” and the original show runner for “Creek” (Paul Stupin) hand-picked replacement songs by affordable but talented bands to uphold the integrity of the show. (In a way, it’s kind of cool — like watching a “special edition” release. However, I’m holding onto my VHS copies of “Roswell” and “Dawson’s Creek” out of respect for the original music.)
You can also assume that Internet broadcasts (on Hulu.com or other sites) will have the DVD music, not the original music.
Most TV-on-DVD releases, thankfully, have the original music. But if you want a true home library of “Beverly Hills, 90210,” you have to flip to SoapNet and re-learn how to program that old VCR.
CBS DVD shouldn’t have released “Beverly Hills, 90210” on DVD until it had purchased the music rights. It’s disrespectful to both the series and its fans, and it comes off as a blatant money play.
I have to think that at some point in the future the original versions will hit DVD (just as “The Wonder Years,” currently held up by music-rights negotiations, should also hit DVD someday). Eventually, I believe the owners of “90210” and the owners of the music will see the mutual benefit of coming to an agreement and “Original Music Editions” will hit stores. Maybe that’s wishful thinking — the equivalent of sticking my fingers in my ears and ignoring Hollywood’s tradition of greed-driven stupidity.
It’s appropriate, though: Every time that soul-sucking elevator music kicks in on these DVDs, I want to stick my fingers in my ears and shout the words to “Losing My Religion.”