The Controversy Goes Mainstream

I’m referring, of course, to the controversy over CBS/Paramount’s DVDs of The Fugitive. Today’s Variety has an article about this issue. But notice that even for Variety, one of the biggest entertainment publications around, CBS/Paramount refused to comment. Maybe it’s because any further comment besides their recent unresponsive statement (see below) would force them to admit they made a mistake. Despite the unresponsiveness of the studio, the article does seem to bring us closer to understanding what happened; the studio didn’t want to be bothered to sort out the stock music cues they owned from the cues they didn’t own, so they changed everything:

Sources suggested that the occasional use of music from the now-defunct Capitol Music Library was problematic and that confusion existed about which music was Capitol’s and which belonged to CBS. Rather than guess, they replaced it all, including Rugolo’s music, which often opened and closed acts and helped give the Quinn Martin-produced series musical consistency.

CBS Par execs refused to answer specific questions about the decision.

It was a terrible idea, though you can sort of see the logic behind it, which is as follows: if they’d kept some of the original cues and dropped the ones for which ownership was unclear, reviewers would have noticed instantly that some of the background music sounded different from the rest. By replacing all the music with a new score, the show had a consistent “sound” throughout, and many of the initial reviewers of the set (the ones who hadn’t seen the episodes before or didn’t recognize the anachronistic synth sound) gave it favourable reviews without realizing what had been done to it. Besides, by replacing all the music, they didn’t need to pay residuals for any of the old cues except the theme song, so they probably saved a goodly amount of money on the set despite the expense of commissioning new music.

What Paramount didn’t count on is that in the internet age, and particularly in the age of the Amazon review, a bad product gets so much negative reaction that it can hurt the reputation of the company. That happened to Fox last year with their mutilated WKRP set, and it’s happening to CBS/Paramount now: to save some money and legal troubles, they’ve gotten a lot of consumers very angry at them and are being portrayed negatively in the mainstream media (this blog doesn’t count as the mainstream media; I’m talking about Variety). Was it really worth it, guys?