Northern Exposure, Quantum Leap fans complain
By Eliza Gallo -- Video Business, 1/7/2005
JAN. 7 | Universal Studios Home Entertainment has incited the ire of some fans by replacing original music on the second season sets of both Northern Exposure and Quantum Leap.
When the studio released the DVDs a month ago, fans noticed the changes within days of the street dates. The first season DVDs of each show contained all the original songs, but the second season sets don't, and consumer complaints have accumulated in the Amazon user reviews for the DVDs and on various Internet sites.
Some consumers say they have returned the sets or written in asking for refunds.
"It feels like a character has been deleted out," said Kurt Lutterman, a Northern Exposure fan who runs the annual Moosefest event celebrating the show. "A lot of the songs created a certain mood and tone and were picked for very specific reasons. What if they didn't want to pay [series star] Rob Morrow's residuals and whited him out and computer-animated someone else in? You wouldn't say that that was the original season."
Universal senior VP publicity Vivian Mayer said the music replacements on the second season DVDs were due to a combination of things, including clearance issues and timing.
"There's a momentum," Mayer said. "After the first sets were released, the audience response was so overwhelming that we really wanted to satisfy everyone. Timing issues were a strong influencing factor."
Mayer denied the replacements were made in order to cut costs as the franchises continued.
"No, we maintain the quality," she said. "We would rather not put something out. We maintain a consistent quality for all our products."
Fans of both series complain that the box sets were not labeled to indicate that they contained music replacements. The first season DVDs did have complete music, fans note.
Initially unaware of "elevator-esque background music" placed under the dialog in many scenes of Northern Exposure, "people have written in for refunds, said that essentially it wasn't what was promised," Lutterman said.
"With [the studio] making no statement and looking like they were just trying to hide it under the rug, it feels like they were maybe trying to hit the Christmas-season shopping deadline," he said.
"I think they realize that the casual buyer won't notice and that the dedicated fans will buy it due to the absence of the disclaimer, not knowing that it has been altered until they get home with it," said Quantum Leap fan David Farley.
Farley believes studios should be legally required to label DVDs that have music replacements. The music changes on the Quantum Leap second season DVDs reflect a few prominent omissions.
In one episode, characters are seen mouthing the words to "Louie Louie," but The Kingsmen song is not what's heard. And Ray Charles' "Georgia On My Mind" is mentioned by characters in the season finale, but in what fans cite as a pivotal scene, the song is missing.
"It's a shame that the studios would look to this area to cut costs," Farley said. "It seems that since DVD has turned into a phenomenon, some studios seem to be rushing product to market and no longer take the time or care to always do it right."
A few fans say they are now wary of future Universal releases--particularly the music-driven Miami Vice, which bows Feb. 8.
"I have a feeling that Miami Vice will either have a lot of replacement music or be complete in season one to rope us in, only to be cut in subsequent sets," Farley said.
Mayer said the first season Miami Vice set will contain every piece of original music but couldn't say yet what plans for the following seasons will be.
She added that Miami Vice was a prime example of the rights and contractual negotiations that the studio has to go through in order to get a series out. In 2003, Universal vowed not to bring the show out until it could resolve all the music issues (DVD Exclusive, October 2003), and it stayed true to its word.
© 2006, Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All Rights Reserved. Original post online.