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July 27th, 2005

Guestvision By: MikeKraken


Horror at the HMV

Firstly, although I realise many of these points have been debated over and over in the forums at Al’s Place message board, I have been relatively absent from the wonderful community for almost three months now. I figured, after what I saw at an HMV store in Toronto, that my thoughts could only be expressed in a GuestVision.

Nearly a month ago, I was in Toronto for an event called the City Chase. It is a one-day event similar to CBS’s "The Amazing Race" in which teams of two scurry about major Canadian cities and try to accomplish a certain number of tasks in the shortest amount of time. Afterward, while my teammate and I were waiting to meet up with a friend, we were perusing an HMV on Yonge Street. (For those of you who don’t know, HMV is a record store like Sam the Record Man or Music World, all of which also sell DVDs these days.)

Anyway, this does tie in with "Quantum Leap" in a most important way. As some of you readers may know, I was in Seoul, South Korea for eight months and thus was not at home in Canada when the season two DVDs of our favourite series was released last December. I had seen screenshots of the cover art online and thought it wasn’t so bad... I think Dean Stockwell deserved to be on the season one set’s cover as well, but I digress. While my friend and I were in the TV shows on DVD isle, he picked up the season two set for "Quantum Leap" and, knowing that I am a huge QL fan (I actually got him watching it about five years ago and he played Thames on the Quantum Leap RPG for a time), thought I would be utterly joyful at seeing the box set.

I guess I surprised him when I expressed my disgust. Upon seeing the actual box set, I can’t believe some of the mistakes that Universal made that had already been mentioned online. My biggest problem with the art itself is the image that comes from episodes that wasn’t even in season two: the one of Al when he leaped in "The Leap Back". Not only that, but the issue foremost on most Leapers’ minds was, and still is, the fact that many of the songs were replaced with generic music without any vocals. I mean, if you were a fan of the show like many of us on the message board, wouldn’t you want the original episodes, as they aired, to be on the DVDs? One example of something worse than what Universal did to "Quantum Leap" is what Lion’s Gate did to "ALF": who the heck has the brains (or lack thereof) to put syndicated versions of episodes on DVD?

Many of us said, when we found out about the music replacement, that they could have at least warned people that the music was different from original airings. It is only fair, otherwise one would feel like they are purchasing a bad clone of some kind. As far as I’m concerned, the versions on the DVDs are as bad as syndicated episodes: they are not what originally aired. Universal is a huge company that owns many record companies (Motown Records, for one).

I don’t see how music rights could possibly have gotten in the way of most of the replaced music. They probably never even considered doing what happened in one film (I forget the title) when the makers of the movie wanted Frank Sinatra songs only in the film. Sinatra wanted a lot more money than they were worth, so instead they got someone to cover the songs (I forget his name, too: something with "Junior" at the end) and pay the royalty fees to Sinatra. Even if the family of Ray Charles did not want his song to appear in "M.I.A." on the DVD for whatever reason, someone could have sung the song to make it sound like Charles’s version after receiving permission to record it for themselves. Anybody can cover any song as long as if you make money you pay the artist you were covering, and that you don’t make a parody version of the song without permission. (Weird Al does have permission from the original artists to turn their songs into parodies.)

Lack of effort produced the sub-standard second season both musically and with respect to cover art...

... and the same with the third season. Sitting right next to the season two set on the shelf was season three (priced about twenty dollars cheaper, for some reason). This is when I really got angry. First of all, if the mistakes on season two’s cover art wasn’t bad enough, season three’s is just looking awful! Dean Stockwell’s head looks like it’s about to slide off of his neck, and Scott Bakula’s outfit looks the same on every cover. Is there no creativity? I like the progression of colours in the background between the sets, but not like that takes a whole lot of thought.

However, what really sparked me was the small warning on the back: "Music may differ from televised version." May differ? How about does differ?! How about Universal is too stingy to even try to make a suitable product? Although I know that there are those out there who do not care about the music and so forth (in "Quantum Leap" as well as other series), it is of huge importance in this show particularly. The songs selected weren’t just out of the blue for these episodes: they rarely are in any situation. Specific songs were chosen to depict the popular music at the times, as well as lyrical content can connote more than the script at times.

Try watching that final scene in "M.I.A." with the horrible waltz-esque music from the DVD instead of "Georgia on My Mind". (There is a comparison on Al’s Place Quantum Leap Web Site here.) You watch this and tell me that there isn’t a significant feeling "missing" from the scene. Although Stockwell’s performance is magnificent, when you hear that almost-mocking tune in the background on the DVD, it just makes one sick to the stomach.

So, in the end, I really ended up reinforcing a point to my friend that he already knows: do your research before making a purchase! He researched "ALF" before purchasing and is glad he never made the mistake of buying it, as I am glad that I never got the QL sets beyond season one. Universal did a wonderful job with season one, I think. It’s unfortunate that they let their standards go down the toilet after they realised that there was still a fanbase for this timeless classic. It would be interesting to see the financial figures for each DVD set. As for me, if I want an episode from seasons two through five, I have them all on VHS recorded from Space (and no syndi-cuts!) as well as downloading from online sources.

I thought I was upset when I first found out about season two (and three)... after seeing the actual product in my hands, any hope of a decent season four disappeared. Even all of our complaint e-mails probably just ended up in some generic inbox, sitting in obscurity... so much for the adage of "the customer is always right".

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