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Music stands in way of ‘China Beach’ DVD release

SHARE Music stands in way of ‘China Beach’ DVD release
Ned Vaughn, left, Ricki Lake, Michael Boatman, Dana Delany, Brian Wimmer, Marg Helgenberger, Jeff Kober, Nancy Giles, Concetta Tomei and Robert Picardo in "China Beach."

Ned Vaughn, left, Ricki Lake, Michael Boatman, Dana Delany, Brian Wimmer, Marg Helgenberger, Jeff Kober, Nancy Giles, Concetta Tomei and Robert Picardo in “China Beach.”


Question: Why is it that "China Beach" has not come out on DVD? Is it a problem with the music used in the show?

Answer: According to published reports over the years, that is exactly the problem. (You may have seen sets for sale online, but they are bootlegs, and you run a lot of risks buying them.)

The series used large amounts of period music, and the music was an important part of the texture of the show. But rights for use on DVD would have to be acquired, and that can prove expensive.

Some shows have opted for DVD release without the original telecasts' music — "Tour of Duty," like "China Beach," a Vietnam War series, substituted other material — but the show just doesn't feel the same when the music is changed.

A set of the first season of "WKRP in Cincinnati," for example, disappointed a lot of fans by substituting music, as I mention below.

Question: Do the stars of the show "Two and a Half Men" sing the theme song? If not, who does?

Answer: The theme was performed by session musicians, with the cast members lip-synching.

Question: Why do "NCIS" and "Law & Order" in particular allow the background music to be so loud that you can't hear the actors and actresses? If no one else, I would think the actors and actresses would protest.

Answer: This is a regular complaint, and not only about the shows you mentioned. I've gotten letters about the sound on everything from "CSI" to "Days of Our Lives."

Here's the basic explanation: A lot of TV now employs more sophisticated audio than in the past, to sound better on home theater systems. But an older TV set, even one with stereo, may not be able to handle the elaborate mix, so some sounds get buried.

In addition, some shows mix the music high because the shows want the songs to be heard. Sometimes that's to make a dramatic point. Or the show has paid handsomely for the song, wants to showcase it and — in some cases — will include a plug for a CD containing it at program's end. And sometimes the mixing has to be done quickly to meet TV production deadlines, so it's not as good an audio mix as it should be.

Finally, there's a generational issue here. Younger viewers are more accustomed to loud music in shows, while older viewers find it distracting.

And the people making television, as a rule, care less about their older viewers than they do about the younger viewers.

Question: It has been almost two years since the first volumes of "WKRP in Cincinnati" and also "The Practice" were released on DVD. There has been nothing since. Are there plans for the release of more volumes for either and/or both of these TV series?

Answer: Not that I know of.

The "WKRP" set was a disappointment for many fans because it did not include the original music from the show. Quite a few shows will release a first season, or even the first few, and then stop because sales do not live up to expectations.

On the other hand, some shows — especially science fiction and fantasy, with a devoted and free-spending audience — will not only be released in their entirety but repackaged and re-released.

But there's always hope. Fans of "Everwood" finally saw the second-season hit DVD recently, close to five years after the first season's release.

And new media are providing some opportunities. Episodes from the first three seasons of "The Practice" are on Hulu.com.