Saturday, June 28, 2008

How to ruin a great TV show...

It deserves better treatment than this.

Few classic TV series are as well respected as "The Fugitive." The 1960s ABC hour-long program, starring David Janssen as the Indiana doctor falsely accused of murdering his wife, was a step above other dramas of the period. It was well acted, well written and beautifully scored -- although you wouldn't know about the latter if you've looked at the latest CBS/Paramount DVD release.

Long story made short: CBS/Paramount released two mostly fine volumes containing the entire batch of episodes from season one of "The Fugitive." A few pieces of music were changed here and there -- mostly canned music not written for the series -- but Pete Rugolo's award-winning underscore was intact throughout. The music is a big part of the series' allure; it set the tone that made each week's episode feel like a 60-minute slice of film noir.

Well, guess what?

For the first volume of the recently-released season two episodes, some genius at CBS/Paramount decided to redo the entire underscore in each of the included episodes. Its replacement is a hasty hack job, synthesized and out of place.

Fans are furious. Some are returning the DVD sets. Harsh reviews have popped up at and elsewhere.

CBS/Paramount issued a rather lame statement saying they didn't want to hold up the release by mining out all the unlicensed music. Call me crazy, but I would have gladly waited -- or else paid a little extra for uncut episodes.

What's strange about this is that CBS/Paramount has a great history with its DVD releases. "The Twilight Zone" was given the red carpet treatment for all of its 5-season releases. Such a fine program deserved it. So does "The Fugitive."

It's a testament to the quality of this program that, despite this unpardonable sin, the show is still engaging, still able to hook the viewer with its taut pace and gentle humanism.

We'll most likely never see another show quite like "The Fugitive" again. And it's a shame - a true shame -- that CBS/Paramount isn't treating this gem with the respect it deserves.

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