TV & the Scourge of Sound-a-Likes

Have you ever found yourself watching a repeat of something, be it a perennial favourite or a guilty pleasure, only to find that something’s not quite right? You might have seen an episode of How I Met Your Mother (or How I Met Your Late Mother After Falling in Love with my best friend whom I continue referring to as your Aunt) but something has thrown you for a loop in the way it’s presented.

Very often, when television programmes are sold for syndication (i.e., they have more than 100 episodes so the network or the production company sells the existing back catalogue off to anyone who’ll buy it), certain changes are made to suit the repeat-friendly model, as well as certain rights changing. For example, if there was a special hour-long episode it might get cut down to two half hours, or if there was an episode rife with racy encounters, those sexual rendezvouses may be chopped out to accomodate the earlier slot (they do this with Friends all the time). One of the casualties of these syndication changes however is that very often, the music that appears in a TV show will only have been licensed for a certain number of years or a certain method of distribution.

For the most part, modern TV is safe enough from these kinds of alterations, but if you venture back into the unknown badlands of pre-DVD you’ll find that it’s a foregone conclusion that songs that appeared in the aired versions of a TV show will be eradicated from their DVD versions. To my great honour and disgust, I admit to owning the first five seasons of the original Beverly Hills 90210 on DVD. Don’t ask me how or why this is the case, but for better or worse, it is. Unlike modern teen dramas which thrive on whatever dross is in the charts nowadays, 90210 generally showcased a wealth of music from the 20th century, not necessarily favouring modern songs. This made it particularly heartbreaking when to my horror I discovered on the DVD sets, that all of the incidental songs had been replaced with shockingly stock ’90s grunge, making Brandon Walsh’s heroic Season 4 efforts to impress a girl (originally enhanced by ‘The Power of Love’ played by Huey Lewis and the News) utterly lukewarm. Suddenly the whole series sounds like a Kevin Smith film.

Elsewhere, the medical drama House is supposed to have ‘Teardrop’ by Massive Attack as its main theme tune, but if you try to watch it on Netflix, Massive Attack is nowhere to be heard – in its stead is a peculiar lyric-less, forgettable tune. It sounds vaguely similar to ‘Teardrop’, but it’s not it. I’ve never actually watched House outside of Netflix, so it didn’t bother me until my girlfriend pointed out the real song and it’s irritated me ever since. Supposedly the show only had the rights to the song while it aired on Fox in the United States. However, eagle-eyed bingewatchers will notice that there is/was at least one episode of House on Netflix with the theme tune intact, so keep your ears tuned.


Another example of an effective song being hacked in favour of a boring sound-a-like was the penultimate Season 1 episode of How I Met Your Mother entitled ‘Milk’ (back when the show was bearable and not depressingly unwatchable to the point of misery). While Ted Mosby is on his way to a date with his perfect match on an Internet dating site, he begins to fantasise what his wedding could possibly be like if he married someone other than his beloved Robin Scherbatsky. Over this dream sequence plays ‘Mother of Pearl’ by Roxy Music. An absolutely awesome song which I’d never heard before – I was disgusted to hear it didn’t survive into the DVD. Perhaps this stealthy exclusion of ‘Mother of Pearl’ was a hint of the eventual contradiction of the entire bloody series.