Teen Drama Replacement Songs & #RestoreTheMusic
When you watch the teen dramas on DVDs or streaming, you may not be watching the episodes as they were originally created. That’s because of music rights issues. And it’s infuriating.
With “Beverly Hills, 90210,” entire scenes are cut from episodes in sydincation, on DVD, and on streaming because they feature certain music performances. With “Dawson’s Creek,” not only is the show’s theme song replaced, but so are other key songs throughout the series. And with “One Tree Hill,” one such song was only cleared for the episode’s first broadcast and never permitted to be heard on the show again.
Who loses out? Quite a few people, I’d argue. The producers and music supervisors, for one, who spent countless hours carefully crafting scores for each episode. The fans, whose favorite moments are often intrinsically linked to the music that accompanies them. And even the artists, who are missing out on royalties because big-name companies simply don’t want to pay up.
But let me back up and explain how it’s come to this. When “Beverly Hills, 90210” debuted in 1990, DVDs weren’t yet on the horizon, let alone streaming. Some music deals were made “in perpetuity” — meaning the show in question had the right to feature the song forever and always, though not necessarily in all viewing formats. Some deals included the right to feature the song in syndication. And still other deals dictated the song could only be used in the episode’s original broadcast or only for the U.S. broadcast.
When it comes to “Beverly Hills, 90210” on DVD, CBS / Paramount didn’t pay up to include performances from the likes of Jamie Walters, Luther Vandross, and others. As a result, these scenes are simply missing from the DVDs. In some memorable scenes, like when Dylan and Kelly meet up at Paradise Cove or when Dylan breaks down following Toni’s death, their all-important background songs (“Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” and “Nobody Knows Me,” respectively) have been swapped out. And on Hulu, dozens of episodes are missing in their entirety because they featured particular music or performances. When fans complain on social media about the missing episodes (including the second-half of the series finale, if you can believe that), they get a stock reply similar to the below.
Back in 2010, when I broke the news to “Beverly Hills, 90210” executive producer Larry Mollin that songs were either replaced or scenes were cut for DVDs and syndication, he explained:
“Oh man. You see, what happened was this — and it hurt me with a lot of stuff I did before this. When we used to make music deals, we’d make them for 5 years because that was the life of the show. Then there was an afterlife when cable came in and things were running longer and longer. You had to start making your music deals in perpetuity. We didn’t start making our music deals in perpetuity until season 4 so all that stuff that [executive producer Charles Rosin] had done from seasons 1-3, you had to redo. So whoever puts the DVD together has to go back to the music companies and make new deals. And they have you over a barrel, so a lot of people just strip out the music and redo it.”
In the case of the “Dawson’s Creek” theme song, Sony only licensed Paula Cole’s “I Don’t Want to Wait” for first-run broadcasts and syndication in the U.S., along with the first two seasons on DVD and the series finale on DVD as well. For international broadcasts and the subsequent seasons on DVD, Sony chose to use Jann Arden’s “Run Like Mad” (which was originally created as a possible theme for the series), seemingly to avoid having to pay Cole additional money. And that’s the opening track currently heard on streaming platforms instead of “I Don’t Want to Wait.”
Paul Stupin, executive producer of “Dawson’s Creek,” conceded to Billboard in 2018, “I know that was a controversial decision for some of the season’s boxed sets. It didn’t come from me: it came from the fact that somebody said, if we want to release these boxed sets, we’re going to have to save some money on the music.”
That’s also why additional music on “Dawson’s Creek” was changed beyond the theme song. “As the show grew in popularity, these licensing deals became increasingly expensive, so Sony went back to the mixing studio to replace any music they couldn’t afford,” Exclaim! reported earlier this year. “Some songs couldn’t be replaced because they were too integral to the story, but much of the background music [was] swapped out. Eventually, ‘Dawson’s Creek’ began selecting music specifically because it wouldn’t have to be replaced.”
As for “One Tree Hill,” music supervisor Lindsay Wolfington told me in 2010, “‘Never Tear Us Apart’ by INXS in the 100th episode [Episode 5.12, Hundred] is probably the most asked about song on OTH — why was it changed out after the first airing. I’ve explained that legally, we only were able to get rights to air it on TV in the U.S., not for the rest of the world or on DVD.”
Fortunately, though, much of the rest of “One Tree Hill” remains musically intact, and that seems to be largely the case with “The O.C.,” “Gossip Girl,” and “90210” as well. But “Beverly Hills, 90210” simply doesn’t make sense when Peach Pit After Dark scenes are cut — or entire episodes are missing as fans attempt to binge-watch the series online. As much as I actually prefer “Run Like Mad” to “I Don’t Want to Wait,” watching “Dawson’s Creek,” without, for example, Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” playing as Pacey watches Joey sleep in episode 3.12, “A Weekend in the Country,” just isn’t the same. These songs are emotional cues embedded in my brain. Rewatching key scenes with replacement music fails to evoke the senses in the same way. And if it was so important to have that particular INXS song in a milestone episode of “One Tree Hill,” it should’ve been important enough to secure the rights for all future airings too.
Perhaps most significantly, all of this art isn’t being preserved as it was originally created and intended. Make no mistake — this is a cultural loss. This is art that future generations may never know in their authentic forms. But some are trying to change that. Rosin, for example, has spent the last year pushing a #RestoreTheMusic campaign. He is investigating different ways to get CBS to restore at least some of the original music for key episodes and scenes. Rosin feels so passionately about this issue, he shared this exclusive statement with me:
“Years ago, long after I had left the show, I made myself crack up when I first referred to ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ as ‘The Rodney Dangerfield of Television’ — you know, the comic who ‘gets no respect.’ And nowhere is that lack of respect for the series more glaring, more debilitating / demoralizing, than the penurious business practices of CBS and Hulu — CBS for stripping our licensed music rather than pay for streaming rights, failing to preserve the legacy of television by diminishing the quality of the show Aaron Spelling and I produced; Hulu for refusing to play any episode that featured music that was cleared and recorded / pre-recorded live; including ‘Commencement’ and ‘The First 50 Years.’ I’m not laughing anymore, Rodney.”
Meanwhile, Cole has been outspoken for a number of years now about her dissatisfaction with “I Don’t Want to Wait” being replaced, something she was most recently reminded of when “Dawson’s Creek” returned to Netflix last fall and fans unaware of the theme song saga erupted in outrage and disappointment. In a 2018 essay, Cole even went as far as saying she felt like she was “being erased from the association with ‘Dawson’s Creek’ due to (what feels to me like) corporate greed.” But according to the singer, Sony has agreed to restore “I Don’t Want to Wait” as the theme song for future streaming… but to date, the company has yet to confirm that.
Please don’t think this problem is limited to the teen drama genre or isn’t making waves outside a core group of fans. Just last month, The New York Times wrote a whole story on replacement music, with “Dawson’s Creek” as an example, and observed, “Licensing issues have gutted the soundtracks of many beloved series on streaming services, resulting in bewildering music cues and missing theme songs.”
These shows weren’t created with the intention of being “bewildering” or to have their theme songs disappear. Nothing about any piece of art should be “gutted.” But if there’s any chance of this changing, fans are going to need to make some noise. So let’s fight to #RestoreTheMusic.
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Another show that has stripped original theme and episode music is Baywatch; it's amazing how much the missing music affects enjoyment of the show. :(