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Married... with Children - Syndicated Episodes Explained - Studio Response

Posted by Gord Lacey
8/26/2005
 
The other day I wrote an editorial about "sloppy" DVD releases, and how we were going to start covering them regularly. The plan was to call studios when there's a problem, and then report the problem and studio explanation to our audience. This is the first report on the subject.

A few readers tipped us off to an issue with the Married... With Children Season 4 DVD release (releases on 8/30), and the possibility that it contains some syndicated episodes. A review by "skees53" at SitcomsOnline.com mentions 7 episodes with shorter running times (approx 22:30 instead of approx 23:10). One of these episodes, "Rain Girl," appeared on the "Most Outrageous Episodes Volume 2" release, but ran 23:12 (as timed by "pilot" at DVDTalk.com).

Armed with this information, I went to Sony Pictures to ask how this could happen. How could 7 episodes out of the season be syndicated, while the others are fine, especially when one of the episodes was already released uncut on a previous DVD from the same company? The answer isn't "sloppy work" by the company; it's much more complicated.

Please indulge me for a moment while I explain something about audio on TV shows. I'll simplify things a bit and say that shows have two sets of audio tracks; "music and effects" (M&E) tracks, and dialog tracks. This allows the companies to use the same music and effects while swapping in a new set of dialog in another language for overseas broadcasts. They go back to these original elements when they have to replace music on the DVDs since they can replace the background music while leaving the dialog intact.

When Sony Pictures and the music publisher couldn't reach a reasonable price for licensing the Married... With Children theme song it had to be replaced, starting with season 3. This caused more problems than we could have imagined at the time. Sony had to go back to their vaults and find the original episodes, along with the dialog and M&E tracks so they could replace the opening theme. Unfortunately they didn't have some of the original audio tracks for the episodes, but they had them for the syndicated episodes. With their hands tied by the material they had access to, they used the syndicated episodes and audio tracks.

I asked whether a combination of the elements could be used; the opening using the syndication audio tracks (with new music) blended with the original episode and audio. While this is technically possible, it would require hours in the studio mixing the audio tracks, and then the result may not match and be noticeable to everyone who views the DVD set. With the added cost to mix this, and the possibility that it wouldn't sound right, they decided to stick with the syndicated episodes.

Hopefully this helps to explain what happened with the title. What appeared to be a sloppy job by the studio was actually a complicated process filled with decisions from various departments that came as the result of music replacement (who would have guessed?). Special thanks to the asset management manager, and the marketing manager from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment who were kind enough to speak with me regarding this situation. I hope future reports are as informative as this one.

Please note: This information relates to Married... with Children and the explanation provided may not relate to why syndicated episodes have appeared on other sets.

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