When VHS Is Better Than DVD

Regular readers of this blog may recall the times I’ve mentioned my obsession with US sitcom Cheers. Premiering on America’s NBC network in September 1982, Channel 4 first aired it in February 1983 (in those pre-internet days, US and UK seasons were months apart). I was hooked from the first episode. OK, I was obsessed. I videotaped every episode. I analysed every scene. I taped my VHS tapes onto cassette. I kept Cheers scrapbooks (I still have them). In short, I was a huge fan (especially of the Sam and Diane era). Not much gets past me when it comes to Cheers.

So imagine my shock when I tuned into digital channel FX’s re-run of episode Friends, Romans and Accountants only to find a completely different ending to the one I remember. I immediately dug out my season one DVD (purchased ages ago but never played) and, to my dismay, discovered that it also had the different ending. In order to verify that I wasn’t going mad, I spent the next few hours hunting down my old VHS version of that same episode taped way back in 1983. And there was the ending I remembered.

But why the change? What’s a Cheers fanatic to do but go straight to the source. I penned an e-mail to Ken Levine, the writer of that episode (we are not worthy!). And – get this – he wrote me back! 


Hello Mr Levine,
Hope all is good with you. Greetings from a Cheers obsessive in the UK. I have a question that I hope you can answer.
Unfortunately, this episode penned by you, has become a victim of the times. I can guess why the original limbo music (the band’s version of Limbo Rock by Chubby Checker) has been replaced by that horrific muzak thing; guess Paramount wouldn’t stump up for the music rights.
What I can’t understand is why the ending has been changed. Originally, as Norm is being carried out the door, Sam says: "I feel sorry for next year’s host" (or something like that) and Norm’s toga gets stuck on the door and rips off him.
In the new version (on the DVDs and airing worldwide), Norm’s carried by his workmates and there’s a cutaway to a location shot of Boston at night – no last word from Sam. No toga rip.
I saw this ending for the first time yesterday on a digital channel and immediately dug out the season one DVD I’d purchased ages ago. Imagine my dismay when I realised I had the new version. I then spent hours hunting down my old VHS tape with the same episode. And there it was: last word from Sam and the toga rip. I’m at a loss. Do you have any idea why the ending is different? It’s really bugging me.
Kind regards


Wow.  I’m going to have to do some investigating and see if I have my copy from the first season’s airing.  Here’s what I recall — the original ending was supposed to be the toga catching but once we saw it on film no one was happy with the way it turned out. So the fallback ending was constructed.  I thought we only aired the fallback ending.  But maybe we did air the original once and when we had to take time out for syndication we went to the other.  Interesting.  As for the music —

Thanks and I’ll look into this.



Flippin’ ‘eck Tucker – Ken Levine! What a buzz! It probably sounds overly dramatic, but I break out in a cold sweat at the mere thought of not being able to enjoy Cheers as I remember it. To be fair, this also applies to the likes of Just Good Friends, Remington Steele and just about any other show I was nuts about at school.

Anyone fortunate enough to have taped, for example, Grange Hill, Only Fools and Horses and Beverly Hills 90210 on their first run (or in the case of Grange Hill, its BBC2 run) is very lucky. I know people that would pay a small fortune for the privilege of owning the unblemished versions.

One company got it right: Universal Studios forked out for the music rights when Miami Vice got its DVD release. I hold that up as the standard all should follow. Few do though. But don’t just take my word for it – read the comments and reviews on Amazon and you’ll see fellow obsessives mourning the loss of the original music and/or certain scenes.

Yes, videotapes are bulky, take up waaaaay too much space and getting tape stuck around the VCR heads is a nightmare, but I’m never getting rid of my old tapes. I’d rather watch my faves on worn, unsullied VHS tapes than brand-new, butchered DVDs. Non-obsessives may find that difficult to appreciate, but I am unrepentant. The moral of this story is: don’t throw away your old VHS collection – convert it to DVD.

Today I am mostly lovin’ –
Good to see The Fixer back on ITV1. However, the actors playing Clinton and B didn’t convince me at all: RSC trying to do ‘street’ is the impression I got. Nicola Burley, the actress playing B’s girlfriend Savannah, put in a cringe-inducing performance that felt like an off-key impression of Matt Lucas’ Vicky Pollard.  

Today I am mostly hatin’ – It’s hard being an Arsenal fan at times…

MSN Editor Coops
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18 Responses to When VHS Is Better Than DVD

  1. ali says:

    no reason why they cant have kept the original versions and still stuck them on the dvd along with the tweaked offerings? you can then choose what to watch from the menu, seems like an good idea what with dvds being able to hold different outtakes or whatever. george lucas got told off for butchering the end of star wars 3 aka return of the jedi (well maybe not told off as such but there was an outcry) so eventually there was a re-re-released dvd version of the original 1983 version, so there was a choice! i prefered the older version, of course! wish i had kept a lot more of my older vhs\’s but over time they went walkies!

  2. Solent Lights says:

    hi there, just read your blog, about the music change.I\’m a huge fan of las vegas which has now ended,the uk release had different title music to its usa airing which was elvis a little less conversation,it bugged the hell out of me so …i sold my uk versions and brougth the usa ones instead.

  3. Coops - says:

    ali joe: Guess who still has the VHS releases of all three original Star Wars movies? None of that new age tuneless rubbish on Return Of The Jedi for me! Yub Nub forever!Solent Lights and Sound: I know exactly where you\’re coming from. I\’d do the same damn thing. After all, it\’s Elvis! Nice to know I\’m not alone in this. 🙂

  4. Allister says:

    I so remember the "missing" toga scene as like you I\’m a cofirmed "Cheers" addict and remember how this episode jarred last time I caught it on a late night viewing recently. I have also noticed when buying box sets that music seems to be the first to go when repackaged, is this down to copyright? . I for one feel music is almost as important when setting a scene and feel let down when on revisiting old favourites only to find it\’s different

  5. Antonio says:

    "Cheers was a good sitcom"

  6. Coops - says:

    Yes Allister McKillop, music tends to be the sticking point due to copyright and rights. The DVD version of National Lampoon\’s Animal House (John Belushi), for example, suffers due to this. Around four or five songs have been cut and replaced with rubbish. If you have the VHS, you have the original version. However, sometimes VHS -> DVD changes are inexplicable. My VHS version of The Big Easy (Dennis Quaid, Ellen Barkin) contains a scene at the end that is now missing from the DVD. Without this scene, the movie jumps to a very abrupt ending. I have no idea why it\’s been cut from the DVD. As you can imagine, I am now extremely cautious when purchasing DVDs – if I can\’t have the original version as I remember it, I won\’t buy the DVD.

  7. Rob says:

    Ignoring most of this conversation, I feel that VHS has several advantages over DVD. Sitting down to watch a DVD last night, I had to sit through 10 minutes of trailers-each with the same, 15 second long studio ident. Then a minute-long introduction to the DVD menu, and THEN a spoilery cutscene as I pressed play. that\’s 11-odd minutes wasted, 11 minutes that you can fast-foward through with one click on a VHS. Also, there are certain scenes in certain films or episodes that you want to put aside just for their power or humour, scenes you want to watch again and again. with a DVD you can\’t just stop it right before the moment like you can on VHS.

  8. Antonio says:

    "Another funny sitcom was ALF and the sketch began some time during the mid or late 80\’s"

  9. robyn says:

    I\’m a 13 year old, new fan of Cheers and watched this episode not 2 weeks ago! *annoyed face* Nice blog.

  10. Justin says:

    why don\’t you just burn the old vhs\’ onto dvd 🙂 then you can immoralise your vhs\’ forever.

  11. Paul says:

    As Michael Winner is fond of saying "Calm down dear" its only a TV sitcom with a slightly different edit. I mean come on, keep VHS over DVD? DVD has revolutionised the home entertainment market, when it comes to diferent versions of films and TV I don\’t recall VHS having the variety of directors cuts, original versions, deleted scenes, directors commentary…etc…etc (Blade Runner a classic example). Not forgetting the incredable picture and audio qualilty (VHS looks terrible on a 40" TV)Many of the TV shows you speak about have been restored and rereleased, including original tv spots and so on. No disrespect to you Lorna, but if I was Ken I\’d be thinking "does it matter?", given the huge number of Cheers episodes that they made. Still I suppose without the fans, the shows would be alowed to fade from memory.Given the demand to see alternative versions, I cannot believe it will be too long before there will be a Cheers "alternative ending" for this show on DVD.There\’s more exciting things to do than wait for a VHS to rewind!

  12. Janet says:

    One of my favourite series on tv is now on its 6th season. It\’s called Cold Case, BUT it\’s not available to buy on dvd as the music each week is pertinent to the year of the case they\’re investigating, and it\’s apparently too difficult (or expensive) for them to get the rights to use this. A definite (Cold) Case for vhs over dvd. lol.

  13. Coops - says:

    Hello Justin – if you can suggest the ideal method for transferring… 200 + videotapes, I\’m listening (as Dr Frasier Crane is so fond of saying). 🙂

  14. Coops - says:

    Hello Paul K. I take your point about the technical aspects of DVD – I am not arguing with that at all. However, for those of us that began our TV series collections on VHS, there is every likelihood that we possess versions of some shows that will never make it to DVD due to music rights. Or even some other issue (I have an original copy of The Big Easy on VHS with five extra minutes of footage that is no longer available on DVD for some bizarre reason). Y\’see mate, ignorance is bliss and perfect memory recall is a bitch. If I was blessed with not being able to remember \’that song I liked at this bit\’ or \’the part where so-and-so walks out\’, I\’d be happy with butchered DVDs. But I want it how I remember it. And that\’s the rub.Last word to a reviewer of the DVD version of National Lampoon\’s Animal HouseWhat\’s happened to the music?A Customer from SwindonI love animal house, but what have they done to the music? Much has been changed from the original – e.g. \’Wonderful World\’ before the food fight scene has been changed to some dreadful generic rock and roll number. Arrggh!!

  15. Coops - says:

    Janet Saye, I feel your pain.

  16. Coops - says:

    Robyn, a 13-year-old fan of Cheers? Ah, that takes me back (although I was a little younger). 🙂

  17. Kevinjohn says:

    I am a huge fan of DVD (and subsequently BlueRay), and for certain type of films, there is nothing better than a home cinema system from which to enjoy the whole experience.But, and I feel this is where PaulK and others might be a bit off-topic, this is not the point the Original Poster was making. A 2 camera shot-for-TV pilot of Cheers ain’t exactly Blade Runner!For television shows, and for films that do not in anyway require “high definition”, all the magical technical aspects of DVD go out the window. Yes, DVDs will always look better than their VHS counterparts, but if the original material is changed dramatically then one has to accept they are not watching the same thing.People who buy box-sets of TV shows are generally speaking people to have some form of emotional attachment to the show in question, rather than say a Christmas/Birthday present, which is a larger possibility for feature films. To that degree, it is not a shock that people are surprised and saddened to find the original material with which they connect had been changed, and possibly what is more disturbing is that these changes are unannounced.As a film PaulK, may I remind you of the outcry by many at the updating of the Special Editions of Star Wars, or of the mass-hysteria of the digital removing of the guns from ET (they were replaced by walkie-talkies to ensure the film continues to receive it’s U and PG ratings).The point of being able to watch, record, and re-watch this sort of medium at home is that one can relive the experience repeatedly, and one can share the experience with others. When this is taken away from us, its going to upset people.Take, if I may, your own example of Blade Runner, and the infamous Voice Over scene at the end of the original (which incidentally isn’t as bad as people make out). Imagine if we had “the director’s cut” with the full ending released first on video all those years ago, only to have the “Voice Over” version to be the only version released on DVD. I’m willing to wager quite a few people would cherish the original VHS version.Lorna, I have done a very similar thing as yourself, but with the original Battlestar Galactica, which was hacked and slashed in it’s DVD release (about 18 months ago), and thankfully I’d bought the VHS box set in 1998. The small differences were not so small, and it got to the point where I took the DVD versions back to the shop. Just like I did with Babylon 5 season 4+5 (Channel 4 moved both of these series to after 12midnight to show them in full), and just like I did my wife did with Dawsons Creek and 90210.Specifically to PaulK:“VHS looks terrible on a 40" TV”Maybe, just maybe, not everyone has a 40” TV.“Many of the TV shows you speak about have been restored and rereleased, including original tv spots and so on.”But many haven’t, and are released with the claim of being the originals but being different.“I don\’t recall VHS having the variety of directors cuts, original versions, deleted scenes, directors commentary”Not everyone buys TV and Film for those extras. Buffy seasons 1 and 2 where the largest selling DVDs of the year when released, and they had none of those features (just like the VHS versions, because they didn’t have any film to waste at the time).“There\’s more exciting things to do than wait for a VHS to rewind”Such as sitting through all the un-skippable, un-fast-forwardable adverts and “you wouldn’t steal a car…” stuff? I don’t know about you, but I hit rewind on my VHS when I’m done, and its rewound by the time I’ve taken the next tape out and walked over to the machine.

  18. Coops - says:

    Wow – gold star for you Kevinjohn Gallagher! You get it. Thank you. I am at peace now. 😉

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