Pop culture Q&A

By Rich Heldenfels

Q. Could you advise where I could write to complain about the aggravating, irritating and annoying background music that so many TV programs subject us to? Sometimes they even have singing to go with it and are so loud that it is difficult to hear the dialogue. I am sure there must be millions of viewers who feel the same way.

A. Loud music on TV shows has been around for a long time; I have been answering questions about it for more than eight years, and hearing it about many different shows, which should tell you how successful the complaints have been. But here’s what is going on:

A lot of TV broadcasts employ more sophisticated audio than in the past, to sound better on home-theater systems, and to appeal to viewers, especially younger ones, who are comfortable with a louder music mix. In addition, some shows mix the music high because they want the songs to be heard. Sometimes that’s to make a dramatic point. Or the show has paid handsomely for the song, wants to showcase it and will sometimes identify the song in the credits or online, so people can buy or download it.

Sometimes the sound mixing has to be done quickly to meet TV production deadlines, so it’s not as good an audio mix as it should be, and the dialogue gets buried under the music. Moreover, an older TV set, even one with stereo, may not be able to handle the elaborate mix, so some sounds get buried. And even home-theater systems can frustrate you if the settings or the arrangement of speakers does not properly balance the sound.

Finally, there’s a generational issue here. Younger viewers are more accustomed to loud music in shows while older viewers find it distracting. And the people making television as a rule care less about older viewers than they do about the young.

One solution I have used at home: If you have some kind of home-theater sound, switch it from multichannel to stereo. That seems to make the dialogue more audible, at least for my old ears. In fact, you may want to tinker with the audio settings on your TV or home theater to see if you can find a better blend.

Q. What was the Western Clu Gulager used to be in? I believe he played Billy the Kid. He was famous for other shows, too, but this was the one I watched constantly.

A. Gulager played Billy the Kid on “The Tall Man,” an NBC Western that aired from 1960 to 1962. It looked at the friendship between Billy and lawman Pat Garrett, played by Barry Sullivan, even though they were at legal odds — and, in real life, Garrett eventually killed Billy. Other viewers may remember Gulager from NBC’s “The Virginian,” where he played Ryker for several seasons, in movies (including several horror titles), miniseries and a host of TV guest appearances.

Q. I have been watching “The Jeffersons” and “Amen” back to back in the mornings on cable and have noticed a lot of similarities between George Jefferson and Deacon Ernest Frye. Did the creators of “Amen” try to make the Deacon much like a George Jefferson kind of guy, knowing Sherman Hemsley was playing the part?

A. There’s no question that “Amen” aimed to draw viewers who enjoyed Hemsley on “The Jeffersons,” and the book “The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows” notes that Frye was “a similar character” to George Jefferson. “The Jeffersons,” after all, had run for 10 years, ending about a year before “Amen” premiered. And even before “Amen” arrived, NBC had taken inspiration from the older comedy, premiering “227,” with “The Jeffersons’” Marla Gibbs.

Do you have a question or comment for the mailbag? Write to the Akron Beacon Journal, 44 E. Exchange St., Akron, OH 44309 or rheldenfelsthebeaconjournal.com. Please mark the email or envelope with “mailbag.” Letters may be edited for publication. Please do not phone in questions. Individual replies cannot be guaranteed.

2012 Akron Beacon Journal

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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