Mailbag: Gold records perplex on ‘Mike and Molly’

By Rich Heldenfels
Beacon Journal popular culture writer

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"Mike Likes Cake" -- Grandma (Cleo King, left) delivers some harsh news to Officer Carl McMillan (Reno Wilson, right), on MIKE & MOLLY, Monday, Oct. 8 (9:30-10:00 pm, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS ©2012 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

If it’s Thursday, this must be the mailbag.

Q: We are fans of “Mike and Molly,” and we noticed on the wall of Carl’s grandmother’s house are two framed gold records. Was she a singer in a previous entertainment career?

A: We don’t exactly know. It has been established that Grandma, played by Cleo King, can sing. But the writers and producers on the CBS comedy have not yet established exactly what her background is.

Q: The other day I was reading a story on the Internet about a dog that wouldn’t leave the church where his master’s funeral had taken place and it reminded me of a movie I saw many years ago, “Greyfriars Bobby.” I think it was a true story that took place in England in the last century? Anyway, was wondering if it was available on DVD. It was such a heartwarming story.

A: Greyfriars Bobby was a 1961 Disney movie starring Donald Crisp, inspired by the true story of a 19th-century dog in Edinburgh, Scotland, who kept watch over his master’s grave for many years. It is available on DVD and via Instant Video on A 2007 film, The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby, is also on DVD.

Q: I was wondering if you have heard anything about the progress of releasing “The Wonder Years” on DVD. I understand the problem is obtaining the rights to the music that was used in the show, as most all of it is from the 1960s. One thing I don’t understand is, I have a store-bought VHS tape of the first two episodes of the show with all original music. How were they able to release this but now aren’t able to release anything else? You would think that they would be able to secure the music rights to at least SOME of the music and release a few episodes, or a “best of” DVD or something. I have “Tour of Duty” on DVD and when they couldn’t get the rights to “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones, which was the show’s opening song, they simply used the show’s ending song at the beginning also. There’s plenty of great music from the 1960s, “The Wonder Years” should just dub over the music they can’t get rights to.

A: The whole music-rights question in movies and TV shows is a swamp, It may depend on what format is presenting the show (VHS, DVD, streaming), and/or what rights were bought at the time the show was made. Wonder Years, which originally aired from 1988 to 1993, licensed its music for VHS — but did not anticipate the arrival of DVD and so did not get broader rights to the songs. And when shows belatedly seek the rights, the price may be too high, or the song no longer available.

That said, shows should not — per your suggestion — just substitute other songs. The makers of The Wonder Years painstakingly chose their music to fit with moments in the show, and substitutions would give a different feel to the scenes. The Wonder Years as available for online streaming via Netflix and Amazon Instant Video replaces Joe Cocker’s rendition of A Little Help From My Friends with a semi-sound-alike at the beginning of the show, and it just hurts my ears. I have tried to watch Tour of Duty with the music substitutions and it’s just not the same, nor was the WKRP in Cincinnati DVD release.

This explains why China Beach took so long to get to DVD; music was integral to the show, and the DVD release had to deal with close to 300 music moments, licensing 268 songs and even then having to delete or substitute in 17 places.

Q: I don’t wish to sound like a bigot but it seems ridiculous when you watch any show on TV or in the movies now that the Americans are all played by Brits or Aussies. Are there not enough American actors and actresses anymore? Is this another industry America has lost? I realize they are all mostly good Shakespearean actors but once in a while we should have an American star. Where are they?

A: Uh, have you seen Mark Harmon of NCIS? Tom Selleck of Blue Bloods? Kevin Bacon of The Following? If you’re looking for U.S. actors, how about Andre Braugher, Julianna Margulies, Ed O’Neill, Connie Britton, Dana Delany, Kerry Washington, Bryan Cranston, Rachel Bilson, AnnaSopia Robb, Peter Dinklage, Melissa McCarthy, Neil Patrick Harris and Jon Hamm? I could go on. And throw in some Canadians — you’re OK with Canadians, aren’t you? — like Nathan Fillion, Sandra Oh and Matthew Perry.

Sure, you could come back at me with Hugh Laurie. Charlie Hunnam and many others. But can you imagine House played by anyone other than Laurie? If the actors are good and convincing, why can’t they be from overseas?

Do you have a question or comment for the mailbag? Write to the Akron Beacon Journal, 44 E. Exchange St., Akron, OH 44309 or 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.

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and in the HeldenFiles Online blog at He is also on Twitter and Facebook.

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