Viacom split opens Spelling vault

'90210,' 'Melrose' set for DVD release

Aaron Spelling and Darren Star’s “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Melrose Place” are finally coming to DVD this November — thanks in part to the CBS/Viacom split-up.

Early 1990s sudsers helped cement Fox’s lock on teen auds, revived Spelling’s career and made the world safe for the likes of “Dawson’s Creek” and “The OC.” For years, however, they languished in the Paramount vaults.

Then came the divorce.

In one of the lesser-publicized aspects of the CBS Corp./Viacom dissolution, thousands of hours of TV library programming were moved from Viacom’s Paramount Home Video to the Leslie Moonves-controlled CBS Consumer Products. Skeins that once had to compete with blockbuster movies and ultra-hip titles from MTV Networks became potential jewels for the Eye’s DVD unit, headed by exec VP-general manager Ken Ross.

“With Leslie’s blessing, we quickly scoured the library to see what hadn’t been released,” Ross said. “What caught my eye immediately was ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ and ‘Melrose’… We recognized these jewels had to come out post-haste.”

Music rights issues — which have delayed or killed dozens of DVD releases of TV shows over the years –complicated Ross’ plans to get the shows out even sooner. He ultimately hired one of Spelling’s former music supervisors to help replace a number of pop songs with acceptable substitutes, a strategy used for releases of other teen faves such as “Dawson’s Creek” and “Felicity.”

“The majority of viewers won’t even know the music has been changed,” Ross said.

“Melrose” and “90210” aren’t the only former Par properties getting a new look at CBS Consumer Products, which releases titles under the CBS DVD label. (Par Home Entertainment continues to physically distribute the titles.)

Ross quickly moved to release “JAG” on DVD, and he said the show has sold well. Upcoming Par titles being readied for release under the new regime include “Diagnosis Murder,” “Police Squad” and a director’s cut of “Gunsmoke.”

Both “90210” and “Melrose” will hit stores Nov. 7 with a retail pricetag of $61. The “Melrose” package is a bit of a bargain as it’ll contain the full 32-episode first season run of the skein.

In addition, CBS DVD will offer a “90210”/”Melrose” two-pack — dubbed “The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful Pack” — for $108.99.

The “90210” package will contain several commentary tracks by Star as well as the usual array of featurettes. “Melrose” will boast about a half-dozen featurettes but no commentaries.

Ross said he’s “going through the (Par TV) library with a fine-tooth comb” and plans a slew of releases next year.

“We’ll be releasing more first-season shows in 2007 than in any other year,” he said. “We don’t have the luxury of putting out a lot of blockbuster movies on DVD, so we’re going to view TV properties in our library much differently (than bigger studios do).”

Par acquired a big chunk of the Spelling library when it bought the producer’s company. Prior to the split, the company had released some of his more recent shows, including “Charmed” and “7th Heaven.” Some other Spelling titles, including “Fantasy Island” and “Charlie’s Angels,” have been released by Sony.

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