And Pants to Match

June 25, 2009

Top 10 uses of music in TV

Filed under: Uncategorized — pbrl @ 1:57 pm

You don’t care about this intro, so it’ll be kept short – I like making and reading top 10 lists of stuff I haven’t usually seen. So here’s my top 10 uses of songs in TV shows. This does not include any ‘score’ music, stuff written specifically for the show. I’m sure I’ve forgetten a ton, since there are thousands and thousands of choices, but here are 10 which stick out to me (I’ve limited myself to only mentioned a show once):



10. Lost, Man of Science, Man of Faith (201) – Make Your Own Kind of Music by The Mamas and the Papas


The first of 3 pieces of diegetic music. This music still creeps me out, even 4 years after its use and after the basic circumstance was explained. It was just so jarring to hear this pop song being played while Jack was descending into the bowels of the unknown – can you think of a song which would be weirder to hear?


9. Arrested Development, Key Decisions (104) – Cry Love by John Hiatt


I had to include one pure comedy here, and I went with this one. No specific reason for it, other than it stuck with me and was one of the few times Arrested Development didn’t use one of its 5 standard musical riffs.


8. House, Cane and Able (302) – Gravity by John Mayer


Another one I have a hard time explaining. House is always really good at picking good songs, but the use of Gravity was excellent in this episode as House’s leg pain starts to return and you can see something break inside of him.


7. Everwood, An Ounce of Prevention (413) – The Luckiest by Ben Folds


Yes, Everwood. Deal with it. One of the best melodramatic representations of a kid dealing with the fact that he’s gay, and the fact that we all have our burdens to bear in life. Great musical choice.


6. The Wire, -30- (510) – Down in the Hole by The Blind Boys of Alabama


I think The Wire only used non-diegetic music 5 times in the whole show – the montage at the end of every season. And the last one is the best, as they go back to using the theme song from the first season of the show to show us the result of all 5 years. I won’t tell you what the montage contains, lest you haven’t seen this brilliant show.


5. Friday Night Lights, State (122) – Devil Town by Tony Lucca


The first season of Friday Night Lights ranks up there with The West Wing in terms of sheer end-to-end brilliance over 22 full episodes for a rookie. And the show ended its finale with this musical choice as the team celebrates winning the state championship. Without knowing if the show would ever be renewed, the choice was inspired – a cover of a Daniel Johnston song indicating the utter deadness of Dillon, Texas, but that maybe its alright if you’re one of the dead.


4. ER, Be Still My Heart (613) – Battleflag by Lo-Fidelity


Diegetic choice #2. This is the music which is being played during a Valentine’s Day party which overtakes the screen when Lucy Knight and John Carter are stabbed. Extremely intense, and a great choice of electronic music to overlay the very frightening moment.


3. The West Wing, Two Cathedrals (222) – Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits


Never was TV more regal. Just watch the damn episode.


2. Scrubs, My Mistake (314) – Winter by Joshua Radin


Scrubs had about 10 choices which could have made this list. Along with Chuck, Scrubs is one of the best shows ever at incorporating little-known bands into the quirky storytelling. Other groups to have been featured brilliantly on Scrubs are Finger Eleven, Colin Hay, and the until-then obscure The Shins. But this was the best one, in perhaps the most emotional episode of a sitcom ever. I won’t tell you what scene this plays over in case you haven’t seen it, but watching John McGinley do his thing is fabulous.


1. The Office Christmas Special  – Only You by Yaz


Diegetic choice #3. One of the most heartwarming, “yay” moments I’ve had watching TV. It’s just so earned. The American version of The Office is a fantastic show, and the Jim/Pam relationship was and is wonderful, but the UK Office is simply different – the people are more pathetic, the lives more hopeless, the world more bleak. And so when someone wins – really wins – goddamm it feels good.


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