Monday, August 14, 2006

Exit Music (For a Film)

Thanks to the fine folks at Netflix, I've been taking a trip down memory lane with past seasons of some of my favorite TV shows.

I'm currently working my way back through "The Sopranos," and just watched the third-season episode where Tony suddenly finds himself mercifully free of his nemesis Ritchie Aprile and his nagging sister Janice in one fell swoop. Carmela turns the tables on Tony, though, and uses revelations about his mistress to get a three-week vacation in Rome. As the camera fixes in on a suddenly depressed Tony, the chorus of the Eurythmics' "I Saved the World Today" kicks in and the combination is absofuckinglutely perfect.

It made me realize there's one commonality that run through my favorite dramas -- good use of popular music on the sountrack. Ranging from a brilliant placement of Radiohead's "Everything in Its Right Place" on Showtime's excellent new series "Brotherhood" to the use of Tom Waits' "Way Down in the Hole" as the theme to "The Wire," musical cues are becoming much more sophisticated on television. (If I had all day to write this, I'd track down the endless examples from the reigning champ of musical cues, "Homicide.")

Of course, I'm a musical junkie, so maybe this is just me. Anyone else finding themselves seduced by the siren song of their favorite tunes?

16 comments:

Tokyo Joe said...

the only thing I gt that's even close is during the third season of "scrubs" on the episode, "Mt Screw-up". The song at the end is Josh Radin's "Winter" and it really hit home.

Actually, most of the music on "scrubs" is excellent. It's one of the few shows I try to really pay attention to the background music because I am always looking for new bands and the like.

The Doc said...

The fact that Massive Attack's song "Teardrop" is the opening credits theme for House was one of the reasons I knew I had to watch the first episode all the way through. Luckily, it did not disappoint.

Mr Furious said...

I've been meaning to write a definitive post on this exact topic for months if not years...

"Homicide" is indeed the champ at music placement. The Belly song in "Every Mother's Son" comes to mind right away. These songs are woven perfectly into the action taking place onscreen, often rising to drown out all dialogue and sound and really enhancing what is transpiring.

The list of artists is like a who's-who from my iPod—Chris Whitley, dada, Morphine, old Gabriel among others... Even bands that I would otherwise dismiss were used perfectly (Counting Crows, and a great climactic use of Candlebox).

The first time I remember really noticing a song during a TV show the "In the Air Tonite" episode on "Miami Vice". I think that was the pilot episode...

If I recall, back in the day, TV shows would use soundalikes for these soundtracks because it was cheaper. I was such a Phil Collins fanatic at the time, I knew this was the real deal. "Miami Vice" really set the bar until Homicide...

Another time was the end of the Sonny Steelgrave (Ray Sharkey) storyline on "Wiseguy." During the climactic struggle between Vinnie and Sonny, "Knights in White Satin" played, IIRC, in its entirety.

I can still vividly remember the Rage Against the Machine during the climactic prison riot in "Natural Born Killers."

There are others, and like OM, I don't have time now to go down that road, much as I would like to.

Otto Man said...

I'm with you on the "House" theme, Doc. I'd rejected the show outright -- I'm not much for medical procedurals -- but Massive Attack made me stop. Much in the way Malvina Reynolds' "Little Boxes" convinced me "Weeds" was worth a shot.

Otto Man said...

You're right about the pioneering influence of "Miami Vice," Mr. Furious. That was an unprecedented and brilliant song use. (If anyone can't remember the scene, YouTube has it here.) Sadly, the show also gave us Glenn Frey and the Smugglers Blues, so it all ends up as a wash.

"Homicide" is, without doubt, the king. That Belly scene was great, and there was an episode where Bayliss is dreaming about Adena Watson to the sound of Barbara Lewis's "Hello Stranger." Just amazing.

Keep 'em coming, folks.

Thrillhous said...

Uhh, hullo? Dukes of Hazard?

Good call on Miami Vice, Mr. F.

Thrillhous said...

And let's give it up for the Smurfs. If any other show does a better job of incorporating the works of Mussorgsky, I haven't seen it.

Otto Man said...

Thrillhous is just mad that "Master of Puppets" never shows up on his Desperate Housewives show.

Thrillhous said...

Hey, just because it's true don't make it funny.

I do remember Homicide having great music, but I'm so lame I don't recall recognizing any of the tunes - I just thought they had a kickass music team for the show.

InanimateCarbonRod said...

Anyone remember that show Millenium? The first season was pretty lame and the third and final season was absolutely horrible, but the second season was some of the finest storytelling I've ever seen on TV. In the season finale of season two they played Patti Smith's "Horses" in its entirety. (It's like 9 or 10 minutes long.) It played so well against the plague/apocalypse/drug overdose stuff going onscreen that I immediately became a huge Patti Smith fan.

Otto Man said...

Did that show feature Cheryl Ladd? Never saw it.

Mr Furious said...

Anyone remember that show Millenium?

Is that the one starring Lance Henrickson?

Otto Man said...

It's the Henrikson show, yeah. I did see that, and it was good, though a little bit of a weak copy of X-Files. Plus, I still thought he was the android from "Aliens."

The Millennium that I was thinking of was a movie co-starring Kris Kristofferson.

I like stories.

grandpaboy said...

I've got to second the vote for Scrubs. They had a great use of "Attitude" by the Replacements - ooh, synergy.

Otto Man said...

I'm with you boys on "Scrubs." Damn hell good.

ORF said...

Six Feet Under had a knack for excellent musical cues.

I need to start reading this puppy on a regular so i can keep up w/ the commentary