FSFT5 – Musical Moments on TV of the Past 10 Years

It’s been awhile since I did a proper Film Score Friday Top 5, between classes and the difficulty of coming up with a topic each week, I’ve been a bad blogger.  So once again I’ll throw it to you, fair readers, if you have either a topic you want me to tackle or a list yourself, let me know – part of what makes the internets so great is the interactivity of it all.

Anyway, for today’s installment, I have decided to do what I consider the best musical moments on TV (narrative shows, not live concerts, award shows, etc) of the last ten years.  Why ten years, you ask?  Because that is what I know best, and if I try to go further back I do not feel that I’m on as solid of ground.  My criteria for inclusion is memorabililty, re-watchability, and if the music actually served to further the narrative of the show and wasn’t just for cheap plugging or ratings.  I considered both diegetic and non-diegetic music, and the list I came up with actually includes many examples of the blurring of the line between the two.  Lastly, I wanted specific instances, not just so-and-so’s music for x show, and to that end I decided to limit myself to only one instance from either Lost or Battlestar Galactica, though I could have easily done top five lists for either shows and have done so in the past.

Well with all that out of the way, let’s go to the list.  I shall present them in chronological order.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – “Once More With Feeling” (Season 6, Episode 7; November 6, 2001): Also known as the Buffy musical, this episode, though not the first instance of a “musical episode” within a television show, is certainly one of the most well-known.  Creator/Writer/Producer/Director Joss Whedon also wrote all the song and music for this episode, showing the world that he really is master of all he surveys.  What strikes me most about this episode is how integral it is to the story arc of the entire season, and while one can watch the episode on its own and enjoy the music, without the context of what has come before it, many of the subtleties of the song lyrics are lost – especially in the show’s penultimate number in which the Scooby Gang (look it up) finally confronts the villian…the villian which is actually the cause of the entire town of Sunnydale breaking into song.  And this is what I also find so brilliant, instead of the traditional musical caveat of the characters not commenting on the songs, they are fully aware of their singing and find it quite strange.  This is also the only entry in this list in which it is not a specific moment but rather the episode itself, though musical highlights include Xander and Anya’s  throwback number “I’ll Never Tell.”  Also great are the little moments like “They Got the Mustard Out” or the woman singing to the traffic cop to not give her a ticket heard only in passing as the main characters walk down a street.  It is an amazing episode that set the stage for Whedon & Co.’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.  And if you haven’t see that…well you really need to.

Life on Mars (BBC Version) – Episode 1 (January 9, 2006): Let me first just say this, if you’ve only seen the American version of this show (from the 2008-09 t.v. season) or if you haven’t seen either, do yourself a favor and get ahold of this show.  They’ve released it on DVD in the US and you might also be able to find it via torrents (that’s how I first saw it prior to its domestic DVD release).  The basic premise of the show is that a modern-day cop is somehow transported back to the 1970s (the how is left open until the end – is he in a coma, did he actually travel through time, is he dead and this is the afterlife?) after being hit by a car.  And it is this sequence, as his is hit by the car and then wakes up in 1973, that I am highlighting here.  As this happens, the David Bowe song “Life on Mars?” off his album Hunky Dory is playing on his iPod in his car, and the song plays through the traveling sequence and continues to play as he wakes up and is now playing on an 8-track.  The song moves into and out of the diegesis and is links the two time periods together and they even used the sound of telephones (heard at the very end of the album track) as the song fades into the police department, and indeed the sound of a ringing phone becomes very important throughout the show.  I am speaking specifically of the BBC version here because this sequence as rendered in the US version does not even hold a candle, and everything that is brilliant about the BBC version is not present in the US remake.  Unfortunatly, this clip cuts off right before the phones come in.  But listen to the song itself and you’ll hear it.

Battlestar Galactica – “Crossroads, Pt. 2” (Season 3, Episode 20; March 25, 2007):  Of course, for all you Galactica fans out there, you know where I’m going here – the use of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” at the end of Season 3.  For a few episodes prior, four characters had been hearing faint snippets of music and eventually towards the end of this season finale, they come together and realize they’ve all been hearing the same song, unbeknownst to them as “Watchtower” (though in a new arrangement by composer Bear McCreary, and the actual melody heard by them is entirely unique to McCreary’s version).  The handling of the sequence musically leading up the four gathering and the subsequent use of the song itself in the new arrangement during the final sequence of the episode is one of the few good examples, in my opinion, of the use of a “pop” song during an ending montage (I’m looking at you Scrubs and The O.C. for gratuitous overuse and bad examples) because it serves purpose other than “setting a tone” in that it truly serves a narrative function.  Note: I am forgoing posting a video of this sequence here in order to save parties that have not seen the show from spoilers.

Chuck – “Chuck vs. the Ring” (Season 2, Episode 22; April 27, 2009):  I’ve written about this sequence, Jeffster’s performance of Styx’s “Mr. Roboto,” in an earlier post, “Domo Arigato, Mr. Bartowski,” so I’ll let you read that instead of recapping it here.  It’s ironic that I put down The O.C. in the previous selection when both it and Chuck were created by the same person, and The O.C. always had a good selection of music, but Chuck, in my opinion, does a much better job of using it.

Lost – “The End” (Season 6, Episode 18; May 23, 2010):   The final musical sequence of Lost is one of the most satisfying musical endings to any television show, I believe.  Where Battlestar has many musically satisfying conclusions, they are separate instances for the most part.  What Michael Giacchino does in the final sequence for “The End” is take at least three major themes from throughout the series and builds them all up into a conclusion (as mentioned earlier, I’m planning a more in-depth analysis later on, once I can transcribe the actual music).  And where some may see at least one, if not more, of the themes as character specific, I see this ending as affirming that many of the major music motifs are not character based, but rather based on themes of the show.  What I find satisfying about it is that it brings to a conclusion these musical themes while underlying many of the similarities between them…the “fundamental interconnectedness” of them, which, in many ways, a major theme of the show…we either live together or die alone. Note: I’m also not linking of video of this sequence either for obvious reasons.

Well, that’s all for now, think I missed any?

0 thoughts on “FSFT5 – Musical Moments on TV of the Past 10 Years

  1. Hey there. I couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve said here. Especially in regards to BSG. I’m actually writing an essay for my Honours Film and TV class at the moment comparing the sound design/use of music in BSG and Buffy. That’s how I came across your blog. Anyways, just to say thanks and that I concur! 🙂

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