Music & TV

Music and the moving picture can sometimes come together to create something more than the sum of its parts; the song becomes more meaningful than it was before, as does whatever video material you’re watching. This is why soundtracks are so important. In this post, I have listed a number of scenes from TV shows that had exceptionally good soundtracks. From the moment I first watched these scenes, I could never hear the songs without thinking of the shows they went with in my head.

Most of these paragraphs will have at least some spoilers of the specific episode.

The song: This Is Hell by Elvis Costello (Song starts at 1:50 in the video below)
The Show: Gilmore Girls, season two episode five: Nick & Norah/ Sid & Nancy
Why it’s such a great combo

This is the episode in which Jess, originally from a much larger town, moves to Stars Hollow. Of course, he is less than pleased about this development. After showing off his displeasure in a James Dean-like display of rebellion, Jess heads out on a walk through the town. That is when This Is Hell starts to play in the background. The combination of Elvis Costello’s clear, familiar voice and the optimistic tune with Jess’ teenage hatred is just really funny to me somehow.

The song: Angel by Massive Attack
The Show: The West Wing, season four episode twenty-two: Commencement
Why it’s such a great combo

During Commencement, the president’s daughter, Zoey Bartlet, goes missing. It is soon revealed that she has been kidnapped. This episode is a real nail-biter, and part of what makes it so incredibly thrilling is Massive Attack’s great song Angel. It sounds eerie, almost otherworldly, and underlines the terror the Bartlets are experiencing on-screen as their youngest daughter is kidnapped. Unfortunately, the only video I could find was a re-edited one, and it seems to be missing the scene where Amy asks Donna whether she’s in love with Josh and Donna doesn’t answer.

The song: Night Moves by Bob Seger
The Show: Supernatural, season eleven episode four: Baby
Why it’s such a great combo

I had resigned myself to Supernatural being nowhere near as great as it was at the beginning. I had resigned myself to a more hostile, more distant dynamic between Sam and Dean. I had resigned myself to increasingly unlikely plot twists and fights against monsters that kept on getting more and more evil. I had resigned myself to every one of these plot lines being resolved with a deus ex machina; and then Baby came along.

Baby was an incredible episode of Supernatural, right up there with Mystery Spot and other such delights from the earlier seasons. It showed us an old-fashioned feel-good type of television with the bond between the Winchesters at the heart of it all. Their camaradery was perhaps best illustrated in the scene where Dean plays Night Moves in the car. The main reason I love this scene is that you can really see the way the boys love this song, how it brings back good memories and reminds them how much they love each other. Just look at how cute they are!

The song: Let My Love Open The Door by Pete Townshend, covered here by Luminate
The Show: The Newsroom, season two episode nine, Election Night Part II
Why it’s such a great combo

This scene is mostly great because it resolves the whole plot in a satisfying and believable way. Of course, The Newsroom had a third season in the end, but it is obvious that Sorkin intended for this episode to be the last one when he wrote it. All of the romantic couples get their happy ending, and everyone seems quite content. This scene is made extra fun because main characters Will and MacKenzie have previously discussed music by The Who, and now, just when they’re getting engaged, a Pete Townshend song is playing.


The song: Boogie Shoes by K.C. And The Sunshine Band (song starts at 18:36 in the video.)
The Show: Sports Night, season one episode seven Dear Louise
Why it’s such a great combo

Wait, is that three Aaron Sorkin shows in one list? Yeah, I’m afraid it it. I just can’t help how much I love Sorkin, and I can’t help it that the people he chooses to work with are great at selecting soundtracks.

I couldn’t find a separate clip of Boogie Shoes in this episode, but the actual song starts up at 18:36. At the very beginning, charismatic protagonists Casey and Danny discuss how their executive producer Dana will probably dance and sing to Boogie Shoes as soon as she ingests any alcohol. At the end of the episode, they are proven right.

I love this scene simply because it’s fun, because it gives you the same feeling you get when you’re hanging out with friends and one of your favorite songs comes on. You know what kind of song I mean; it’s the one you and your best friends know all the lyrics to.

Sorkin later put a similar scene in the first season of The West Wing, when he had C.J. playback The Jackal by Ronny Jordan. That scene has a similar atmosphere to it, one of friendship and togetherness and freedom. It’s an atmosphere we Dutchies have a word for that can’t be translated into English: “gezelligheid.”


So, now I’d love to hear your thought. Tell me about the combos of television and music that moved you. Tell me about the scenes and the songs you’ll never forget.


The song: Hopelessly Devoted To You from the musical Grease, performed by Kristin Chenoweth
The Show: Pushing Daisies, season one episode two: Dummy
Why it’s such a great combo

Technically this one doesn’t fit the bill. There’s no song playing in the background here, there is an actual musical performance in the middle of the action. I have seen this on television before (Grey’s Anatomy should be ashamed of themselves), but somehow within the fantastical setting of Pushing Daisies, it just fits. I think the success of this scene is largely due to Kristin Chenoweth, who is a famous Broadway performer and thus knows her way around a song. Additionally, her rendition of Hopelessly Devoted To You refers back to the adolescent pining we have all seen in Grease, and that makes a lot of sense. After all, who doesn’t pine for Lee Pace?



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