Wednesday, December 31, 2008

TV's Top Music Moments of 2008

In year's past, a show's finale meant a spike in music downloads the next day, but this year was quite different thanks to several mitigating factors. The first was the writer's strike, which cut down the number of proper season finales in scripted television this year by nearly half. The second and third factors deal with money, with music licensing rates on the rise and the economy on a downturn, it's no wonder that series have tried to do "more with less," to quote The Wire.

Just look at the top five I have listed here and you'll notice there's not one single use of a popular song in its original form, typically the more expensive option in music placement. They're all either original songs written for the occasion, or they've taken a song and have it performed by the cast. I guess, as the old saying goes, folks got to eat. Mmmmm.... as do I, so without further ado, here's the list.

10. 30 Rock me Amadeus
30 Rock - Episode 2.13 / "Requiem: Lacrimosa" - Mozart
The episode ("Succession") pits Tracy's Amadeus against Frank's Salieri as Tracy bridges The Uncanny Valley to make a realistic porn video game. Just add Kenneth in the role of Constanze, Mozart's wife and protector; then cue Dr. Spaceman running through the studio in a cape... pause for laughter... and scene!

9. (tie) Killer Colleen
Nip/Tuck - Episode 5.11 / "Me And My Teddy Bear" - The Tinseltown Players
Nip/Tuck - Episode 5.14 / "Fame" - David Bowie (w/ John Lennon)
Nip/Tuck loves both its guest stars and being outrageous. Sharon Gless combines the two with her role as the stalker Colleen, cementing the season's theme of 'fame' in the final few episodes. First comes when she killis Bob the agent from CAA with a teddy bear stuffing machine to the child-like tune of "Me and my Teddy Bear." Second comes in the mid-season finale, when she goes Mark David Chapman on her obsesson, stabbing Sean to the David Bowie's "Fame." And who else helped write and sing on that great song? John Lennon, of course.

8. Let's Twist Again (Like We Did Last Summer)
Mad Men - Episode 2.01 / "Let's Twist Again" - Chubby Checker
Mad Men has plenty of interesting music moments, but their almost always very subtle in their placement. Hearing Chubby Checker's sequel to "The Twist" (used in the first season) to open the second season montage was immediate and the perfect way to welcome the return of the near perfect series back into our homes.

7. The Half of You We Wanted to See
True Blood - Episode 1.06 / "Half of You" - Cat Power
Anna Paquin shows her goodies for the first time, going topless as Sookie while getting some from vampire boyfriend Bill, all to the sounds of Cat Power's "Half of You." The consummation of their relationship (which also involves some double-penetration via fangs) reminds us once again that this HBO vampire series is no Twilight.

6. Catfight!
Chuck - Episode 2.04 / "Smack my Bitch Up" - Prodigy
Yvonne Strahovski and Nicole Ritchie get wet and bloody beating each other up in the shower of a high school locker room, all to "Smack my Bitch Up."
I double-checked, this wasn't a dream.

5. (tie) Secondary College Musical!
Skins - Episode 2.02 / "Then Came the Day" - Cast (download) from "Osama! The Musical" (video)
Summer Heights High - Episode 1.08 / "Naughty Girl" from Mr. G the Musical (video)
The effects of High School Musical were felt across television series this year, but it was more interesting to see the interpretations from high schoolsecondary college-based series overseas. First came UK's Skins with Osama! The Musical, a love story that takes place on 9/11, between a stock broker and another survivor of the twin towers collapsing. "Then came the day, Osama blew us away" goes the love song, and as laughable as it sounds, it's hard to get out of your head. Then, from Australia (via HBO) came Chris Lilly's Summer Heights High and the musical arena spectacular "Mr. G!," featuring Lilly's drama teacher character Mr. G. Initially based on the death of a student (until parents veto the script,) "Mr G" follows a troubled teen's journey through drugs, with guidance from her favorite teacher, Mr. G. The song "Naughty Girl" actually became a top ten, certified gold hit in Australia.

Other school musicals in 2008: 90210's "Spring Awakening", South Park's "Elementary School Musical", Sesame Street's "PreSchool Musical"

4. (tie) The Greatest Gift of All
A Colbert Christmas / "Nutmeg" - John Legend, "Little Dealer Boy" - Willie Nelson, "Another Christmas Song" - Stephen Colbert, more
Everyone's favorite late night political satire host Stephen Colbert dons a cardigan and lampoons the old Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Andy Williams Christmas special tradition. It may be comedy, but the music wins the day with original songs co-written by Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne,) and featuring musical guests like Elvis Costello, John Legend, Willie Nelson, Toby Keith and Feist spreading their Christmas cheer, tongue-in-cheek. Aside from the Feist one, which really requires the context of the special to work, I think we can expect to hear the songs in future holidays.

3. It's a Wild Skins World
Skins - Episode 1.09 / "It's a Wild World" - cast (video)
While Skins often took some odd and unexpected turns, they usually countered it with a bit of the surreal to remind you that it's fiction. In the first season finale, Tony is hit by a truck, we get the expected scream and tears, but then the cast breaks into Cat Stevens "It's a Wild World," led by Sid and a chorus of random men at a urinal in a public bathroom. When the comatose Tony joins in for a verse, it's both jarring and funny at the same time, which is hard to pull off. The ending merely hinted at much of the craziness that was to come in season 2. That the series has cut most of the music out of the American airings makes it all the more special. I could honestly do a great top 10 list of just Skins moments that American audiences didn't experience. Don't tempt me!

2. Farewell to Baltimore
The Wire - Episode 5.10 / "Way Down in the Hole" - The Blind Boys of Alabama (video)
The series ends as it began, with Detective McNulty and the original theme song. As McNutty looks back on the city of Baltimore, we get a montage of all the old players, going on with their lives. The villains and do-nothings get rewarded with awards, promotions and new partners, and all the old beats from previous seasons look pretty much the same. In the end, though, this montage ultimately reminds us that the main character for the whole five-year run of the series was the city of Baltimore itself.

1. Sorry Jimmy, She's F*cking Matt Damon
The Jimmy Kimmel Show - 1000th Episode / "I'm F*cking Matt Damon" - Sarah Silverman /w Matt Damon
How can you argue with a song that won an Emmy and spawned a thousand tributes? Originally written for his birthday, Silverman debuted the song on Jimmy Kimmel Show's 1000the episode, and played on Kimmel's long running gag that ends many his shows ("apologies to Matt Damon, we ran out of time"). Kimmel replied with bigger budgeted "I'm F*cking Ben Affleck", and a flood of knockoffs quickly followed, including "I'm F*cking Seth Rogen" (Elizabeth Banks from the set of Kevin Smith's Zack And Miri Make A Porno) and Hillary Clinton in "I'm F*cking Obama".

Previously: TV's Top Music Moments of 2007


joy said...

Chuck is in my opinion, beyond any doubt, the funniest and the overall most entertaining American TV series on the air in 2008.It is basically an interesting and hilarious blend of comedy and action.

Arjan said...

couldn't agree with #1 more :)

sylvia said...

Nice post. I enjoy this post gorgeously with all of my friends. Really nice.


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