Crossing Over - How Music Makes Good Shows Better




Music has always been an important ingredient in the televisual feast. LISA GORRY looks at how programme makers and musicians are harnessing this for their mutual benefit.

There’s a lot to be said for a good soundtrack. How often have you watched a movie and thought about what it would have been like without the music? How would The Shining  have fared without its eerie instrumentals? Would Saturday Night Fever have been as successful without its funky retro beats?


It’s undeniable that a good soundtrack can make or break a production, and so it only seems logical that a good show too can make or break an artist. It’s not unfair to say that, in the sandwich that is the TV show business, good characters might be the bread and quality writing the meat but good music is what keeps the whole thing together; the butter of any show.


The crossover between good music and good TV has come to a particular prominence since entering of the noughties, and it is now just as likely for TV viewers to not only become obsessed with the show itself but to religiously follow its soundtrack as well. Take HBO’s controversial new addition, GIRLS, written and directed by hipster messiah Lena Dunham. Not only can viewers get a behind the scenes look at the show via the HBO website, but super fans can now also follow the soundtrack for each episode on the site too, a seemingly ingenious way on behalf of HBO of promoting the artists who say the things that Lena Dunham doesn’t need to write.


Certain shows have become synonymous with good music (here’s looking at you Grey’s Anatomy), meaning that for certain music junkies following a good show can be just as beneficial as a venture over to iTunes.

One show in particular which spearheaded the good TV/good music crossover was the massively successful The O.C., one of the first shows to really incorporate music into the scheme of its show. Not only did it have the mammoth task of proving that this could work, but it pulled it off with spectacular aplomb, mixing bigger, known bands - most famously The Killers - with unsigned and lesser-known bands. In fact, many acts premiered singles on the show, and the six volumes of music which have been released since have proven to be hugely successful, even after the series has ended. Creator of the show, Josh Schwartz, said he wanted music to act as a character on the show, and it seems that he carried this ethos onto many of his other productions, such as Gossip Girl and Chuck, series which have championed the success of the good TV/good music crossover.



It would seem that the key to his success is the variety and range of artists which are included in the shows. As lesser-known artists are stirred up in a soundtrack with bigger and more established acts, the listener is lured into unfamiliar and yet inviting musical territory. Musical directors are now giving these under-appreciated and little known gems the chance to rub shoulders with the top guns and to get their music heard in a bigger and brighter universe. I thoroughly encourage a trip to your Skybox/nearest Xtravision/HMV to start your journey of musical discovery.

Here are my top three to get you started:

Show: Chuck

Act: Phantom Planet



Show: Grey’s Anatomy

Act: Tegan and Sara



Show: How I Met Your Mother

Act: The 88


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