So, there I was, flipping through channels, and The Fray’s “How to Save a Life” was on one of the DirecTV concert channels. It’s impossible for me to hear that song and not think of that scene in Scrubs. Which of course got me thinking about other great uses of music in TV.
West Wing — “Hallelujah”
Yes, I know it’s been done to death since (though a nod goes out to Longmire for using the non-obvious introductory instrumental at the end of one of its episodes last year). Aaron Sorkin did his best work during the early years of The West Wing, and to compound it with Buckley’s ethereal and amazing version of the Leonard Cohen song? It really drives a couple of key moments home, which is impressive considering the song stops playing halfway through the second one.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles — “When the Man Comes Around”
It feels almost like cheating using Johnny Cash’s later work (even Smallville was able to put together a great use of “Hurt”) for a television montage, but the use of “When the Man Comes Around” in this scene was nevertheless solid.
Scrubs — “Overkill”
The episode broke the fourth wall (perhaps the third-and-a-half?) with the Men at Work classic like it was lead singer Colin Hay’s guitar.
Supernatural — “Carry on My Wayward Son”
It’s not that I hated the Kansas song before, but by the time the show Supernatural came around, I was good. I heard it enough on the radio. But the show’s use of it as the backdrop for their “Previously on…” montages was as surprising as it was perfect. Love it. (Their alternate use of Billy Squier’s “Lonely is the Night” is almost as perfect.)
Suits — “Smoke and Mirrors”
Use of someone like Gotye may feel like trendchasing, but a surprisingly strong sophomore season kicked off with two great uses of this song. Here is the song used in the opening of the season premiere.
Chuck — “Mr. Roboto”
I’m no fan of Styx, but I actually started enjoying this version partway through. The video also is a good example of the series: funny, cheesy, but entertaining overall. (Side note: Chevy Chase as an evil Steve Jobs? Not so bad.) Another favorite of mine is the show’s use of Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” with the song taking on a new meaning by the end of the episode.
Strangeluck — “Lightning Crashes”
“Strange… wha,” you ask? Well, before Fox was cancelling shows in the caliber of Firefly and Family Guy, they were cancelling shows like Strangeluck. This is actually the first time I heard the soon-to-be radio staple from Live, and while the showrunners mostly just let the song play in the background with no cues, it was still enough that my sister or I mention it in any discussion that comes up about “best use of music in TV” ten years later. Or in random posts like this.