Is it time to stop looking to primetime TV to break cool new tunes?

185845__michael2_lThe New York Times posted a cool piece today on how the music in The Office is decidedly un-hip, and why it couldn’t be any other way. During the Christmas ep, Michael (Steve Carell, pictured) couldn’t stop playing samples of a cheesy James Blunt song (on iTunes — nice cross-promotional product placement there, NBC) in an effort to get over Carol. The choice was so perfectly lame for that man at that moment. Which got me thinking: What kind of music do you prefer to hear on TV — random new artists or tongue-in-cheek throwbacks to the ghosts of yesterday’s hits?

There once was a time when I completely delighted in waiting for the end of an episode of The O.C. so I could see which masterfully selected indie tune would be plucked from semi-obscurity and shotgunned onto message boards everywhere so all the teens (and, ahem, adults) could immediately download them and then pretend they’d had them on their iPods for months. (Guilty.) In 2003, this tradition was considered my "livelihood," along with other cool activities such as insomnia, Spicy Chex Mix, and memorizing the repetivie trivia on eight different Music Choice channels (see: insomnia).

But now I’m older, cooler, and have graduated to 99-cent sacks of Nutter Butters. I’m also less ecstatic about which new music gets showcased on TV. It’s just not as big of a deal to me anymore — the trend has become more of a commodity than anything else. The O.C. has released six different Mixes in CD form. And yeah, it’s sometimes fun to Google a chunk of lyrics from the closing montages of Grey’s Anatomy or Scrubs to see what the hell is playing. But by and large, I’d much rather gape at the utter hilarity of a karaoke jam to Pat Benatar’s "We Belong" (The Office). And I’m generally much more impressed at eerie-fantastic time capsule choices like Cass Elliot’s "Make Your Own Kind of Music" on the Season 2 premiere of Lost (for me, that was one of the most awesome song choices ever) than a cool new tune slapped over one of the CSI "Behold, Science at Work!" montages. What say you? What music on TV gets you the most hot and bothered?

Comments (45 total) Add your comment
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  • Vicky

    I think I like a little a both. I’m always on the look out for new tunes. Dramas and/or Dramedies are great for that. I’m still waiting for Susan Enan to release the version of “Bring on the Wonder” (played on Bones early in the fall) with Sarah Mclachlan singing backup. But I love catching up with old tunes I haven’t heard in awhile, especially on The Office. Both give me a reason to update my music library.

  • Eric

    Not all of the songs on “The Office” are unhip. I distinctly remember hearing the New Pornographers’ “Use It” playing in Chili’s (!) in the episode where Tim Meadows was a guest star. But, yes, I’ve got quite a laugh lately out of the show’s use of “Lovefool” by the Cardigans and “Zombie” by the Cranberries.

  • Annon

    Haha, in early episodes Michael’s ringer was “my humps” too. It’s all nice and cheesy.

  • Jaime

    Oh, definitely old and/or cheesy. I totally agree about how awesomely Lost used “Make Your Own Kind of Music”. Actually, that show has consistantly used all the right music at all the right times, whether it’s the original score or a pop song. House uses pretty good music too a lot of the time, but never when it’s new, hip music: the best moments are when House has just done something diabolical, as House is wont to do, and a kickass rock anthem kicks in.

  • EP Sato

    Now that the record store clerks we all knew in college have gotten jobs choosing soundtracks, I’m psyched about all the new music tv wants to expose us to. For example, I discovered the Strokes thanks to Target. Maybe not as hip as my own record store clerk days, but I hate radio while loving music…

  • Sailor

    I like both as well. The Office is great for old school songs that make you laugh. Grey’s Anatomy is great to find new music to make you feel.

  • meb3q

    I enjoy random throwbacks like, the “Almond Joy” commercial song at the end of “Weeds” or perfectly silly stuff like, “Bye Bye Bye” on “Scrubs.”

  • PopCultureYayDotCom

    Definitely throwback. When Veronica Mars rocked out to Barenaked Ladies this week, I fell off my couch.

  • Megan

    Anything I hear on Smallville, I download.

  • Ceballos

    “We belong, we belong together…Ryan!”…LOVE “The Office”

  • meme

    Love how on Veronica Mars they seem to use a combination of old and new songs. There was a scene in season 1 where Aaron was awkwardly driving Veronica home and a goofy ’60’s song came on. The mood was just right. I love how the adults on that show listen to oldies. It reminds me of my parents.
    Jay and the American’s “Come a Little Bit Closer” also popped up on a recent episode of Gilmore Girls. I almost jumped for joy.

  • e4ia

    My favorite use of cheesey music in a show is still Gob playing Europe’s “Final Countdown” to accompany his “illusions” on Arrested Development. It was just SO fitting that his character would use it, even if it meant carrying a $39 boombox will him. GOD I MISS THAT SHOW!

  • SJ

    The Sopranos uses music perfectly. Mostly old stuff (Sinatra, etc.) which I was not aware of before I watched the show.
    For me the ending scene to season 2 of The Sopranos was wonderful. Set to Rolling Stones’ “Thru and Thru”…just beautiful.

  • Ryan

    Meh, for the Ofice, the cheesy stuff is great, but since I am still in my early twenties I am still loving the emo/indie/alternative/pop stuff played on The OC. Some episodes have some great stuff on them, some don’t. But that said I was way into the Killers before they appeared on the show and before what seems like everyone (including my 40 year old boss) became fans… now they are not as cool in my books.

  • NineDaves

    what about randy’s obsession with “true colors” on “my name is earl.” amazing television.

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