Welcome to the TV in 2012 roundtable. I’ve assembled nearly 20 of my fellow critics, scholars and friends to reflect and review the year in television. Between now and the end of the year, the group will discuss various topics covering the highs, the lows and everything in between. See previous entries of the roundtable here.
Happy New Year’s Eve, folks. Today, the roundtable discusses their favorite musical moments.
Emma Fraser: For 2012 stuff how about best musical moment? This could be a live performance in a reality show/awards show or just a song choice that enhances a scene.
Cameron White: I like Emma’s idea of a favorite musical moment/song choice. Although I may have burned one up already with Chuck. But I already have a few others in mind.
Cory Barker: I like the musical idea. I assume we’re not just talking about scenes where characters literally sing right? This would include montages (Sons of Anarchy represent) and other needle-drops, cues, etc.?
Emma Fraser: Yeah it would include everything and not just actual singing, so anything from montages to cues will be good. If there’s music in a scene it counts.
Cory Barker: Let’s do it. Your favorite music-related moment, GO.
Greg Boyd: This is a pretty obvious choice, but I’m going to have to say the “Crystal Blue Persuasion” montage from Breaking Bad’s mid-season finale. I love montages, but it’s rare to see one done quite as brilliantly and imaginatively as this. The song choice is obviously perfect given what the montage depicts: Walter White’s stint as the king of the meth-producing world. And the visual look of the sequence is incredible, featuring several moments—most notably the false match on action which transforms a shot of wine being poured to one of a liquid being poured during a cook—that still astonish me many months later. Of the many astonishing moments in Breaking Bad’s run (and there are literally hundreds), I’m not sure any of them come close to this level in terms of pure visual genius.
Adam Wright: Music Moment of the Year was tough for me because I’m not really a “music guy”. However there’s one instance this past year where I remember being moved by a performance.
After going through throat surgery, Adele thought she might never sing again. But it was at the 2012 Grammy Awards where she made her big comeback. After dominating the charts the whole previous year, Adele made her way to the Grammy stage to perform publicly since her surgery. It was a moment the world was watching, and she blew the roof off the blast. The chill inducing performance of “Rolling in the Deep” proved that she didn’t miss a step.
Adele went on to win six Grammys that night. It was a great moment in music where actual talent prevailed over gimmicks and scandals.
Emma Fraser: You can tell that it’s been a good year for music in TV by the amount of new additions to my iTunes taken from TV shows. These include Megan’s rendition of Zou Bisou Bisou to the moment I really fell in love with Girls as Hannah (joined by Marnie) danced away to Robyn’s Dancing On My Own. The one I’m going for is from the season 1 finale of New Girl and marked Nick’s return to the loft from his very brief spell living with Caroline. We’ve already heard some of Nick’s very special mix tapes earlier in the episode (including “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s), but it is the choice AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” that is perfect for Nick’s return. Even though each roommate is dancing solo in their room, there is a feeling of exuberance and unity. There is a sense of unique style with how each character dances; Jess is all about the shopping cart and the chicken (a fantastic call back), Nick is awkward, Schmidt is flamboyant and Winston is the sensible one. New Girl has a cast that looks like they are having fun and heaps of chemistry between them that goes beyond Nick and Jess; this song has the same happiness factor and perfectly demonstrates why this has been one of my favorite shows of 2012.
Special bonus mention, just because it’s awesome must go to the Leslie/Ann dance party (to LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem”) in Parks and Recreation after Leslie successfully leases a house in “Halloween Surprise.”
Cameron White: Suburgatory has one of those annoyingly catchy theme songs that makes me want a full-length version of it without even trying. It’s a problem. That doesn’t mean I don’t still want one, though. The season two premiere gave us something just as good, though: Jane Levy’s Tessa Altman singing it while playing guitar for a talent show (of sorts). It’s a sweet moment coming at the end of an episode setting up the “Mom arc” of season two, in which Tessa finally gets to meet her mother. It’s not exactly a full-length version, but I’ll take what I can get, because I am a music junkie, apparently.
Special shout-out to Yac-Yan Da Biznessman’s “Good Good” which is used on Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 whenever June is horny or looking at someone with lustful eyes. I don’t know why but it makes me laugh every damn time.
Eric Thurm: This is pretty specific, but I think my favorite musical moment of 2012 is during the Lincoln parody of Louie on SNL. After the “cold open” of the bit when Lincoln gets the piss taken out of him by Kenan Thompson as a freed slave who shovels horseshit, the Lincoln-ified version of the Louie theme song kicks in. The Louie theme song is already terrific, perfectly fitting as it does with images of a forlorn Louis C.K. wandering the nightmare streets of New York, but the Lincoln version might be even better. Up until the music starts, accompanying a shot of Lincoln emerging from the subway, it’s not entirely clear why Louis C.K. is dressed up like Abraham Lincoln in the sketch, though it’s still pretty funny. But even with all the other great gags in those opening credits (like Abraham Lincoln doing all of the jobs on the fictional show), the music still stands out. For some reason the “Lincoln Lincoln Lincoln Linc-y” version of the Louie theme song still gets me every time (and I’ve seen it at least 50 times by now).
Julie Hammerle: Obviously the only correct answer to this question is the intro/outro Peter Bjorn and John “Second Chance” bum-bums from 2 Broke Girls. Hahaha just kidding. Actually, my real answer is no less ridiculous. I alluded to this moment in an earlier discussion, and now here it is for real. Tyra Banks forced the girls during the USA/UK cycle of America’s Next Top Model to make music videos using the word “tooch,” which should find its way into Webster’s by the end of 2013. These two songs are notable for a few reasons: 1) the USA song is a scorching hot mess of genius and 2) the UK girls are really quite competent, and if they should form their own Spice Girls-esque group, I wouldn’t not buy their album. Also, my friends had a son back in June and named him Kyle, which is a fine name, except that now whenever I hear the name Kyle I think of “Hi, I’m Kyle” from the USA song. And now you will too.
Andrew Rabin: As much as I defend the show against its many, many critics, the fourth episode of Newsroom was, for the most part, not very good. Here’s an episode summary from Wikipedia- “Will becomes tabloid fodder after a confrontation with a gossip columnist on New Year’s Eve, which threatens to undermine his credibility on a current news investigation. Meanwhile, Don urges Maggie to set Jim up on a date with her roommate; Mac’s boyfriend pitches a story about the government’s inability to prosecute financial crimes; and Neal tries out his Bigfoot theory on anyone who will listen.” All of that makes for a generally terrible episode of television.
And then, with about seven minutes remaining, the entire episode changed. The story shifted from the nonsense described above to the coverage of the Tucson shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords. I think the way the show handled the story- and their legitimate criticism of NPR “calling” Rep. Giffords’ death- was fantastic, but the use of Coldplay’s “Fix You” was not only my favorite use of music on television this year, but maybe ever. The song is, in itself, emotional (did you know that Chris wrote it for Gwyneth after her father died, using a keyboard her father had just bought? Aww), but it just fits so perfectly in the moment. Even if you don’t like the characters that Aaron Sorkin created, or their specific plotlines or interactions, the combination of music with his recreation of a newsroom during this real-life tragedy is beautiful.
And since everyone seems to be giving secondary shout-outs, I’ll just throw one out there for “Catch Your Dream,” by MouseRat, featuring Duke Silver.
Kerensa Cadenas: My favorite musical moment of 2012 begins with an embarrassing confession. I backslid, after a self-righteous Twitter rant that I was going to quit, into watching this season of Glee, yet again. Despite it’s consistent inconsistency, Glee remains a show that when it hits its musical high notes moves me unlike anything on television. In the episode “The Break-Up,” Blaine (Darren Criss) sings a tearful rendition of “Teenage Dream,” during a surprise trip to see Kurt (Chris Colfer) in New York. Criss’s acoustic version is the perfect offset to the giddy, upbeat and kinda sexy original. In the first version, you feel Kurt’s hazy, dream-like feelings about instantly crushing on this gorgeous, ideal boy and that wondering and wanting of what will come next. Criss’s acoustic version invokes the feelings when that first love, that ideal relationship comes crashing down around you and when you play a large hand in its destruction. It’s a lovely, depressing and achingly real moment on a show that can be more than unrealistic.
Heather McLendon: You can’t talk about musical moments of 2012 without noting Jessica Paré’s performance of “Zou Bisou Bisou” in Mad Men. It became a cultural touchstone after the premiere, garnering half a million views on YouTube by the end of the week and making the Top 100 in iTunes. It’s fun, flirty — and it was amusing to watch everyone else in that scene respond so awkwardly to Megan’s playful, sexy performance.
But my favorite musical moment of 2012 would have to be the ending montage to the season finale of Revenge. I’m not even embarrassed to admit that. The choice to use Florence and the Machine’s “Seven Devils” was pure genius. Florence’s haunting melody, heavy beats and discordant notes compliment and heighten the finale’s sense of doom as the characters move towards their various fates: Victoria knows she’s walking to her death, and Emily is watching all her evidence against the Graysons burn from the plane crash. Without this song, the montage would be comical in its absurdity. Sure, the scene (and show) is histrionic and exaggerated, yet “Seven Devils” frames the finale in a spooky, raw way that somehow allows the melodramatic atmosphere to work. Every time I heard the song over the summer, I felt my excitement rise for the season two premiere. And it stays in your head forever.
Les Chappell: I agree with virtually every one of these choices to date – particularly “Zou Bisou Bisou” and the New Girl season finale montage – so for my choice I’m going to go off book and pick a moment from the show I lacerated just a few days ago as my most disappointing entry of 2012. I tore Smash to pieces for very valid reasons, but I’ve usually been able to appreciate at least one of the musical numbers per week, and the cover of Rihanna’s “Cheers (Drink to That)” from the ninth episode engendered the most goodwill. It wasn’t overproduced (relying chiefly on the vocal chords of Katherine McPhee and Megan Hilty), effectively used Times Square as a setting, and had a lively, good-natured sense of fun that so much of the show lacks. If the show had more of this and less of Tom and Julia’s respective relationship angst, it would be a far better program.
And since now Cory has made my tendency to pick two shows a thing (thanks Cory!) I’m going to take advantage of that and recognize the flip side of this equation with “Touch Me” number from the episode before. If “Cheers” was a lighthearted deviation from the stupidness, “Touch Me” was a ludicrous atonal shift that existed solely to prove they could get OneRepublic to be part of the show, an over-stylized number which McPhee wore a bed sheet dress and belted techno-pop while surrounded by dancers dressed like the Carver from Nip/Tuck. It came right the hell out of nowhere, had absolutely no bearing on the plot of the episode, and once it was over nobody ever mentioned it again. I was slack-jawed and stupefied for the entire running time, and could only utter my regular Smash refrain of “God I need booze” afterwards.
Andrew Rabin: “Touch Me?” It’s this kind of crap that made me want to flee to Micronesia.
Jamiesen Borak: hate myself for listing this, but one of my favorite [not already mentioned] music moment of the year belongs to my second most disappointing show of the year, How I Met Your Mother. The series is way past its expiration date and the characters are maddeningly cartoonish versions of their former selves, and yet the moment Barney got on his knees to propose and “Let Your Heart Hold Fast” by Fort Atlantic kicks in I was completely captivated. Sure I may hate pretty much every character on the show and have little investment in any of their lives, but the music made it worked. It distracts you from the gross, manipulative behavior of Barney Stinson and makes you buy into the moment. It felt like classic HIMYM, rather than the horrible series it became. Even the sad shot of Ted works, making you feel for said architect, despite how douchey he’s become over the years. As the episode closes it contrasts the GNB Tower with the WWN Building as a parallel to where Barney/Robin are in their lives vs Ted, and for the first time in years (excluding the great Marshal dealing with his dad’s death plot), I actually cared for these people. But pair the scene with a less perfect song choice and most of its impact is gone.
My favorite musical performance goes to the magnificent duo of Andy Dwyer and Duke Silver with their Knope 2012 campaign song “Catch Your Dreams (and Shackle it to Your Heart)”. Every time this song played in the back half of Parks and Recreation’s fourth season, I couldn’t help but smile widely. It still gets stuck in my head on a fairly regular basis. It’s cheesy, inspirational, and hysterical. No one knows how to write a song like Andy Dwyer: “That dream is big, won’t go down easy. It’s gonna struggle to break free. Until we beat it senseless with courage, hope and will.”
Chris Castro: I’d be kidding myself if I picked anything but Sasha dancing to They Might Be Giants’ “Istanbul” on Bunheads. It seemed so random and out-of-nowhere at the time, but it was one of those absolutely perfect moments in television when a show completely clicks with a viewer. It absolutely floored me. The song was all about change and it so perfectly fit with what Sasha was going through at home but never ever let her feelings about it show around anyone. It was definitely the best moment of the series so far and definitely cemented the show in my permanent playlist.
Cameron White: “Istanbul not Constantinople” on Bunheads is this year’s “moment I loved but keep forgetting to remember come list time” scene for me, now that two people have mentioned it in this e-mail thread.
Noel Kirkpatrick: My choice for best moment of 2012 was the one Chris just selected for this, so I guess I have to pick something else! I’m not sure that much else can top that moment from Bunheads, but I will say that Key & Peele‘s lampooning of dubstep this year was a highlight for me. “Oh, I like this.” “Wait for the drop!” “I’m sorry. The drop?” Hilarious chaos ensues.
Cory Barker: Many of my favorites have already been spoken for here—Darren Criss’ “Teenage Dream” and Newsroom‘s “Fix You” most notably—so I had to dig a little bit for this one. Great choice for a topic, Emma.
Like so many of you, I have two musical choices to offer up. Two very different musical choices. The first is the final scene of Community’s third season. The final montage in “Introduction to Finality” is the last sequence in the Dan Harmon era of Community and as such, intended to serve as the last sequence ever. Even though we’re getting more of the show in 2013, the scene, set to an altered version of show’s theme song by The 88s, wraps up some of the season’s important stories (finishing Biology 101, the opening of Shirley and Pierce’s sub shop, the “closing” of the Dreamatorium) but also previews probable important future events (Jeff searching for his father, Abed keeping a sliver of the Dreamatorium). It’s a simple and surprisingly upbeat conclusion to a season that took some truly dark and introspective turns, which I think makes the conclusion all the more effective — and even more so because of the song choice. This is Harmon’s ending Wire montage, and though it might not be as powerful as McNulty looking out over the city, it still works very well.
My other choice is The Fray’s “Ungodly Hour” from the conclusion to The Vampire Diaries‘ “Memorial.” Separated from this specific context, The Fray is whatever, but here, context is everything. After 60-plus episodes of blood, death and tears, the remaining core of characters finally, at the behest of the ever-awesome Stefan, took a moment to remember all of the things–and the people–that they’ve lost. The low-key song works perfectly with this sequence because it doesn’t overwhelm the dialogue or the moment; it simply supports the characters’ lighting of Japanese lanterns. While this is a sequence that’s more about the great performances from the cast more than anything else, the song nicely taps into the melancholy and the understated weight of the collective loss. TVD knows how to find music to match its big moments, but this might be my favorite ever.
Mark Waller: I’m a sucker for any time post-rock is used in TV shows I like, so when The Vampire Diaries ended its third season set to the majestic musical backdrop of Sigur Rós’ “Dauðalogn”, I was pretty much sucked in. It helped that the events set to said backdrop were total heartbreakers, like Ghost Alaric telling Jeremy that it’s going to be OK (RIP Alaric, so hard.) Sigur Rós set to people dying in a tragic but majestic way pretty much put a stake through my heart (sorry.) A close second were the equally amazing musical cues used on HBO’s Luck – both in its use of Sigur Rós in the pilot episode (set to a horse dying) and the late great show’s consistent use of post-rock band Maserati (RIP Jerry Fuchs, one of the best drummers ever). So, pretty much all of my favorite music intersections with TV have to do with post-rock and things dying, which is about the most epic thing ever. Maybe not as life-affirming as when Explosions in the Sky rocks it on Friday Night Lights, but equally as affecting.
Adam Lukach: Roger Sterling dropping acid was Mad Men‘s most pleasantly unexpected moment of the the season, and, despite the OMG-BEATLES-ness of “Tomorrow Never Knows,” its most effective and memorable use of tunage as well. Roger needs his Stoli, and when the kaleidoscope trip of acid bores him, he seeks such a bottle before it vomits “The Song of the Volga Boatmen“ at the top of its proverbial lungs, then silenced with the cap back on. It’s a light moment in a sequence of self-reckoning that ultimately winds up with some lady putting on “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” from the Beach Boys and the tortured Brian Wilson. On the nose? Yes, but when is Mad Men not, at least when they’re making a point? It’s a beautiful song, and drenched in drugs, offers clarity for two people that desperately need it, somehow turning melancholy into one of the most mature, honest moments the show’s ever had.
Next up: Best Episodes