There weren’t a lot of things that jumped out at me specifically in each episode of the shows in this roundup, but there was enough to make discussion of individual music cues worthwhile. One was a great example of where one show finds it’s strength (even if that’s less and less frequently as it heads towards the finish line), one was 22 minutes interspersed with 90’s nostalgia, and one was a music cue that I really, really, wish shows would stop using.
How I Met Your Mother; “Souvenir” by Billy Joel
Throughout its history, How I Met Your Mother has used music as a tool to underline emotional moments that the writing might not always have the strength to underline on its own. Sometimes this fails, as it did when they used “Rivers and Roads” by The Head and The Heart far too close to when the series finale of Chuck used it in a much better and more affecting moment. Sometimes the show makes a music choice that works exactly as they hope it will and allows the audience to feel what the characters are feeling (whether it is joy or pain), even if the rest of the episode is filled with jokes that fall flat or cringe worthy moments. This week’s episode accomplished the latter situation surprisingly well.
On Monday, near the end of the hour long Season 9 premiere, Ted found himself sitting alone in the lobby/cafe area of the hotel where Robin and Barney’s wedding is about to take place. As he wallowed in a mild bout of depression and thought about where he is in life and love, the show flashed forward to a moment a year in advance where he and the titular mother shared a very nice moment at the same table. As he recalled what his state of mind was like a year ago, and enjoying how far he had come in that short amount of time, the strains of Billy Joel’s 1974 song “Souvenir” began and it gave an already nice moment an even more intimate feeling and some more insight to the way Ted viewed his life at that point in time. The line “every year’s a souvenir, that slowly fades away” could describe the entire series of Ted fighting to find love while he was constantly surrounded by happily married couples or exes that move on and find happiness elsewhere.
I feel like most of the time when HIMYM chooses to use music from more than 20 years ago they are more successful than when they try to be hip and use bands that are newer to the scene. They are almost the anti-OC in this sense, in that the writing and characters just don’t mesh with newer indie or pop acts but rather classic rock or 90’s nostalgia acts. It may not be a fool proof theory, but I’m OK any time a show brings some of the old classics back into rotation and utilizes them well.
New Girl; “I Don’t Want to Wait” by Paula Cole, “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes, and “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly
The first episode of the season was rocky at best, unbearable at worst. Thankfully last night New Girl bounced back in a big way with lots of laughs, stupid Schmidt moments and some Nick and Jess couple shenanigans. Most importantly, last night’s episode included a whole lot of 90’s nostalgia tracks sprinkled throughout, which when done well is an easy way to get me to like an episode of just about anything. The best use of the above songs was the one that wasn’t actually used as a cue, but rather sang (shrieked?) by the boys of the loft in order to get Jess to wake up after a night of hard drinking and dancing in a toilet. “I Believe I Can Fly” is usually used in a mocking or cheesy way at this point in it’s pop culture life so even though that moment fell under either or both of those categories, it made me laugh due to the commitment by the actors involved. Easily my favorite moment of the whole episode.
Appropriate for an episode that included an A-plot of Nick and Jess attempting to ameliorate themselves into the cliquey group of teachers at Jess’ new school, my second favorite moment of the whole half hour was “I Don’t Want to Wait” starting up right as the pair found themselves caught red handed in the back yard of the school principal. It probably wasn’t that humorous of a gag by itself, but something about the theme song to Dawsons’ Creek coming on right as two of our main characters found themselves in a cliché awkward high school situation that wouldn’t be out of place if it appeared on Creek made it just about perfect. “What’s Up” is pretty much as 90’s nostalgia as you can get, and I was happy to hear it included in this trio of perfectly 90’s songs, even if it also only appeared via horrible singing skills as Jess dancing in the previously mentioned toilet surrounded by the “cool teachers”.
The Mindy Project; “Shipping Up to Boston” by The Dropkick Murphys
The rest of this post was filled with glowing praise about how well music cues worked with the subject matter, but this part is going to be used to just take a moment to make a point about the fact that this song should never be used as a cool song choice in any show for as many years as it takes to be considered nostalgic. I’m pretty sure I’m done watching The Mindy Project for more reasons than the fact that they used this song last night, but the laziness exhibited here says a lot about the show’s unwillingness to fix any of the myriad of problems that ails it. When shows use “Shipping Up to Boston” in any sort of drinking, Irish, or crazy shenanigans related scene it comes off as cliche and lazy. Does it really take that much effort to go find another rock song that elicits the same reaction and sets the same tone as this one does? Or even a new Dropkick song. Any new Dropkick song. It’s enough that every Boston sporting event or sporting event-adjacent video uses it to pump crowds up, but when shows use it to pretend the characters are hard core when drinking or some such it’s too much. It doesn’t take that much effort to go to literally any other Dropkick Murphys album and randomly pick a song that would work just as well but doesn’t feel as stale as a loaf of month old Irish Soda Bread. So please stop using it music supervisors, please. Just stop.