A lot of my readers know that in recent years, I have indulged in a lot of television which has certainly taken up a lot of my time! One thing I’ve grown to admire with certain series has been the use of songs and that has given me an idea for my latest list.
Whether it be tunes that are being sung by characters or the background songs played in key moments, this is my Top 30 Best Use of Songs in a television series. Sadly I wasn’t able to get all the videos for each choice but I’m sure some of you can picture them in your head.
But be warned though, certain contenders may contain spoilers….
30# – Sons of Anarchy – “To Sir, With Love”
EPISODE: J’ai Obtenu Cette (Series 5, Episode 13)
The list starts with a song that I’ve grown very fond of in the last couple of years. As sung by Lulu in the underrated 1960s film ‘To Sir, With Love’, this delightful tune was used effectively in the opening montage of the Series 5 finale of Kurt Sutter’s brutal series. What makes this haunting rendition of the song more unique is that it is sung by Katey Segal who played one of the show’s key characters in Gemma Morrow. Who knew that Peggy Bundy had such an impressive singing voice!
29# – Scrubs – “Dreaming of You”
EPISODE: My Monster (Series 2, Episode 10)
The superb dramedy series Scrubs had plenty of solid music choices throughout with this selection being one of three on the list. Coincidentally, the Wirral-born band The Coral attended my high school (Hilbre) and I remember their hit song playing consistently in the school hall! The tune itself plays out during J.D’s steamy fling with Elliot, one of many will they-won’t-they moments between the pair.
28# – Family Guy – “Surfin’ Bird”
EPISODE: I Dream of Jesus (Season 7, Episode 2)
Alongside Conway Twitty, the 1960s tune “Surfin’ Bird” has become widely associated with Family Guy especially when sung in over-the-top fashion by Peter Griffin. Though considered very annoying to many (including Stewie), the song has done well to regain the popularity it once had when it was released all those years ago! Bird is indeed the Word!
27# – The Royle Family – “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen”
EPISODE: Antony’s Birthday (Series 2, Episode 6)
The Royle’s neighbour Joe had always been seen as a quiet individual but the character finally got a chance to shine with his stirring rendition of a song that was written way back in 1875. The lengthy sequence is a subtle way to end the episode as the Royles and their friends sing along although the comedy gets the last laugh when Antony’s friend Darren comments about still being able to smell shit!
26# – Ray Donovan – “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out”
EPISODE: Bridget (Series 1, Episode 8)
The closing montage of this episode from the hit Showtime series is beautifully backed by Cat Stevens’s delightful song which was memorably used twice in the 1970 cult classic Harold and Maude. The music intertwines with various characters in the montage which include Ray and his daughter Bridget as well as a grief-stricken Mickey.
25# – Father Ted – “Shaft”
EPISODE: Going to America (Series 3, Episode 8)
A hilarious entry to the list comes from the final episode of the Irish sitcom as Ted celebrates his potential move to America by dancing along to Isaac Hayes’s Oscar-winning tune. The sequence is made better by the depressed Father Kevin who finally regains his confidence by joining in only for his misery to return in the next scene when he has to listen to Radiohead!
24# – Benidorm – “Y.M.C.A”
EPISODE: (Series 3, Episode 2)
The first of three selections from the ITV series has Geoff ‘The Oracle’ Maltby become the unfortunate victim of a terrible misunderstanding in this hysterical moment. The Lancashire pub-quiz champion is left humiliated when his mother Noreen leads a cringe-inducing rendition of the hit Village People song with the assistance of regulars Donald, Jacqueline, Gavin, Troy and Mateo. All this because she thought she overheard him say that he was about to “come out” (of the bathroom that is!).
23# – The Office – “Simply the Best”
EPISODE: Motivation (Series 2, Episode 4)
The laughs keep on coming in this next entry as the legendary David Brent tries to motivate the attendees of a career group by thinking of various ‘made in Brent’ gimmicks. The most cringe-worthy of all comes near the end of the episode when he starts dancing along to Tina Turner’s legendary single which leads to silent reactions from the audience. The Office at its very best!
22# – Peter Kay’s Car Share – “You’re the Voice”
EPISODE: (Series 1, Episode 6)
There’s been a lot of memorable songs played out on Peter Kay’s beloved sitcom though you’ve got to love his character John’s hilarious rendition of the John Farnham classic. We all love carpool karaoke so I’m sure a lot of us will sympathise with John when the moment leaves him embarrassed! Save the singing for the shower!
21# – Still Game – “Beautiful Sunday”
EPISODE: Doacters (Series 2, Episode 3)
A smashing choice to the list as Daniel Boone’s 1970s single is played in the delightful ‘Slosh’ sequence from my new favourite sitcom Still Game. The scene is made even funnier by the dance routine involving Jack, Victor and the other dancers and proves that old people can show off some moves no matter how old they are!
20# – The Vicar of Dibley – “No Matter What”
EPISODE: Autumn (Series 3, Episode 1)
Boyzone’s sentimental classic plays over the dreamy montage as Geraldine looks to have found happiness with her new lover Simon. It so happens that the most memorable moment in The Vicar of Dibley takes place in this sequence as the hapless Vicar jumps right into a deep puddle! While the song may be emotional, it’ll always make me giggle thinking back to that scene!
19# – Scrubs – “How To Save a Life”
EPISODE: My Lunch (Series 5, Episode 20)
The Fray’s heartbreaking smash hit was used impeccably in the closing moments of this powerful Scrubs episode as Dr. Cox and his staff try desperately to stop their kidney patients from dying. When Perry’s final patient loses his life, he erupts into a frenzy of emotional anger that demonstrates the exquisite acting of the criminally-underrated John C. McGinley.
18# – Home Improvement – “Grease Lightning”
EPISODE: Mark’s Big Break (Series 8, Episode 16)
This fantastic scene from the long-running series saw Tim Taylor decide to mark the completion of his new hotrod by putting together a video with the help of his son Mark. After their first attempt backfires, they come up with a much-bigger idea which leads to a stunning reenactment of the Grease classic. It’s made even better by the involvement of most of the main cast who clearly have a lot of fun doing it!
17# – Coronation Street – “Softly As I Leave You”
EPISODE: 7464 (November 8th 2010)
A tearjerker entry from Britain’s longest running soap opera saw Jack Duckworth deciding to spend his final moments in the house he had lived in for a number of decades. Lying in his chair, he would be greeted by a vision of his late wife Vera which would lead to the pair dancing along to Matt Monro’s emotional ballard. A beautiful sendoff for one of Corrie’s most beloved couples!
16# – Benidorm – “Hey There Lonely Girl”
EPISODE: (Series 2, Episode 2)
Another legendary karaoke moment from Benidrom makes the list as Madge’s partner Mel decides to declare his love to her via a musical tribute at Neptune’s. But his decision to literally copy Eddie Holman’s falsetto voice proves very amusing to the rest of the customers including Madge’s family. You just can’t help but laugh at the cringe-worthiness of it all!
15# – Peter Kay’s Car Share – “Jump! (for My Love)”
EPISODE: (Series 2, Episode 1)
This choice had me crying with laughter as John’s road rage argument with a cyclist leads to hysterical consequences later in this episode. Initially, the argument is filmed on camera by the cyclist but John and Kayleigh later discover that the row has been mashed up to coincide with the Pointer Sisters’s hit single. The scene is just pure gold and easily one of the funniest moments in recent British sitcoms.
14# – The Vicar of Dibley – “It Should Have Been Me”
EPISODE: The Handsome Stranger (Series 5, Episode 1)
This marvelous sequence has Geraldine struggling to contain her anger as she imagines her admirer Harry walking down the aisle with his lover (who later turns out to actually be his sister). The Vicar soon erupts into a bitter yet hilarious rendition of Yvonne Fair’s feisty track with the scene made better by the council members (David, Hugo, Jim, Frank and Owen) pulling off some slick dance moves. Luckily for Geraldine, it was all just a dream!
13# – Only Fools and Horses – “Our House”
EPISODE: Time on Our Hands (Series 8, Episode 3)
One of four Only Fools songs to make the list, this stirring track from Crosby Stills Nash & Young was beautifully used in the montage from ‘Time on Our Hands’ as the Trotters revelled in their newfound wealth. It’s a very satisfying moment to see the likes of Del, Rodney and Albert enjoying their financial success in what SHOULD have been the last-ever episode of the acclaimed sitcom.
12# – Breaking Bad – “Crystal Blue Persuasion”
EPISODE: Gliding Over All (Series 5, Episode 8)
Money also plays a part in the next song choice as Walter ‘Heisenberg’ White and Jesse Pinkman reap the benefits of their drug empire in another crisp montage sequence. The use of “Crystal Blue Persuasion” captures the scope of how large their business has become yet we also see the dangerous effects of those who have become addicted to the meth. Of course, this seemingly upbeat moment is the last time we see things go well for the pair before everything goes pear-shaped!
11# – Bojack Horseman – “The Horse With No Name”
EPISODE: The Old Sugarman Place (Series 4, Episode 2)
The part-funny, part-depressing animated show about a washed-up horse actor has some solid song choice throughout its four series. Probably the best of those is Michelle Branch’s stirring cover of America’s 1970s single which is beautifully incorporated into the opening montage of ‘The Old Sugarman Place’ as Bojack tries to find his childhood home. Never has a song about a horse been so relevant than to this character!
10# – Early Doors – “The Good Life”
EPISODE: (Series 1, Episode 5)
A strong entry sees Tony Bennett’s haunting classic used to powerful effect in the climax of this Early Doors episode. Landlord Ken receives the worst possible news when his surrogate daughter Melanie tells him that she has managed to track down her real father. John Henshaw is superb in this scene and Bennett’s song plays out in the closing moments as Ken retreats to his bedroom and breaks down in tears. A terrific combination of strong acting and impeccable music choice from all involved.
9# – Cheers – “We Will Rock You”
EPISODE: Severe Crane Damage (Series 8, Episode 18)
This fun cold-opening from the hit US sitcom’s eighth series has the Cheers regulars minding their own businesses when suddenly, a variety of sounds start repeating themselves. This inspires everyone in the bar to slowly perform the song’s famous ‘stomp-stomp-clap’ beat and then leads to Woody belting out the renowned lyrics. It’s an inspired sequence that allows all the cast and extras to have fun at a bar ‘where everybody knows your name’.
8# – It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – “Freedom”
EPISODE: The High School Reunion (Series 7, Episode 12)
The late George Michael has one of his greatest hits used to perfection in this scene which has the Sunny gang trying to earn the respect of their former classmates. We get a well-choreographed sequence that looks to have impressed the audience as the gang dance their socks off. Typically in this show’s fashion, the whole thing turns out to be a far flashier version of what they’re actually doing which leaves them humiliated for the umpteenth time!
7# – Only Fools and Horses – “Holding Back the Years”
EPISODE: Little Problems (Series 6, Episode 6)
A sombre moment from the final episode of Series 6 saw Del Boy come to the realisation that his younger brother Rodney was now a married man whose life had changed. As Rodders and his new bride are about to leave their wedding party, we get the last look between the two brothers. This is then followed by Del wondering around the function room alone with Simply Red’s haunting tune playing in the background. A bittersweet scene that brings about the end of Phase 1 of the Only Fools story.
6# – Benidorm – “Blue Spanish Eyes”
EPISODE: (Series 3, Episode 6)
As far as I’m concerned, the closing montage of Benidorm’s third series is the definitive end of the show as I just don’t like any of the future installments (sorry Benidorm cast and crew!). The sequence itself sees Mel and Madge perform their rendition of Al Martino’s soulful classic at the newly-bought Benidorm Palace. This plays out over the segment as various characters bid farewell at the airport, a couple of whom prepare to start new lives back home. It’s bittersweet but also frustrating at the same time as this would have been the perfect way to finish the series!
5# – The Royle Family – “Mambo No. 5”
EPISODE: Decorating (Series 3, Episode 3)
A cracking entry sees Jim and his pal Twiggy trying to get through their decorating chore only to be distracted by the hit single from Lou Bega. Initially, the pair just shake their hips to it only to then perform some suave moves. Unbeknownst to them, Barbara is dancing along to it in the kitchen as she prepares bacon butties for them! It’s a hysterical sequence that is clearly enjoyed by Ricky Tomlinson, Sue Johnston and the much-missed Geoffrey Hughes and has become one of the most iconic moments of the series.
4# – Only Fools and Horses – “Crying”
EPISODE: Stage Fright (Series 7, Episode 3)
Just shy of the Top 3 is yet another classic music moment in Only Fools and Horses as Del Boy’s decision to pair up Raquel with Tony ‘Singing Dustman’ Angelino leads to hysterical consequences. Initially, Tony seems to be a decent singer when we first see him earlier in the episode but on such an important night for Del, things go pear-shaped as Tony’s weakness is revealed in true comic fashion. The reactions alone are priceless and I’m sure fans of Roy Orbison’s rendition have even found themselves cracking up when they hear Tony’s version!
3# – Scrubs – “The Book of Love”
EPISODE: My Finale (Series 8, Episode 18)
Into the top three, we have this haunting choice from the final episode of Scrubs as J.D Dorian prepares to walk out of Sacred Heart Hospital for the final time. Peter Gabriel’s emotional theme plays out during the lengthy scene as J.D envisions a future where he and his friends (including a reluctant Dr. Cox!) spend Christmas together and that his son and Turk’s daughter get engaged (cue hilarious reactions). It’s a perfect way to conclude a show that always succeeded in combing comedy with drama and remains one of my favourite series.
2# – Only Fools and Horses – “Everybody’s Talkin'”
EPISODE: The Jolly Boy’s Outing (Series 6, Episode 7)
Just shy of the number one spot is the mesmerising single from Harry Nilsson which previously appeared in the Oscar-winning drama Midnight Cowboy (1969). The song is memorably used during the montage that plays out in the legendary “Jolly’s Boy Outing” as Del Boy, Rodney and the Nag’s Head regulars enjoy their day out in Margate. It’s a wonderful sequence that shows the men having the time of their life with some comedy thrown in for good measure from Trigger winning his dolphin prize to Denzel mouthing off on the swing ride. The cast clearly had a lot of fun filming there and it’s a scene that always makes me smile.
1# – The Sopranos – “Don’t Stop Believin'”
EPISODE: Made in America (Series 6, Episode 21)
It’s rather fitting that the final scene from one of the greatest series ever clinches the win. Considered one of the most talked about moments in television history, we see Tony Soprano waiting for his family to meet him for food at the diner. When choosing some music to play, he decides to put on Journey’s iconic tune which plays out for the next few minutes until THAT dramatic fade to black. The song fits so perfectly into the scene as Tony becomes paranoid about being whacked and it’s that glare in the last shot that may well have sealed his fate. Funnily enough, the song was previously heard in other popular TV shows like Scrubs and Family Guy yet everyone will always associate it with the HBO hit. Altogether now, “Don’t Stop….”