Joined: 04 Aug 2002
Location: United Kingdom
|Posted: Thu Nov 21, 2002 6:09 pm Post subject: TV shows capitalize on your hit parade
By DAVE MASON
November 20, 2002
The Beach Boys never sounded this sultry, and the great Louis Armstrong never rocked like this.
Claudine Longet sings "God Only Knows" with a sensitive, romantic approach, and punker Joey Ramone performs "What A Wonderful World" with a quick, guitar-driven zeal. Both songs are on "Our Little Corner of the World," the soundtrack album for The WB's "The Gilmore Girls."
Their versions aren't better than the originals; they're just different. And they're examples of innovative use of pop songs in TV.
Move over, Britney Spears. Shows like The WB's "The Gilmore Girls," CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and NBC's "American Dreams" are looking beyond today's Top 40.
Other shows, though, such as two WB comedies, "What I Like About You" and "Sabrina The Teenage Witch," present some of the most popular musicians for today's young audiences.
In virtually all TV shows today, pop and rock are dominant in one way or another, whether it's Ashanti for the young viewers watching "Sabrina" or Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-changin'" in the background for the baby boomers watching "The West Wing."
This season's "Sabrina" has the young witch Sabrina (Melissa Joan Hart) working as a reporter at an alternative music magazine, and that leads to plenty of opportunities for top singers to play themselves on the show.
Some singers just want to perform a song; others want to act too, said Paula Hart, executive producer and Melissa Joan Hart's mother.
"I try to look for a wide range of stars," Paula Hart said.
Already, Ashanti and the Goo Goo Dolls have performed on "Sabrina." Avril Lavigne was on the show last Friday.
Usher is getting around the TV dial. He played the "Love Doctor" on "Sabrina" and last week played Marvin Gaye on "American Dreams," a Philadelphia drama set in 1963.
Other modern singers have played '60s music icons for the "American Bandstand" portion of "Dreams." Earlier this fall, Michelle Branch portrayed Lesley Gore.
And Ashanti will perform "Walk By Me" when she plays Dionne Warwick in the Dec. 15 episode.
The young singers, who weren't around in the 1960s, have an appreciation for music history and work hard to make their portrayals accurate, said composer Danny Pelfrey. In addition to writing the background music for "American Dreams," Pelfrey works with the modern singers as they record the songs to which they later will lip-synch in the show. (Music supervisor Greg Sill arranges for the singers to come on the show.) "Usher wanted to be like Marvin Gaye," Pelfrey said.
And top bands used to play frequently at the fictional P3 Club on The WB's "Charmed." Successful band No Doubt performed Nov. 13 on "Dawson's Creek" in a storyline involving the band's concert. And The Bangles have been on "The Gilmore Girls."
But more prevalent than singers in front of the camera is the use of more pop songs in the background. The trend started in the 1980s with "Miami Vice," said Elizabeth Sellers, assistant professor of music at California State University, Northridge.
J.J. Abrams, creator and executive producer of "Alias," said he likes using both newer artists and classic ones including Joni Mitchell and Dylan.
"Alias" used Mitchell's "The River" in the background to underscore a key moment when Sydney, the spy played by star Jennifer Garner, learned something poignant about her father (played by Victor Garber).
Dylan is popular on TV these days; his songs also have aired on "American Dreams." And his son, Jakob Dylan, and his band The Wallflowers play the theme of CBS' "The Guardian" and have been featured on the network's "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."
The theme song of "CSI" is The Who's "Who Are You?," which fits the detective show dramatically and musically.
All musical styles are used on "The Gilmore Girls," said Amy Sherman-Palladino, the creator and executive producer.
"Rory and Lorelai (the lead characters played by Alexis Bledel and Lauren Graham) aren't music snobs. They like everything," Sherman-Palladino said.
"Every now and then, you'll find an old song from the '80s, like one by The Thompson Twins. We love the Go-Go's; they're very cool, they were one of the first chick groups."
And Sherman-Palladino said she uses her show to spotlight good musicians who aren't in the top 40, musicians viewers might not be aware of. "You're not going to hear Britney Spears on 'The Gilmore Girls,' " she said.
The theme of "The Gilmore Girls," "Where You Lead, I Will Follow," is performed by Carole King and her daughter, Louise Goffin.
Musicians on the show have varied from XTC to Bjork, Elastica and Yoko Ono.
But CSUN's Sellers has mixed feelings about pop music instead of traditional scoring.
"A pop song tells you what you're supposed to feel. I don't want to be told what to feel," Sellers said.
Music should tell people to feel and allow those feelings to be their own, she said.
(Dave Mason is television editor of the Ventura County Star in California. He can be reached at mason(at)insidevc.com.)