This might be supremely obvious, but music can make – or break – a show. But for a long time, TV soundtracks have been the realm of pop music, or reworkings of the main theme And modern shows? Well, they often don’t even have opening credits. But there are a few geeky TV shows where the score was as important as the actors, as groundbreaking as the content, and as exciting as the stunts. Here are ten of the best geek TV scores… Ever:
10. Game of Thrones
Given another season, this might rocket up the list as the main theme (as well as its spectacular visuals) is on constant rotation in our heads. But for now, this sits firmly as dark, evocative fantasy music that is as epic as Westeros… And beyond.
Michael Giacchino’s entry into the world of film and TV scores started with J.J. Abrams spy show, having previously worked only on video games. Since then? He’s become one of our favorite composers, and you can see all the elements of his greatest work present in the Alias score, which blended high drama, with works that evoked every locale that Sydney Bristow and company would visit as they’d trot around the world trying to stop the evil SD-6. Bonus: this is the best music on this list to listen to while you’re running. In your underwear.
8. Twin Peaks
Listen to Angelo Badalamenti’s main theme for David Lynch’s insane TV show, and you’ll hear a piece of music that, on the surface, wouldn’t be out of place on any other ‘90s drama. Except something is weird and off about it, just like on the show. The further down you go in the score, the farther you head into a rabbit hole. Oh, and there’s three songs with lyrics written by Lynch himself. Pop this on your iPod, and walk all day with a growing feeling of dread and menace.
7. Buffy The Vampire Slayer
We were a bit torn on this, as the main Angel theme – and hero music – are more exciting overall, but with seven seasons to choose from, Buffy wins. Yes, there’s the wonderful musical episode, “Once More With Feeling,” and Nerf Herder’s driving title theme. But the themes (from a few different composers, including Christophe Beck, and Thomas Wanker) are unassuming – there more to emphasize the action than draw attention. But nonetheless, they help raised Buffy from simple soap to something special.
6. The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles
Sure, having one of the best themes of all time to draw on is cheating a little bit. But George Lucas’ TV series not only called on John Williams classic score, but also created tons of classic music on its own. Most of it was written by Laurence Rosenthal, who amply aped the tones of dozens of time periods and locations, no small feat.
5. Batman: The Animated Series
What most of the shows on this list did to raise TV music to film levels, so did B:TAS with animation to film levels. Multiple composers started with Danny Elfman’s scores from the first two Batman films for inspiration, before carving their own brilliant little slice of Gotham… With a few less spooky choral children than Elfman’s scores, to boot. When we think of Batman, it’s the animated music that plays in our heads.
4. Star Trek: The Original Series
Before pretty much any of the other shows on this list, the Original Series of Star Trek was striving to create an epic, space opera score on a TV budget. Because of that, less than half of the episodes had music composed for them – the producers just reused themes from other episodes. That aside, ST:TOS has one of the most memorable scores in TV history, from the lone notes of the opening theme, to Klingon battles. Bonus fact: Gene Rodenberry totally, seriously, actually secretly wrote lyrics to the opening theme. I KNOW.
3. Doctor Who
We’re not talking about the whole of Doctor Who here. We’re not even necessarily talking about the first few seasons. We’re talking about Murray Gold’s superb score for the BBC time travel show in the past two seasons. Gold’s work on the Tennant era was memorable, and did a lot to make up for years of subpar music. But the themes he’s created and recorded in collaboration with the BBC Orchestra of Wales are some of the best instrumental music we’ve ever heard – period. “I Am The Doctor” is the best encapsulation of everything good about “Who” in musical form ever, and we dare you to listen to “Amy’s Theme” without getting chills. Double dog dare you.
2. Battlestar Galactica
We’re going to ignore the Bob Dylan silliness at the end of the show’s run, but Bear McCreary’s score for the rebooted Battlestar had us on the edge of our seats from the first “dink a dink dink” of the opening titles, to the pulsing battle music. Using non-traditional sources for the music – which makes sense given the alien setting and multi-ethnic cast – raised the score to another level. And okay, fine, even the reworked Dylan “All Along The Watchtower,” which slowly built like a buzz in your ear over the course of the third season was rather brilliant. McCreary later revisited the themes here for the prequel Caprica, another score worth visiting.
What else could be number one? No other show in geek history has so perfectly integrated music with action as LOST. Once again, Michael Giacchino created an unbeatably epic score for the show that included themes for nearly every single character, as well as new themes for every new locale and situation. But it was the recurring music, like “Lost and Found,” which turned up every time our plane crash survivors would reunite on a beach, that got our hearts stirring. It got to the point that we’d be as excited about the recurrence of a musical theme as the return of a favorite character: the score is just that good. Plus, you can’t underestimate how having one artist’s musical vision brought to completion over the course of five seasons makes a show that much richer. Heck, its so great, we can even forgive the Driveshaft tune, “(You All) Everybody” that played throughout the series, and that was TERRIBLE.