From guest stars to gigs, soundtracks to spoofs – loads of your favourite TV shows have included some priceless musical moments along the way. Here are 50 of the best.
50 Don goes to a Rolling Stones show in Mad Men
Harry and Don take a Saturday night trip to a Rolling Stones gig to meet with Stones manager Allen Klein about appearing in a commercial. Instead, they end up on a memorable trip following two young female fans of the rockers, getting a glimpse into a bohemian world they don’t understand.
49 The Beastie Boys cameo on Futurama
The rap trio perform at “Madison Cube Garden” where there’s “an old-fashioned moshpit, just like 1999… again!”. You’ve gotta love Bender’s live review of the show: “I think this qualifies as ‘ill’ – at least from a technical standpoint.”
48 The National sing in Game of Thrones
Florence and the Machine had been HBO producers’ first choice to sing this haunting nocturne in the show, but it’s hard to imagine the English singer bringing the same sinister edge as Matt Berninger and company managed. Chilling stuff.
47 The Friday Night Lights score
Trail of Dead, Outkast, Explosions In The Sky, Jose Gonzales… the soundtrack to 2007 TV sports drama Friday Night Lights is as eclectic as it is excellent. Great show too.
46 Chas and Dave appear in Only Fools and Horses
Although they are frequently miscredited as writers of the iconic theme song, this was actually written and performed by the shows creator John Sullivan. The ‘rockney’ duo did appear in the show later though, performing ‘Margate’ during the credits of the episode Jolly Boys’ Outing in Margate.
45 Dylan’s song ‘In The Moonlight’ (Do Me)’ in Modern Family
“Maybe, maybe, maybe I just wanna do you/do you wanna do me?” That Dylan, what a charmer.
44 CJ does ‘The Jackal’ on The West Wing
Politics isn’t such a serious business after all, it turns out – just ask the characters at the heart of US White House drama The West Wing, who gather to watch CJ give a performance of this Ronny Jordan rap funk classic in one unforgettable sequence.
43 ‘Wonderwall’ on Girls
Hannah sings the Oasis classic in the bath. Britpop reaches Brooklyn.
42 Regina Spektor’s Orange Is The New Black theme
With all the wit and charm of the show it soundtracks, Regina Spektor’s Orange Is The New Black theme is a cracker.
41 Lorde in South Park
Notable for the episode itself – in which Stan’s dad claims he is Lorde, complete with “I am Lorde, ya ya ya” impression – and for the real Lorde’s reaction to it: a video of the New Zealand musician singing the spoof clip went viral shortly after.
40 ’Rappers Delight’ on Scrubs
As JD wakes up for his last week as a resident the Sugarhill Gang appear on top of his alarm clock rhyming to ‘Rappers Delight’. “Hear my rhyme, it’s wake up time so get your white ass out of bed” they shout before JD clicks snooze, they all nod off…
39 The True Detective theme tune
No wonder the Handsome Family have been packing out venues around the globe since their track ‘Far from Any Road’ was picked by T Bone Burnett as the theme to this gritty crime thriller – its twisted spaghetti western sounds encapsulate the show’s malevolence adroitly.
38 The Walkmen join the long list of artists to appear in the OC
The NY indie janglers confirmed their status as teen heart throbs with an appearance on The OC, performing live at the Bait Shop in 2004.
37 Stan becomes obsessed with My Morning Jacket on American Dad
When the normally straight-laced Stan actually listens to daughter Hayley’s favourite band My Morning Jacket, rather than trying to ban her from listening to their “weird” music, he discovers a new side of himself. The episode ends with a live performance of ‘Wordless Chorus’. Surreal and awesome.
36 Michael Jackson’s cameo in The Simpsons
When Homer is admitted to a mental hospital, he meets a man who believes he’s Michael Jackson, voiced by Jacko himself. On release, MJ helps Bart write a song for Lisa’s birthday.
35 Louis Theroux learns to rap
Speaking of dodgy rap – if you’ve never seen Brit documentarian Louis Theroux’s attempts to drop bars in a gangster rap special of his Weird Weekends show, you really haven’t lived.
34 Boy George appears on The A Team
Boy George’s appearance on the A-Team was pretty off the wall. He performs to a crowd of rednecks who don’t really get his Karma Chameleon vibes. This clip often turns up on ‘worst’ lists but we think it’s kinda genius.
33 Beth sings Waxahatchee on The Walking Dead
Beth covers a bit of the song ‘Be Good’ on piano while sitting next to an open casket in a funeral home. Katie Crutchfield tweeted happy a verse of a song i wrote about shotgunning beer was just on national television!” The scene was originally meant to be accompanied by a Neutral Milk Hotel song but licensing issues stood in the way.
32 The Louie theme
“Louis, Louis, you’re gonna die” – simple but off beat with gloomy shades of despair, Louis CK’s theme song for Louie captures the show’s dark, esoteric humour superbly.
31 ‘It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding’ in The Sopranos
Bob Dylan’s classic also made its way into the finale episode of the mafia drama, cleverly alluding to mob boss Tony’s troubled relationship with his mother.
30 Roger Daltry appears on the Mighty Boosh
The Who man is seen hoovering the desert at the end of an episode as a karmic consequence of leaving Woodstock early and not helping to clean up. Who saw that coming?
29 ‘Zou Bisou Bisou’ on Mad Men
Megan introduces herself as a main character with a seductive rendition of Gillian Hills’ hypnotic 1960s single. Stylish and effortlessly cool.
28 Michael Scott and Dwight sing ‘American Pie’ to a dead model
After claiming to fall in love with a women from a chair catalogue, Michael tracks her down – only to discover she died in a car accident. Depressed, he and Dwight visit her grave – where they sing Don Maclean’s ‘American Pie’ till its dark in a strange bonding moment. Hilarious.
27 St Vincent turns up on Gossip Girl
Teen soaps always often have musical guests (Gossip Girl had already had Lady Gaga appear on the show before Annie Clark guested) – but rarely are they noise aficionados who count arty racket-makers The Pop Group among their influences.
26 The Curb Your Enthusiasm theme
Thanks to Larry David’s sitcom, it’s not impossible to have an awkward social encounter without this jolly theme popping into your head.
25 ‘Baby Blue’ by Badfinger at the end of Breaking Bad
“I guess I got what I deserve,” chimes this forgotten ’70s classic over the meth drama’s final scene, perfectly (and emotionally) surmising the show’s overarching theme of action and consequence. Also used in Scorsese’s The Departed, its appearance here led to a 2981% increase in sales of the track.
24 The Pet Shop Boys turn up on Neighbours for no real reason
1995 saw Chris Lowe, one half of British music group, The Pet Shop Boys, appear on Ramsey Street. He played himself and let’s just say he shouldn’t give up his day job
23 Don Draper listens to The Beatles
The Fab Four’s music is rarely licensed to TV but such is the might of Mad Men, the group’s surviving members allowed the show use ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ for $250k. Soundtracking a powerful season five scene as Don contemplates his grip on youth culture slipping, it was worth every penny.
22 ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ soundtracks the end of The Sopranos
The pioneering HBO mob drama couldn’t have picked a more fitting song to close with – embodying the ‘can do’ spirit of modern USA, the Journey rock anthem neatly mirrors the excesses of the American dream showrunner David Chase and co spent six seasons exploring.
21 Treme’s entire soundtrack
Let’s face it – David Simon’s The Wire follow-up was never not going to feature great music, being set in New Orleans, the home of jazz.
20 Ed Norton pretending to be Spandau Ballet in Modern Family
Claire is notoriously bad at arranging gifts for Phil, so organises a private performance by “Izzy LaFontaine” (Ed Norton), bassist in Phil’s favourite band, Spandau Ballet (“between Richard Miller and Martin Kemp”). One snag: turns out Phil isn’t actually a fan of Spandau Ballet at all. But he can’t let on…
19 Kim Gordon appears on Girls
Girls is already one of the best-loved sitcoms in years and here they upped the ante even further. Former Sonic Youther Kim Gordon played Mindy, a cranky member of support group in a rehab facility attended by Jessa.
18 ‘I Will Wait For You’ at the end of Futurama’s Jurassic Bark episode’
One of the sci-fi cartoon comedy’s hardest hitting scenes. As a montage shows the rest of Fry’s dog’s life after the delivery man is frozen and sent into the future, ‘I Will Wait for You’ from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg plays, stirring emotions in even the coldest of hearts. Not a dry eye in the house.
17 The girls of Parks and Recreation sing ‘Time After Time’
Even Cyndi Lauper would have to hand it to Rashida Jones, Retta and Aubrey Plaza – their version of her pop staple is delightfully harmonious.
16 Gob Bluth dancing to ‘The Final Countdown’ in Arrested Development
Every magician needs theme music and Gob’s is a cracker – Europe’s synthy fists-in-the-air anthem ‘The Final Countdown’. Watching him trap himself in a coffin in front of funeral guests just wouldn’t be the same without it.
15 Tom Waits’ The Wire theme tune
Five different versions of Waits’s ‘Way Down in the Hole’ were used as the opening theme to David Simon’s Dickensian drug epic, with the bluesman’s original (from ‘Frank’s Wild Years’) used throughout season two. The other renditions were performed by The Blind Boys of Alabama (S1), The Neville Brothers (S3), DoMaJe (S4) and Steve Earle (S5).
14 Flight of the Conchords’ ‘Hiphopopotamus Vs. Rhymenoceros’
Has there been a show funnier than this HBO story of a Kiwi folk duo trying to make it in New York since it finished five years ago? This rap sketch is an undoubted highlight of the show’s two season run, thanks to ingenious lines like: “They call me the Hiphopopotamus! My lyrics are bottomless!… err…um…”
14 Chris Martin on Extras
Who knew the Coldplay man’s comic timing was this good? Filming an advert for charity about starving children, Martin’s self-promotion is hilarious. “We’ve got a new album coming out… Can [the children] be holding the album?”
13 Troy McClure’s Stop The Planet Of The Apes, I Want To Get Off musical
“Can I play the piano any more?” “Of course you can!” “Well I couldn’t before!” The Simpsons’ Broadway spin on The Planet Of The Apes is hands down one of its funniest musical moments.
12 Death Cab For Cutie on the OC
Seth’s favourite band in the show, Death Cab are featured heavily on the teen show’s soundtrack. Ben Gibbard and co even perform live on the show, performing tracks like ‘Title and Registration’ and ‘Sound of Settling’.
11 Leslie Knope raps ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand’ on Parks and Recreation
In which Leslie performs the entire third verse from Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith’s 90s gem after co-worker Ron inadvertently uses its first line (“Okay, here’s the situation”). After the two minute rap, it turns out that the “situation” is someone on fire in a local park. Classic Leslie.
10 Bob Dylan appears on ‘Pawn Stars’
After years of TV exile, Bob Dylan made a return to our screens with an unexpected turn in ‘Pawn Stars’ in 2010, essentially America’s Antiques Roadshow. Didn’t see that coming.
9 Madness appear on The Young Ones
Early ’80s British comedy The Young Ones launched the careers of Rik Mayall and Ben Elton. Every episode featured a performance from a live band but Madness’s cameo is probably the most memorable, their chaotic version of ‘Our House’ going down in infamy after broadcast.
8 Radiohead guest on South Park
One for the ages, this. Appearing in the show’s infamous ‘Scott Tenorman Must Die’ episode, the Oxford group are lured to the Colorado town by Cartman as part of a scheme to torment a school mate. When Jimbo does not know what “a radiohead” is, Cartman and Ned sing him part of “Creep”. Not quite as good as the original, but a decent stab.
7 Paul McCartney guests on The Simpsons
The Beatle’s cameo in the touching episode ‘Lisa The Vegetarian’ is among the show’s best (and that’s saying something). With wife Linda, he helps Lisa reunite with Homer after an argument – as well as letting her in on a Fab Four secret: “If you play ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ backwards, you’ll find a recipe for a ripping lentil soup.”
6 Mr G’s musical in Summer Heights High
Arguably the best moment of Chris Lilley’s mockumentary Summer Heights High, as eccentric teacher Mr G tries to stage an elaborate musical with an anti-drug message to fund a lavish performing arts centre named after himself. The enormous building which would likely eclipse the school in height would be able to host “arena spectaculars.”
5 David Bowie mocks Ricky Gervais in Extras
“Pathetic little fat man,” serenades Bowie in this excellent sequence in Gervais’ follow-up to The Office, writing an impromptu song about the funnyman’s hapless protagonist. A rare, hilarious glimpse into Dame Dave’s seldom-seen devilish sense of humour.
4 Jeremy and Super Hands’ bands in Peep Show
Worthy of a shout-out for their band names alone: Man Feelings, Danny Dyer’s Chocolate Homunculus, Momma’s Kumquat and Various Artists (“just to fuck over people with iPods”) are our favourites. Hans also says that the Chemical Brothers “nicked our sound” and that Mumford and Sons “demanded the Ramsgate blowjob,” whatever that means.
3 Pretty much the entire Twin Peaks soundtrack
Not a week seems to pass in the NME office without us discovering a new band who credit the eerie synth noises of David Lynch’s famously warped whodunnit drama as an influence. Listening back now, it’s easy to understand why – the series’ soundtrack is haunting as ever.
2 The David Brent dance
Need we say more? Getting down to “Flashdance fused with MC Hammer shit” made a superstar of Ricky Gervais.
1 Morrissey appears in Brookside
Yes, really. The Smiths man was offered a cameo in the Merseyside soap after telling press he’d become “hopelessly addicted” to the show. Appearing in spin-off series Brookside South, Morrissey plays himself in the scene and comedy gold ensues: “I know who you are!” Tracey Corkhill screeches. “So do I,” replies the singer, coolly.