A plot-point that arises fairly regularly in TV land is when one or more of the main characters form a band. More often than not, these bands are nothing more than auxiliary narratives for a love story, which predictably culminates in a character serenading a love interest with a song that is oddly Auto-tuned, played to a click and perfectly EQ’d, despite taking place in a surf club or a beer barn. Occasionally though, these band story lines seem to accurately reflect the experience of being in a band – and more often than not, spawn killer songs that wouldn’t seem out of place in the indie-rock canon of classics. Below are our favourite ten television bands, and the great songs that resulted.
Adam Brody formed this band (and basically his entire Seth Cohen shtick) in sleepy Stars Hollow, before leaving for the bright lights of The OC. His replacement was a hilariously out-of-place-yet-perfect cock-rocker played by Skid Row‘s Sebastian Bach. Hep Alien was centered around Rory’s best friend, the delightful Lane, who had to sneak around her strict Korean mother’s back in order to be in the group, and whose world was thrown wonderfully off axis when a music store opened in Stars Hollow (its owner was played by Carole King) compelling her to take up the drums. Guitarist Zac wanted to name the band Follow Them To The Edge Of The Desert because “it’s memorable and classy”, but they settled on Hep-Alien, covered the White Stripes and The Clash, and blew their big shot with a Dig!-style onstage meltdown – with new member (and Brian Jonestown Massacre tambourine player) Joel Gion along for the ride. Gilmore Girls is the greatest.
2. Drive Shaft
Charlie arrived on the island a junkie, and was forced to kick his heroin habit cold turkey. He spent the early episodes talking up his famous band Drive Shaft who were basically Oasis, complete with brotherly in-fighting, drug habits and off-the-rails behaviour. The band’s sole hit ‘You All Everybody’ stemmed from a scene in which Charlie was trying to convince fellow castaway Shannon that she knew his band, and actor Dominic Monaghan broke into an entirely ad-libbed falsetto version – around which the undoubtedly annoyed producers penned an entire Oasis-esque song. It rules.
3. Electric Shoes
The Wonder Years
Electric Shoes only had one gig, but it was shut down by police before they could play a note. The Wonder Years is the most beautifully nuanced coming-of-age television show to date, with only Freaks and Geeks being a serious crown-stealing contender. Wonder Years doesn’t treat the idea of being in a high school band as a thing that defines Kevin Arnold’s adolescence, nor does it remove any of its weight. It shows high school bands–and friendships–for what they are: ultimately fleeting but, at the time, the most important things in the universe.
Friday Night Lights
This one scores points purely because if you’re growing up in a shit-kicker Texan town full of people who believe that high school football is the centre of the universe and that Texas is the biggest place on earth (even though you could pop it in the top corner of Australia), when you form a band you are going to a) name it something as convoluted and teenage-clever as Crucifictorious, b) cover ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’ by The Flaming Lips, and c) kinda suck. One of the most realistic depictions of a teenage band since The Zit Remedy.
5. The Zit Remedy
Degrassi Junior High
The Zit Remedy had one song. They played it for years and years, shot a dodgy clip for it on a camera so cumbersome it’d take ancient Egyptians to lift it, walked down the halls of their high school actually singing a song they wrote without being the laughing stock of their peers, and actually got babes (or the Degrassi version of babes) off the back of it. It was a killer song, too – sung in glorious unison, and played on permanently detuned instruments. Perfect.
6. Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem
The coolest band in television history, with members who mimicked classic stoned-out rockers from the ‘60s and the ‘70s. Bassist Sgt. Floyd Pepper’s name was an amalgamation of Pink Floyd and Sgt. Pepper, Dr. Teeth was a glammed-up Elton John, Zoot was a jazz cat a la Coltrane, Janis was Janis Joplin, and Animal was the maniacal Keith Moon. ‘Can You Picture That?’ would have been a hit had it been released by actual humans. Listen to those laconic vocals, that tight/loose musicianship, those great lyrics…
Freaks and Geeks
Like most high school bands, the high school band on Freaks and Geeks doesn’t ever leave the basement. They exist solely to frame Nick’s (Jason Segel) realisation that he is never going to achieve his dream of becoming a drummer – and of course to facilitate the James Franco one-liner, “Rock’n’roll don’t come from your brain! It comes from your crotch!” The scene shortly after the band splits, in which Nick auditions for a professional covers band (who once blew Jethro Tull offstage) only to realise the gulf between his dreams and his reality, is one of the most heartbreaking and cringeworthy scenes in television history. But the band that we feature here, Feedback, appeared in an earlier episode, ‘Carded and Discarded’, in which the gang fake-ID their way into a club to see a band play, only to realise the group is fronted by their ‘cool’ guidance teacher Mr. Rosso – played to perfection by genius Dave ‘Gruber’ Allen.
8. Mouse Rat
Parks and Recreation
Mouse Rat are actually a good American FM-pop band, in that they are inoffensive and bland enough to actually stand a chance (despite having a song called ‘Sex Hair’). When Andy describes them as a cross between Matchbox 20 and The Fray, he is fairly spot on. Previous band names include: Scarecrow Boat, Punch Face Champion, Fourskin, Flames for Flames, The Andy Andy Andys, Just the Tip, Fiveskin and Nothing Rhymes With Orange.
9. The Funk The Whole Funk And Nothing But The Funk
How I Met Your Mother
Marshall (Jason Segel)’s all lawyer funk band is one of the most ridiculous jokes on a show packed with them, and this band gets a mention purely for the line: “Your witness lied so your case is sunk. I sentence you to a life of funk” – and, naturally, for the fact that the backing band are all wearing judges’ wigs while Marshall is wearing an oversized purple and orange striped top hat for some reason.
10. The Orange Organics
This Australian show from the early ‘90s wholly revolved around the misfortunes of a teenage band The Orange Organics, something that hasn’t actually happened on television since. The Organics, fronted by Pugwall’s on-again, off-again girlfriend Jenny, had a handful of genuinely great songs, and ended up signing to Mushroom Records – with a sweet cameo by Molly Meldrum in the final episode. The whole series is rife with mishaps: Pugwall spiralling into an endless debt with his father; members quitting; ho-hum gigs at surf clubs and town fetes; and his little sister muscling in at every turn. Listen to Pugwall’s sweet guitar line in ‘Single Word’, though. It makes all the hard work worth it.