It didn’t take long for the season-three premiere of “Eastbound & Down” to remind us we were watching one of the best shows on TV. Hell, it was the first scene, when Kenny Powers walked through the sand of Myrtle Beach with a rebel flag/weed boogie board, while the Stooges’ “Down on the Street” played.
It was possibly the greatest season opening shot EVER, not only because Kenny admired the base tans of an American-African couple, but also because “Down on the Street” so perfectly matched the show’s dirty, yet sentimental aesthetic. Iggy would be proud, assuming he hasn’t been eaten up by a pack of wild dogs mistaking him for the lean piece of beef jerky he looks like today.
The ideal song/scene match shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, because HBO shows are the best at choosing just the right track for just the right moment, and have been for years. This is a list of the network’s greatest musical moments, composed of both songs written for a show and songs that already existed being used on a show. And no, Journey didn’t make it, but we’ll be alright without them.
“Mr. Show with Bob and David”
Song: “There’s No More Room in Heaven” by David Cross/”Ain’t No Fun” by Bob Odenkirk
I’m ashamed to admit this, but: I haven’t seen much of “Mr. Show.” I know I’ll love it once I do, and I’ve seen pretty much everything else Bob Odenkirk and David Cross have made since (INCLUDING Let’s Go to Prison — yikes), but I just haven’t gotten around to “Mr. Show,” with the exception of a few sketches. Including this one, for the 24th and 25th Annual Song Awards, where contestants vie for the coveted Teardrop Award. It exposes the manipulative nature of songs that try to make you weep, while also including a Brian Wilson parody and some goddamn funny lines like, “Because you went to Heaven/And a teardrop went to me.” Plus, a kid gets impaled with a trophy, and that’s never not hilarious. Maybe fictional will become reality, and that precocious rodent from Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close will die from an Oscar wound this Sunday???
Song: “Fraggle Rock Theme Song” by the Fraggles (?)
Song: “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” by the Smiths
This was my belated introduction to the Smiths, and the rest has been forlorn, mopey history.
“Flight of the Conchords”
Song: “Leggy Blonde” by Jemaine Clement, Rhys Darby, and Bret McKenzie
It was tough choosing just a single “Conchords” song, but I went with “Leggy Blonde” because it’s one of the few times that Rhys Darby got a song of his own — and Rhys Darby is the sh*t. Plus, it’s very relatable: who hasn’t admired a leggy, blonde-haired co-worker from “across the office floor”? “Oh leggy blonde you got it goin’ on/Wanna see you wearing that thong thong thong.” Eat your heart out, Sisqo. (Related: when did people stop saying, “Eat your heart out”?)
Song: “Tribute” by Tenacious D
In ninth grade, I failed my math class with a 64 — one point higher and I would have passed, but my teacher…something something…the principal of the thing — and had to go to summer school. This was before I had a car and, sadly, before I knew how to ride a bike (I got frustrated trying to learn as a kid, and gave up), so I had to walk the three miles (six miles round-trip) it took to get there every day. It was literally uphill both ways, sans snow, and a miserable experience. But one of the things that kept me going, outside of the fear of not making it to the 10th grade, was listening to Tenacious D every day, including “Tribute,” which originally appeared in the fourth episode, “The Greatest Song in the World,” of HBO’s short-lived “Tenacious D” series. It appealed to both the side of me that wanted to listen to Black Sabbath, but was too intimidated to, and the side of me that liked acoustic songs where people said “fu*k” a lot.
Long story short: I like the D.
“The Larry Sanders Show”
Song: “And Justice for All” by Wu-Tang Clan
Before you hear Wu-Tang Clan perform “And Justice for All,” you see an intimidated Jeffrey Tambor acting black, cursing off cops (those damn traffic tickets), and inquiring of the whereabouts of “Old Dirty Bitch.” I already regret not putting this at #1.
“Six Feet Under”
Song: “Lucky” by Radiohead
One of my favorite Radiohead songs on one of my favorite shows? Yes. I feel like a total dip using the word “transcendent,” but I can’t think of anything better – there’s something transcendent in watching Nate Fisher burn not only his furniture, but his past (SUBTLE METAPHOR), while Thom Yorke sadly moans, “I’m standing on the edge.”
“Da Ali G Show”
Song: “In My Country There Is Problem” by Borat
If you don’t think this is funny, you’re not welcome here, not unlike a Jew in the Deep South.
(NOTE: The next two selections are scenes from “The Wire” and “The Sopranos.” If you haven’t watched either series yet, SPOILER ALERT. If you have, then right this way, sir/madam.)
Song: “Way Down in the Hole” by the Blind Boys of Alabama
David Simon chose “Way Down in the Hole,” written by Tom Waits, as his show’s theme and final scene soundtrack as a twisted joke, right? During this montage, we see that some things, like Baltimore, are always going to remain the same, no matter how much effort is put into making a difference — kind of like religion itself, which is what “Way Down” is about. People have been hoping to “walk with Jesus” because “he’s gonna save your soul” for thousands of years now, and we’re no better or worse off than they were. CIRCLE OF LIFE.
Actually, scratch that, we’re better off than they were because we have “The Wire.”
Song: “Comfortably Numb” by Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Van Morrison, and Roger Waters
The version played in “Kennedy and Heidi,” one of the greatest episodes of “The Sopranos,” wasn’t the 1979 Pink Floyd original from The Wall, but rather, a live recording from 1990, sung by Roger Waters with accompaniment from Van Morrison and the Band’s Rick Danko and Levon Helm. Peculiar choice aside, the song’s subject matter matches Tony and Christopher’s ultimately tragic relationship perfectly, as if the “Sopranos” writers had plotted their show around it: “The child is grown, the dream is gone/I have become comfortably numb.” Also: teenage girls are the WORST drivers.