Watching one of my favorite episodes of The West Wing

Neil (begin lisp (an awesome MS intern (who always gets to work on amazing projects (lucky bastard)))) has been letting me watch his season 2 DVDs of The West Wing. My favorite episode 'Noel' is on right now. It's an amazing episode and i've loved it every time i see it. Why? There are many reasons, but primarily i think it's because of the amazing way that music and story were mixed together. I love the cello, yo-yo ma, and Bach's G Major, and the combination of all 3 as a backdrop to the story was done brilliantly.

It's not the first time I've seen music so well integrated. The other time in the show was the season finale when the president's daughter was kidnapped. In that case the music used was Massive Attack's "Angel". Perfect for the 'rave' backdrop where she gets kidnapped and rising and falling perfectly with the tensions of all the characters involved. I can't imagine either episode being as good or as powerful without

This isn't something I've seen on other television shows (albeit I don't watch much TV), are there other shows that have done this? Were they better, as good, or worse? I could extend this out to movies as well, but it's definitely more common there.

Comments (19)

  1. Here’s one for ya. The Sopranos episode after Richie Aprile got killed. They played Annie Lenox’ "I saved the world today". Perfect match.

  2. I used to think that the music for the "X-Files" was very well done. Mark Snow was the composer for the run of the series, and I felt that the music helped to convey much of the mystery, creepiness, etc, etc, of the show.

    Then, I found "Smallville" to also convey the overall feeling of the show very well. I soon noticed that Mark Snow does the composing for that show as well.

    There is an opening sequence to a video game titled "Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty". I thought that the music was so well matched to the sequence, that I would flip on the PS2 to watch it over and over. The music was composed by Harry Gregson-Williams (Shrek, Armageddon, The Rock, The Replacement Killers, Enemy of the State) and the opening sequence is by Kyle Cooper (Seven, The Hunt For Red October and The Fifth Element). The link to the movie is here:

    Also, I have to applaud your taste in shows. I think that the "West Wing" in addition to "24" are two of the finest shows currently on TV.

  3. D. Brian Ellis says:

    The music for Sports Night (Aaron Sorkins other show that lasted two season on ABC, won a few emmys and went away because ABC sucks and can’t market a show) was similarly done. My favorite episode was called "Eli’s Coming". At the end they launch a wraparound shot with Three Dog Night "Eli’s Coming" in the background and it rocks. That was the best show ever and the music was GREAT.

  4. Jeff Donnici says:

    I agree completely about West Wing’s use of external (not-scored by Walden) music… and "Angel" is one brilliant example of it.

    Another that I always think back to is the use of Jeff Buckley’s "Hallelujah" (covering a Leonard Cohen song) during the long scene in which CJ’s Secret Service agent is killed in a holdup. It’s superimposed with the senior staff’s viewing of a musical down the street.

    I’ve got the first season DVDs, but really need to pick up the second… good show.

  5. Jeff,

    The scene that you comment on is actually quite good. I remember really feeling for CJ when that happened (and for Mark Harmon as well). Let’s not forget that the musical was also a cover for Bartlett to meet with his Republican opponent in the election at the time, Ritchie (the governor of Florida at the time, I believe).

  6. Jeff: Another example tht I realized was where the president decides to run again after his secretary (whose name I won’t even try to spell) gets killed in a car accident. I don’t know who wrot ehte music that they were playing, but it mixed nostalgia, sadness, and perseverence together all against a theme of coming out of a storm stronger than you were before.

  7. Nicolas: Those soundtracks are in my collection. The Rock is timeless for it’s music 🙂

    I was actually thinking about that specific movie when i made my original post, but since you find amazing music so common in movies (Lord of the Rings, Apollo 13) i wanted to call out TV

  8. Nicholas: "Oh, btw, ‘Crime, I just don’t know’? That’s when i decided to kick your ass" or something similar 🙂

  9. Brian: I’ve heard great things about Sports Night, and it’s something I wanted to rent once I get a free second in my life.

  10. D. Brian Ellis says:

    Cyrus: Sports Night is by far my favorite show ever. I bought the dvds when they came out. The West Wing is great, but Sports Night exemplifies all of the best qualities of Aaron Sorkins’ writing. It has the same fast dialog, external music, play between characters and even some social awareness (though that was back in 1999). Yup. I barely watch TV at all, but I’ve seen those two seasons a few times all the way through. If you like The West Wing, you’ll LOVE Sports Night.


  11. …Best West Wing Moment…

    "You guys dont know it yet, but you’re having a really bad night!"

    "Federal Agents!"

    You know, in the Georgetown bar when the guys corner Zoe and Charlie tries to defend her and nearly gets in a fight; then Josh pushes the panic button!

    Great stuff.

  12. Actually, Keith, the best part about that was afterwards when the president chews her out and tells her what the nightmare scenario was. Then they made a season finale out of it. Great story telling and foreshadowing.

  13. Yeah, got to order season 2; have the first one and loved it. I also suggest 24 for some kick-butt drama.

  14. Jeff Donnici says:

    Cyrus — Great call on the music when he decides to run again after the secretary is killed. It was "Brothers in Arms" by Dire Straits (Mark Knopfler) — haunting song.

    That was the episode where he was in the church and ranting at God in Latin… I think the final 15 minutes or so of that scene are very powerful.

    Man, I need to get that second season… 🙂


  15. Jeff…. amazon calls out to you. Come back to the fold.

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