This week's Dexter featured an egregious TV moment, one that shook my belief in the show — which has already waned to a tiny fraction of what it once was. (Don't worry, this does not contain meaningful spoilers.) Charlotte Rampling's Dr. Vogel was in her home, preparing to relax or whatever, and she put on some music: "Make Your Own Kind of Music," sung by Mama Cass.
No! Not allowed!
"Make Your Own Kind of Music" is way, way too deeply tied to Lost, which used the song to marvelous effect starting with season two's premiere, "Man of Science, Man of Faith." Remember, when Desmond was puttering around the hatch, listening to it? I remember. (Remember how excited you were for the second season premiere of Lost? I remember that, too. Christ, I loved that show.)
Some songs can float from show to show (to movie to commercial) without ever really making much of an impact; some shows can use hugely popular songs without that song ever attaching itself to the show in particular. But there are some moments where scene meets soundtrack, and the combination creates a vortex of transcendence. That show and that song are inextricably linked, and from there on out, all other uses of the song on TV feel inappropriate.
Grey's Anatomy can claim many, many songs as its own. Mad Men can claim at least a few. But if any show can call enduring, iconic rights to a song, it's Six Feet Under, with Sia's "Breathe Me," which played over the series' still-stunning closing montage. That's why it was so jarring when the song was used to highlight a Major Dramatic Moment on the 2006 one-season MTV reality show 8th & Ocean, where, if memory serves, twin models were crying over pimples. It was very jarring! Luther is also guilty of using it, but it was less wrong because (a) more time had passed and (b) Luther is a good show. But still! You don't get to just use that song. That song is taken. Find another sad song! There are so, so many.
It's not that these songs are overused, per se — I'm not talking about "Hallelujah," for example, which has been used so much it doesn't feel like any one show can really claim it. (Some might say The OC staked a claim, but that's debatable.) But take Colin Hay's "Waiting for My Real Life to Begin." If you've ever seen the season two episode of Scrubs "My Philosophy," that's the enduring, permanent association with the song, JD's patient who imagined her afterlife as a big Broadway musical. P.S. I cried looking up this video.
When the song popped up on The Big C and Brothers and Sisters, I wasn't moved all over again; it just seemed like weird sloppy seconds.
I have strong associations with songs from Everwood and Veronica Mars, though I'd be surprised if anyone else did. But Lost was a pretty big show back in the day! And man, Desmond really knew how to bounce around in that darn hatch. Sorry, Dexter.