But first some ground rules: no soundtracks for sitcoms about bands or musicians, meaning no The Monkees or Flight of the Conchords, and no film soundtracks based on a sitcom, like South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut or Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny. Also, if they’re a volume one, two, three, etc. collection, they’re combined into one entry, while more distinct records — like the two from South Park — are separated. Arbitrary rules aside, to the music!
#43. I Am Thin and Gorgeous
Do you like your soundtracks pointless? Then you’ll love I Am Thin and Gorgeous, a four-song EP by Javier Vazquez, who mixed Ab Fab dialogue with “hot” dance beats. Much is better the Pet Shop Boys’ 1994 charity single “Absolutely Fabulous,” which is basically the same thing but better.
#42. Mad About You: The Final Frontier — Music From and Inspired by the TV Series
If you’re still upset over the cancellation of The Paul Reiser Show, maybe the Mad About You soundtrack will cure what ails you, reminding you of the cheerful past. Who could forget the time that Jamie and Paul Buchman did something while “She Crawls Away” played, or that other time where the thing happened to “Ice Cream”? Good times, all.
#41. My Name is Earl: The Album
John Hiatt, Harry Nilsson, and Los Lobos are all great musicians who appear on the soundtrack to Earl — but so does Uncle Kracker’s cover of the Band classic, “The Weight.” That’s how an otherwise good album, containing Sammy Davis, Jr.’s novelty hit “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke,” gets ranked this low.
#40. Music from Malcolm in the Middle
This 2000 soundtrack was my introduction to They Might Be Giants — that’s good. It also introduced me to the Push Stars — that’s bad. But Travis appears on the album, too — that’s also bad. But so are the Baja Men and Rednex and OPM — that’s really bad.
#39. Nurse Jackie: Season One Soundtrack
What Jackie is to funny, this soundtrack is to entertaining. Which is to say, not very. It’s mostly just scores, and doesn’t even feature Tor on the cover. Shame shame, Showtime.
#38. The Andy Griffith Show
Lots of so-called homespun music, with tracks named “Flop-Eared Mule” and “The Fishin’ Hole,” mostly sung by Griffith himself, but I can’t look past the album cover because every time I see it, I think, “I’m going down to Emmett’s fix-it shop to…fix Emmett.”
#37. The Beverly Hillbillies Soundtrack
I love this CD Universe review of the album, which has the Hillbillies cast singing in-character songs: “The real surprise is [Granny], who negotiates her solo turns with spunk; a few songs that describe her medicinal tonics and country cooking feature her prominently.” Outside of the disgusting connotation of the words “Granny” and “spunk” in the same sentence, it’s a pretty accurate sentiment, and makes me wish Granny had gone solo.
#36. Will & Grace: Let the Music Out!
The songs are, well, they’re pretty gay. There’s Tom Jones, Gloria Gaynor, Jennifer Lopez (the Hex’s Momentous Radio Mix of “Waiting for Tonight,” woah-oh), Queen (“You’re My Best Friend”), Britney Spears (“Oops…I Did It Again!”), and Eric McCormack singing “Living with Grace” with Mr. Copacabana himself, Barry Manilow. The man who created the show’s theme, Jonathan Wolff, also provided the soundtrack to Seinfeld.
#35. Music From and Inspired by the TV Series King of the Hill
With the exception of Barenaked Ladies (why do TV soundtracks love them so?), there’s, to no one’s surprise, a lot of country on the soundtrack to Mike Judge’s fantastic show, including Travis Tritt, Brooks & Dunn, Faith Hill, and the theme song, “Yahoos and Triangles,” performed by the Refreshments.
#34. Living Single: Music From and Inspired by the Hit TV Show
Although Naughty by Nature, Chaka Khan, and Queen Latifah, who starred on the show, all contribute tracks, the only track that really matters is “I Commit 2 U,” by Chris Gaddy and Pamela Bryant, a song so sexy that it hurts.
#33. Cleveland Rocks! Music from The Drew Carey Show
The 1998 soundtrack begins with the show’s theme, “Cleveland Rocks,” which it does not, by the Presidents of the United States of America, and features such people-in-their-40s-singing-karokee-while-getting-drunk-during-happy-hour-after-work classics as “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” by Bachman Turner Overdrive and “Shake Your Groove Things” by Peaches & Herb, but it’s missing one essential artist: Ohio’s own, Guided by Voices, who’s “Exit Flagger” would have been a much better choice than Edgar Winter Group or Joe Walsh.
#32. Music from the Showtime Series Californication/Vol 2./Vol. 3/Vol. 4
Despite my better judgment, I still like Californication a lot, largely because of the music. There’s Bob Dylan, Warren Zevon, My Morning Jacket, the Rolling Stones, Elton John, the Heavy, and Harvey Danger—and that’s just the first disc in a four-albums and counting series. The majority of the songs are either creepy or about lonely people, or both, which pretty much describes Hank Moody.
#31. The Yellow Album
The follow-up to Sing the Blues was supposed to be released in 1993, but didn’t actually come out until 1998. Why? Matt Groening didn’t like it. Why didn’t he like it? Because it’s not very good. “Anyone Else,” which details (in song!) the love/hate relationship between Bart and Lisa, and “Ten Commandments of Bart,” featuring Homer rapping, are worthwhile, but otherwise, no one really wanted to hear Apu sing a song called “Twenty-Four Hours a Day.” Plus, Homer duets with Linda Ronstadt, which makes no sense because in “Mr. Plow,” Barney…oh, never mind.
#30. Curb Your Enthusiasm: Music from the TV Series
It’s an unofficial soundtrack from Mellowdrama Records (awesome name), but it still has the jaunty title and end credits song, “Frolic” by Luciano Michelini, along with many other of the show’s musical cues, like “The Puzzle” (Larry’s thinking song) and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (Larry’s intimidation song). No “Gee Officer Krupke!” though. Krup you!
#29. Brak Presents The Brak Album Starring Brak
Do you like the idea of a supervillain performing with a world-famous Irish folk band that’s previously performed with Van Morrison to Luciano Pavorotti? Then you’ll love The Brak Album, which has Brak singing with the Chieftains, as well as Freddie Prinze Jr. and Zorak, as well as songs named “Evil Is Only Skin Deep” and “Smell You Later.” If not, I’d choose a different selection from the Hanna-Barbera discography.
#28. All That: The Album
Not to be confused with the equally memorable She’s All That soundtrack, the tracklisting for the Nickelodeon sitcom includes songs by Coolio (“Awwww, here it goes,” which is actually from Kenan & Kel, but still works), Naughty by Nature, Aaliyah, and TLC, who sang the theme, and sketches from Earboy, Pizza Face, Superdude, and other characters that are making you say, “I loved that skit!” What does the She’s All That soundtrack have? The Afghan Whigs? Psh.
#27. Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs (Fraiser)
Google “Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs,” and the first result is for a Yahoo! Answers page where someone asks, “What the hell is Frazier’s theme song about?” Sic’d title aside, “shorty82” has a point: what the hell is the song about? Well, on the soundtrack, the question is (finally! — as of 1993) answered — and if this sounds like poorly written copy for Milan Records, it isn’t; I just happen to like the album’s jazz standards, including Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, and Etta James.
#26. Weeds: Music from the Original Series/Vol. 2/Vol. 3/Vol 4
Disc 1: “Little Boxes,” as sung by Malvina Reynolds (and “All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands,” the first Sufjan Stevens song I ever heard).
Disc 2: “Little Boxes,” as sung by Elvis Costello (and “Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games,” one of Of Montreal’s finer songs).
Disc 3: “Little Boxes,” as sung by Randy Newman (and “Little Boxes” by the Shins).
Disc 4: “Little Boxes,” as sung by…no one. They really shouldn’t have scrapped the theme after season three.
#25. Sabrina, The Teenage Witch: The Album
I’d, like, totally buy this, if I didn’t already, y’know, have all the songs on their original albums, like *NSYNC’s “Giddy Up” and Backstreet Boys’ “Hey, Mr. DJ (Keep Playin’ This Song)” from their debut self-titled records, and “Blah Blah Blah,” on the ultra rad Japanese edition of the Cardigans’ First Band on the Moon. Also, “Kate” by Ben Folds Five, for some reason.
#24. Bored to Death (Soundtrack)
A.k.a. what Brooklyn sounds like, circa 2011. There’s Lykke Li, Andrew Bird, She & Him, TV on the Radio, and Freelance Whales, along with the title track, performed by Jason Schwartzman’s band, Phantom Planet…I mean, Coconut Records.
#23. That ‘70s Album: Rockin’/That ‘70s Album: Jammin’
Disc 1: I’ll give you a minute to guess what artists appear on this soundtrack *Waiting, humming “In the Street” to himself* Well, if you guessed Cheap Trick, Ram Jam, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Blue Oyster Cult, and Ted Nugent, you guessed right! And if you didn’t, you’ve clearly never listened to a “classic rock” station on FM radio, or purchased a compilation that couldn’t afford the rights to a Led Zeppelin song.
Disc 2: The same concept as Rockin’, but instead of 10cc and Montrose, there’s James Brown and the Staple Singers. I recommend Jammin’.
#22. Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics (South Park)
“O Tannenbaum,” “Carol of the Bells,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” sung by Adolf Hitler, Mr. Mackey, and a literal piece of shit, respectively — y’know, just your typical Christmas album (with “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel” included, too, for all the Chosen People).
#21. Family Guy Live in Vegas
There are plenty of good reasons to hate Family Guy — lack of character development, obscure jokes that aren’t nearly as funny as the manatee writers think they are, any plot that doesn’t involve Brian and Stewie, etc. But the music isn’t one of them. Seth McFarlane employs a giant orchestra to compose music for the show, and although Live in Vegas isn’t, well, live, it does feature characters from the show performing original material in the style of Sin City croon acts. And, because it’s Family Guy, a song called “All Cartoons Are Fuckin’ Dicks,” which lampoons…something.
#20. Space Ghost’s Surf & Turf: With 22 Tiki-Torched Tunes/ Space Ghost’s Musical Bar-B-Que: Featuring 25 Hickory-Smoked Harmonies
Combined, the two albums are 77 songs long, which is a bit much, even for the biggest Space Ghost fan, but some of the tracks are quite amusing, particularly on Tiki-Torched, like the Nirvana-ish “Nasty” and the sweetest ode to potatoes you’ve ever heard, Brak’s sax-heavy “Mashed Potatoes.” Honey-Smoked Harmonies, on the other space hand, has “Everybody Wants to Be Space Ghost,” which, yeah.
#19. Modern Stone-Age Melodies: Original Songs from the Classic TV Show Soundtrack
The first two tracks of the album are separate versions of the well-known theme, so you’d be wise to skip to “Bedrock Twitch” and the so-bad-it’s-amazing duet of “Stardust” between Fred Flintstone and the great Hoagy Carmichael, who appeared on the show as the much-less-funny Stoney Carmichael.
#18. Friends Original TV Soundtrack/Friends Again/The One with All the Party Music
Disc 1: The one with “I’ll Be There for You,” which became a chart-topping hit for the Rembrandts, and tracks by Hootie and the Blowfish, Barenaked Ladies, and, oddly, Paul Westerberg.
Disc 2: The one with “Smelly Cat,” and songs by Smash Mouth, Semisonic, and Lisa Loeb.
Disc 3: And the one with “The Impression That I Get” by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and “Into Your Arms” by the Lemonheads, two songs that everyone likes, even though neither are what you’d call “party music.”
#17. Babalu Music! I Love Lucy’s Greatest Hits
Once you get past the first song, a dance version of “Babalu” with snippets of the show’s dialogue mixed in, Babalu Music has some great tracks, including the non-Jim Carrey version of “Cuban Pete” and an enjoyable-against-your-better-judgment “Jingle Bells,” with Lucy, Fred, and Ethel joining Ricky.
#16. Drawn Together: The Uncensored TV Soundtrack
Music played a huge part of Comedy Central’s occasionally hilarious, usually mediocre reality show spoof. Foxxy Love, voiced by Cree Summer who also supplied the voice of Elmyra Duff from Tiny Toon Adventures, steals the soundtrack with songs like “La La Labia,” backed by the Foxxy Five, and her duet with Princess Clara, “Black Chick’s Tongue.”
#15. Chef Aid: The South Park Album
Tons of musicians have visited South Park over the years, some real (like Radiohead and Robert Smith) and some fake (Michael Jackson, Will Smith), and in 1998, nearly 10 of them, all real!, convened in Colorado for a single purpose: to raise money for Chef. Ozzy Osbourne, DMX, Elton John, Ween, Joe Strummer, Meat Loaf, Rick James, and more contributed tracks to the Chef Aid episode and soundtrack, which also includes to Cartman’s breathtaking rendition of Styx’s “Come Sail Away,” a song you’ll see again soon.
#14. Space Ghost Coast to Coast
Only a few months before passing away from a heart attack at the age of 53, Sonny Sharrock recorded a series of tunes for Space Ghost Coast to Coast, including its theme song, which is included on this album, as well as six other cuts. Also worth checking out: the Coast to Coast episode “Sharrock,” which features nothing but the musician’s songs for nearly 15 minutes.
#13. SHAZAM! Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. Sings “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd” and Other Immortal Classics
Much better than 1970’s Everything Is Beautiful album (ugh, the early 1970s were horrible), Jim Nabors recorded an entire LP of novelty songs inspired by his novelty show Gomer Pyle, including “Hot Dog Heart” and “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd,” which contains the immortal line, “Ya can’t take a shower in a parakeet cage/But you can be happy if you’ve a mind to,” which means absolutely nothing.
#12. Steven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs: 16 Original Songs From The Hit TV Series/Animaniacs Variety Pack: Ingredients: 16 Delicious Songs From The Hit TV Series/ Sing About the World According to Yakko, Wakko, and Dot
I wish I could say I didn’t learn all the name of the Presidents (well, up to Bill Clinton, at least) or the state capitols or all the words in the English language from three cartoon cat-dog’ish creatures. But then I’d be lying.
#11. The Simpsons Sing the Blues
Supported by the Michael Jackson-penned “Do the Bartman,” Sing the Blues, which is actually more hip hop-influenced than blues-inspired (just saying…), is one of the highest selling sitcom soundtracks of all-time (it’s at least two times platinum). It’s also got a pretty decent array of guest performers: Buster Poindexter, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Dr. John, B.B. King, etc. Once, I heard “Look At All These Idiots,” which has Harry Shearer rapping to Harry Shearer, on my bus on the way to elementary school, and it BLEW my mind.
#10. De Wolfe Music Presents: Monty Python’s Flying Circus
You have to use your imagination with this soundtrack, which is made up of scores from BBC’s Monty Python’s Flying Circus. On its own, “Man of Destiny” might not be very funny, but when you picture Eric Idle in the “Whicker’s World” sketch, you can’t help but laugh.
#9. All in the Family
Pretty light on the soundtrack (“Those Were the Days” is included, but that’s about it), but includes a dozen snippets of dialogue from the show, including Archie’s thoughts on gay people and whether God is white or black. Highly offensive, but that’s what makes it so wonderful and funny.
#8. 30 Rock Original Television Soundtrack
Instead of 30 Rock Original Television Soundtrack, the album should have been titled A Bunch of Songs by Tina Fey’s Husband, Werewolf Bar Mitzvah, and Tracy Morgan Singing “Midnight Train to Georgia”. That, people would have bought.
#7. Music from Scrubs/Music from Scrubs, Vol. 2/”My Musical” Soundtrack
Disc 1: It’s like the Garden State soundtrack! But better! Guided by Voices, John Cale, Eels, the Butthole Surfers, and the ultra-catchy theme song by Lazlo Bane all appear, as does “New Slang” by the Shins. It’s like the Garden State soundtrack! But the same!
Disc 2: This one’s not as good, mostly because it features the Polyphonic Spree, who appeared on the show in a totally unnecessary cameo. There’s also a band, Tammany Hall NYC, which refer to themselves as “Matchbox Twenty without the crossover cheddar.”
Disc 3: “I feel exactly those feelings, too/But that’s why I keep them inside/’Cause this bear can’t bare the world’s disdain/And that’s why it’s easier to hide than explain our guy love,” etc.
#6. Schoolhouse Rock Rocks
It’s not really a sitcom, but I couldn’t resist including this album. There’s Biz Markie and Ween and Blind Melon and the Lemonheads and Daniel Johnston and Skee-Lo. If I were a hip middle school history teacher, I’d totally play Pavement’s “No More Kings” to teach my students all about the Boston Tea Party and American Revolution. That’s probably why I’m not a middle school history teacher…
#5. Music from the Original TV Series Community
Considering only about eight people watch Community every week (with that number courtesy of creator Dan Harmon), it makes you wonder how many people bought the Community soundtrack? But because “The Way It Is,” “Pierce You Are a B,” and “Somewhere Out There” are all on it, it should be purchased, listened to, and committed to memory. Plus, there’s the full-length version of the theme song by the 88, who also provided music to the short-lived Fox sitcom, Free Ride, back in 2006. Where are you now, Josh Dean?
#4. Songs in the Key of Springfield/Go Simpsonic with The Simpsons/Testify
Long before I knew it was spoofing a Stevie Wonder album title, I played Songs in the Key and Go Simpsonic the same way music nerds do Loveless and Zen Arcade. I memorized every track, every lyric, every instrumental, so much so that when I watch, say, “Marge vs. the Monorail,” it sounds odd to me that the episode just doesn’t stop after Homer messes up “The Monorail Song.” There’s also “Happy Birthday, Lisa,” “See My Vest,” “Kamp Krusty,” “We Put the Spring in Springfield,” “Canyonero,” and on Testify, “Everybody Hates Ned Flanders” and Ricky Gervais’ “Lady,” among many other classics.
#3. Saved by the Bell: Soundtrack to the Original Hit TV Series
Don’t you want this, like, yesterday? There’s so much Zack Attack. Like “Friends Forever” and “Did We Ever Have a Chance?” which is somehow less corny than a song called “Friends Forever.” My personal favorite, however, is “Go for It!” by Hot Sundae. The only thing that’s missing is the “Snow White and the Seven Dorks” rap.
#2. Freaks and Geeks: Original Soundtrack and Score
A wonderful soundtrack, with songs from the Who (“I’m One”), XTC (“No Language in Our Lungs”), and Warren Zevon (“Poor Poor Pitiful Me”), Rush (“The Spirit of Radio” and Joan Jett (“Bad Reputation”), and original songs, too, like “Bill Gets Funky” and “Lady L.” It’s really a perfect sitcom soundtrack, one that took awhile and cost a lot of money to put together, with much of the show’s budget going towards to acquiring the rights to use songs such as Styx’s “Come Sail Away.” But it’s all worth just to hear Mr. Rosso sing “I’m Eighteen.”
#1b. TV Land Presents: Favorite TV Theme Songs
There are plenty of sitcoms known almost entirely because of their theme song (for instance, I can’t name a single episode of Welcome Back, Kotter, but I know “Welcome back, your dreams were your ticket out…”), but don’t appear above. The reason: they never released an album-length soundtrack, so for the themes to The Munsters, Batman, Happy Days, The Jeffersons, and Taxi, TV Land Presents is probably the way to go.
#1a. Music from The Adventures of Pete and Pete
Polaris — fronted by Mark Mulcahy, a musician so rightfully respected that in 2009, no less than Thom Yorke, Frank Black, and the National, among many others, recorded a tribute album composed of his songs — acted as the house band on Pete and Pete. They’re the ones mumbling the wonderfully incoherent “Hey Sandy” and making me cry with “Everywhere.” This is a rare soundtrack that works even if you’ve never watched the show—and if you haven’t watched Pete and Pete, go here NOW.