The Top Five British TV Soundtracks


By Will Barber – Taylor

Music is, as The Bard of Avon said, the food of love. It is also the thing that helps set the mood when you are watching a TV programme. After all, without that comic music to add to a funny sense or the intense music to add to a dramatic scene some shows are not as anywhere near as good as they could be. Today I’ll be talking about five of the best, which wouldn’t be quite the same without their music and with it make us laugh or cry.

5: Knowing Me, Knowing You With Alan Partridge (1994 – 1995)

Some people may be surprised to see this on the list. After all, KMKUWAP has never been hailed for its music. However, the music is one of the key elements of the show. Aside from the fact that it is the reason Glen Ponder and his live band are featured on the show, the music also helps deliver some of the best punch lines in the show. There are many examples, too many to list but some of the best include Alan’s ABBA Medley with Rebecca Front; the opening to Episode Five of the series featuring the Alan Partridge play mates; the reveal of Shona McGough’s song and of course Alan’s bemusement at the true nature of “Hot Pants”. Without the music, the brilliant comedy that Coogan produces would not have the same zing as it does.

4: Sherlock (2010 – 2015)

The fast paced style of Sherlock is known throughout the world as are the creators of the show and the main cast of actors. Something that is also well known is Sherlock’s theme composed by David Arnold and Michael Price. Sherlock’s music helps create the ambiance that makes the series so exciting and interesting and is part of the reason that the audience keeps watching. Inventive uses of music throughout the series are apparent as well; the dubstep version of the Sherlock theme used in Series Three is brilliant.

3: Doctor Who (1963 – 1996/ 2005 – 2015)

Doctor Who, over its 52 year run has had a number of composers that have each given their own version of the theme and identical music. The music has always reflected the time that it was written in; during the 60s it was funky popish; the 70s spooky and Hammer Horrorish; 80s Electro funk; 90s slightly over the top dramatic music and in more recent times grand, bombastic orchestral music. Alright, maybe the last two don’t exactly reflect the era but it is close enough. Whether genuinely good, such as in The Waters Of Mars, The Caves of Androzani or goofy, such as the music for The Chase and Attack of the Cybermen the music is always enjoyable. In whatever episode of Doctor Who, be it classic or modern the music will always have something that will either make a goofy scene goofier or a dramatic scene more dramatic, a key example being Roger Limb’s score for The Caves of Androzani, Sharaz Jek’s theme being the masterstroke. Limb creates a musical sound similar to that of a snake’s rattle which helps underline how much of an untrustworthy character Jek is.

2: Inspector Morse / Lewis / Endeavour (1987 – 2015)

Barrington Pheloung’s atmospheric and beautiful scores are one of the best things about a trilogy of TV programmes that I have particular fondness for. I’ve already waxed lyrical about the brilliance of Endeavour and have previously mentioned my love of Morse. From the opening theme of Morse to every piece of music that features in each episode, Pheloung puts real feeling and joy into the scores. His music makes the spires of Oxford dazzle with joy and remorsefulness. Pheloung’s music can go from quiet to dramatic in a heartbeat.

1: Wolf Hall (2015)

Wolf Hall is probably the best series this year and certainly my favourite so far this year. Aside from the excellent adaption of Hilary Mantel; the brilliant performances from the cast; the excellent direction and the authentic lighting the music that is used throughout the series is phenomenal. Debbie Wiseman has always been a great composer but Wolf Hall may be her crowning achievement. The subtlety of the music means that it blends effortlessly into the scene that it is being played over; many of the scenes from the programme would not be complete without the musical score that is used in them. Wiseman’s musical is as integral to the genius of the programme as any of the other parts. In the hands of a lesser composer the music for Wolf Hall could have been bland and predictable but thanks to her it is simply beautiful.


One response to “The Top Five British TV Soundtracks

  1. Pingback: Endeavour at the Radio Times Festival | The Consulting Detective·

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