8 series with the best soundtracks


Cape Town - Whether these TV series on Showmax, DStv Now, Netflix and Amazon Prime have catchy, original theme songs or choose chart-topping radio hits to play at pivotal moments, they all please music buffs and tone-deaf Snow Patrol fans alike. (Just kidding - we love Snow Patrol as much as the next thirtysomething.)

1. Shameless, Seasons 1-6 (Showmax)

The Shameless opening sequence is one of the best - especially by the time you’ve got to Season 6, and can’t believe Debbie and Liam were ever so tiny (or that Kevin ever had such spindly arms). 

The song that accompanies it, The Luck You Got by High Strung, is such an ear worm that you’ll be singing, “What is this feeling you’re so sure of?” for days after a Shameless binge session. 

This is also the show that led us to discover Damien Jurado, whose plaintive All For You plays while Fiona walks through the empty house that they’ve been kicked out of in Season 6.

2. HBO’s Big Little Lies (Showmax)

Big Little Lies’s Susan Jacobs won an Emmy last year for Outstanding Music Supervision (the first time the award was ever handed out) for the 7th and final episode, You Get What You Need

It’s no surprise that HBO’s drama took home an award for its soundtrack - you only need to watch the opening sequence, with Michael Kiwanuka’s Cold Little Heart as the audio backdrop, to realise that the music in this show is as perfectly paired to its stunning aesthetics as a glass of rich chardonnay is to broiled bisque. 

Throughout the series, listen out for the sublime sounds of Alabama Shakes, Otis Redding, Sufjan Stevens and Fleetwood Mac.

3. HBO’s Insecure, Season 1 (Showmax)

With an eclectic selection of musical genres, from rap to RnB, HBO’s Insecure is known for choosing up-and-coming artists to add to the show’s aesthetic.

Issa Rae, the creator and star of the show, has a big say in which songs get picked, and rising musical talent from LA is often given preference to add to the “LA feel” of the series. 

Our favourite tracks from Season 1 have to be Kendrick Lamar’s Alright and SZA’s Love Galore (featuring Travis $cott).

4. Mr Robot, Seasons 1-3 (Showmax)

The soundtrack of Mr Robot is as unique, intriguing and strange as the show itself, featuring tracks from artists you’d never think to lump together (Fiona Apple and Cypress Hill?!). 

Fans went wild for the eighth episode of Season 3 (dont-delete-me.ko), with its clever use of Robbi Robb’s In Time as the backdrop for Elliot and Angela’s devastating separation. 

You don’t expect Mr Robot to tug at the heartstrings, but this episode proved that it’s not just a wildly smart, addictive show - it’s got feelings, too.

5. Grey’s Anatomy, Season 14 (DStv Now)

Speaking of Snow Patrol - has there ever been a more perfectly Grey’s Anatomy scene than the time in Season 2 when Izzie clung to Denny’s dead body, in her prom dress, while Chasing Cars plays in the background and reduces us to tears? 

Wait. We forgot about another death scene (if you haven’t watched Season 11 yet, stop reading now - spoilers ahead!) - Aron Wright’s You Were Supposed to be Different dollops on extra helpings of emotion in Season 11, episode 21, when Meredith is forced to pull the plug on her beloved Derek. 

Season 14 is currently on DStv Now, and you can relive heart-breaking moments like these from Seasons 1 to 12 on Showmax.

6. GLOW (Netflix)

When you hear the words, “Eighties soundtrack” and “Netflix” together, you probably think immediately of Stranger Things. But Glow’s got serious cred, too, and its soundtrack is way less creepy, and way more uplifting. 

From Pat Benatar’s Invincible to The Warrior by Scandal featuring Patty Smyth, the show is full or “I am woman, hear me roar” songs, but the one that’ll stick with you is Stan Bush’s 1987 anthem Dare, which plays at a crucial moment in Ruth and Debbie’s transformation into wrestler warriors. 

7. Everything Sucks! (Netflix)

If Glow is a love letter to the 80s, Everything Sucks! is a long, warm missive hug to the 90s, and nowhere is this more apparent than in its score. Wonderwall by Oasis is the standout track, used by Luke in an elaborate music video that he makes to screen in front of the whole of boring, Oregon, High School as a way to ask out the principal’s daughter Kate. 

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’s The Impression That I Get is another song you won’t be able to shake after bingeing on this series, and perhaps the pivotal moment in Kate’s sexual awakening comes at a Tori Amos concert.

8. This Is Us (Amazon Prime)

Composed of scenes set in the present day and flashbacks to the genesis of the Pearson family in the 70s and 80s, this tearjerker series is jam-packed with musical gems. We especially love Cat Stevens’s Moonshadow in the episode where we see future mom and dad Rebecca and Jack’s first meeting in the episode that shares its name with the song, and Sufjan Stevens’s Death with Dignity in the episode called What Now?, where the almighty Jack suffers a spectacular fall from grace.

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