Emmy’s tunesmiths

Music for Screens: Summer 2012

From scores to songs to main themes, TV provides a wide canvas for musical expression. These thumbnail sketches provide Academy members with a shorthand on which to base their vote.


“The Borgias”
Composer: Trevor Morris
Emmy pedigree: Two wins, one other nom
Episode: “The Confession”
Vibe: Choral and orchestral score with medieval colors embellish season-ending cliffhanger.

“Downton Abbey”
Composer: John Lunn
Emmy pedigree: Second nom
Episode: 6
Vibe: Plaintive strings-and-piano weave together disparate storylines in two-hour season finale.

“Pan Am”
Composer: Blake Neely
Emmy pedigree: Third nom
Episode: Pilot
Vibe: Appropriately soaring orchestral tapestry fuels stewardess drama set in 1963.

“SmashComposers: Marc Shaiman and Chris Bacon (left)
Emmy pedigree: Shaiman, one Emmy, five other noms; Bacon, first nom
Episode: “Publicity”
Vibe: Warm, lightly textured score reflects the ups and downs of Broadway musical company.

“30 Rock”
Composer: Jeff Richmond
Emmy pedigree: Three wins as producer, two other noms as composer
Episode: “The Tuxedo Begins”
Vibe: Dramatic music counterpoints Jack’s comic run for mayor, with mariachi bits adding a touch of absurdity to the proceedings.


“Disney Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice”
Composer: Michael Giacchino
Emmy pedigree: One win, three other noms
Details: Sequel to Emmy-winning 2009 animated special
Vibe: Upbeat holiday rhythms propel this tale of elves retrieving electronic gizmo for Santa.

“Game Change”
Composer: Theodore Shapiro
Emmy pedigree: First nom
Details: Two-hour TV-movie about Sarah Palin’s vice presidential candidacy
Vibe: Subtle, supportive orchestral background walks a tightrope between sympathy and suspicion.

“Hatfields & McCoys”
Composer: John Debney, Tony Morales
Emmy pedigree: Three past wins for Debney; first nom for Morales
Details: Episode 1 of three-night mini
Vibe: 19th-century folk-flavored Americana featuring guitar, dobro, mandolin, wordless vocals add grace notes of authenticity to this series.

“Hemingway & Gellhorn”
Composer: Javier Navarrete
Emmy pedigree: First nom
Details: Lengthy biopic of writers Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn
Vibe: Spanish accents, with an emphasis on acoustic guitar, underscore this love story set during Spanish Civil War.

Composer: Robert Duncan
Emmy pedigree: Second nom
Episode: “The Hard Drive”
Vibe: Wordless soprano vocal dramatizes mom’s anguish over kidnapped son.

Composers: David Arnold and Michael Price
Emmy pedigree: Second nom for each
Episode: “A Scandal in Belgravia”
Vibe: Holmes composes violin piece for mysterious Irene Adler that becomes theme for detective duo probing crime.


“Christmas in Washington”
Composer: Ian Fraser, music director
Emmy pedigree: 12 wins, 18 other noms
Details: Annual TNT holiday special; guests included Justin Bieber, Jennifer Hudson
Vibe: Orchestra, brass ensemble, three choirs comprise classy Christmas music.

“In Performance at the White House: Country Music”
Composers: Steven A. Gibson, music director
Emmy pedigree: first nom
Details: PBS special featuring Alison Krauss, Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett
Vibe: Small ensemble acts as down-home backup for mix a of traditional and contemporary country performers.

“The Kennedy Center Honors”
Composer: Rob Berman, Rob Mathes, music directors
Emmy pedigree: Five noms for Mathes; three for Berman
Details: Annual CBS celebration of nation’s top artistic talent
Vibe: Diverse musical backing including jazz, classical, pop and Broadway.

“Michael Feinstein: The Sinatra Legacy”
Composers: Bill Elliott, music director
Emmy pedigree: First nom
Details: PBS special with Feinstein performing Sinatra tunes.
Vibe: 32-piece orchestra (big band plus strings) backs Feinstein in classic swing fashion.

“Seth MacFarlane: Swingin’ in Concert”
Composers: Joel McNeely, music director
Emmy pedigree: One Emmy win, one other nom
Details: Special with “Family Guy” creator singing classics.
Vibe: Big-band plus strings for new crooner; McNeely arrangements echo classic 1950s Sinatra style.

“The Thomashefskys: Music and Memories of a Life in the Yiddish Theater”
Music director: Michael Tilson Thomas
Emmy pedigree: Three noms
Details: Two-hour PBS “Great Performances” about Thomas’ grandparents
Vibe: Lively, boisterous music from early 20th-century Yiddish theater in America form the foundation here.


“The Heart of Christmas”
Music and
Matthew West
Emmy pedigree: First nom
Song: “The Heart of Christmas”
Vibe: Country-style Christmas carol pull at the heartstrings for this Gospel Music Channel TV-movie.

“Raising Hope”
Music and Lyrics: Matthew W. Thompson
Emmy pedigree: First nom
Song: “Welcome Back to Hope”
Vibe: Infant Hope’s daycare nurse plays ukulele and sings about her troubled parents.

“Saturday Night Live”
Music: Eli Brueggemann
Lyrics: Seth Meyers, John Mulaney
Emmy pedigree: First nom for Brueggemann; Meyers, Mulaney are past winners for “SNL”
Song: “I Can’t Believe I’m Hosting”
Vibe: Jason Segel sings monologue with Muppets, who assume they’re co-hosting.

Music and Lyrics: Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman
Emmy pedigree: Shaiman has one Emmy, five other noms; second nom for Wittman
Song: “Let Me Be Your Star”
Vibe: Showstopper finale of pilot as two actresses (Katharine McPhee, Megan Hilty) vie for Marilyn Monroe part in Broadway musical.

“65th Annual Tony Awards”
Music: Adam Schlesinger
Lyrics: David Javerbaum
Emmy pedigree: Second song nom for both (Javerbaum has 11 Emmys for writing “The Daily Show”)
Song: “It’s Not Just for Gays Anymore”
Vibe: Tonys host Neil Patrick Harris lampoons Broadway traditions in five-minute song-and-dance opener.


“Great Expectations (Masterpiece)”
Composer: Martin Phipps
Emmy pedigree: one previous nom
Vibe: Dramatic piano-and-strings lay the
foundation for this BBC adaptation of a Dickens classic.

Hell on Wheels
Composer: Gustavo Santaolalla
Emmy pedigree: first nom for two-time Oscar winner
Vibe: Turkish tambur plus dobro, fiddle, percussion punctuate this dark AMC Western.

Composer: Sean Callery
Emmy pedigree: Three Emmys (for “24”), eight other noms
Vibe: Jazzy solo trumpet echoes a mournful human cry against arresting terrorism images.

“Page Eight (Masterpiece)”
Composer: Paul Englishby
Emmy pedigree: First nom
Vibe: Swinging big-band sound puts a spring in jazz-loving Johnny’s (Bill Nighy) step in this London-set drama.

Composers: Lisa Coleman, Wendy Melvoin
Emmy pedigree: One previous win (“Nurse Jackie”)
Vibe: Keyboards and propulsive rhythm adds layers to a stunning visual montage for Kiefer Sutherland series.

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