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.

More Music

  • Weeknd

    Watch The Weeknd Perform 'Heartless' on 'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert'

    The Weeknd channeled major Michael Jackson and Prince vibes for his first ever performance of recent single “Heartless” on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Dressed in a red retro suit and dancing in the backstage hallways of the Ed Sullivan Theater, the three-time Grammy-Award winner had some fun with the impromptu music video, his [...]

  • Photo Finish

    Growing Shaed: How 2019's Top Alternative Hit Was Launched, 'Doubters' Be Damned

    The most-played song on alternative radio this year is “Trampoline” by Shaed, an indie-pop band from the D.C. area that’s signed to Photo Finish Records and distributed by Caroline. With 121,000 spins, “Trampoline” passed “High Hopes” and “Bad Guy” in the format, receiving a big boost along the way from Apple (its overall radio spins [...]

  • XXXTentacion

    Album Review: XXXTentacion’s 'Bad Vibes Forever'

    This might be a lousy way of expressing it, but, the last few weeks have been a great time for moody, Nirvana-inspired, emo-punk, SoundCloud rappers… or their fans, anyway, since not all the artists are around anymore to enjoy the spoils. For better or worse, Tekashi 6ix9ine might have handed his prosecutors a get-out-of-jail-early card [...]

  • Biggest Scandals Feuds and Apologies of

    Biggest Scandals, Feuds and Apologies of 2019

    Variety looks back on some of the biggest scandals, feuds and apologies of 2019: College Admissions Scandal Wealthy parents including Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were charged with bribing school officials to get their unqualified kids into prestigious universities. Shane Gillis Executives at “SNL” hired, then fired, Gillis in September, before the new season started, [...]

  • MODEL RELEASED Mixer, assistant at computer

    Women Who Man the Boards: Five Engineers Powering Today's Hitmakers Sessions

    Women behind the boards at recording studios is hardly a new phenomenon. Susan Rogers famously engineered some of Prince’s most beloved albums in the 1980s; Linda Perry first made a name for herself as a producer at the turn of the millennium; there wasn’t a console Imogen Heap didn’t command; and, last year, Emily Lazar [...]

  • The Two Popes Netflix

    'Two Popes' Walk Into Abbey Road Recording Studio (No Joke)

    The soundtrack to Netflix’s “The Two Popes” is the tonally diverse product of Grammy Award-winning musician Bryce Dessner who was tasked by director Fernando Meirelles to score the film, generating large-scale cinematic energy to unseen, intimate moments between religious figures.  Scheduled for release on Friday, Dec. 20, “The Two Popes” explores the friendship between Pope [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content