I don’t know about you folks, but when a great TV show makes a habit of playing great music during its killer scenes that can really lock you in as a fan. One show that absolutely did that for me was Homicide: Life On The Street. The Show ran on NBC for seven seasons between 1993 and 1999. I don’t think I missed very many episodes during that time. I found out about it from my friend Stacy who would rave on about it. I probably missed half of season one, but I’m sure I caught them all eventually. It’s kind of like missing season one of Seinfeld (I did); I don’t know if I ever actually caught every minute of every episode, particularly in chronological order, but I’m 99% sure that I have. I could go to the web site and dissect their episode guide I’m sure, but I don’t know that it’s even on any channel in syndication any longer. I haven’t seen too much of the show since it went off the prime time air. I know the re-runs ran for a couple of seasons there on a station like TNT, but I lost track. I’m sure I was on to something else by then, but what a great show this was.
Set in Baltimore, Maryland, it was allegedly following the crime fighting antics of a fictional Homicide division of the Baltimore Police Department. According to Wikipedia it was based on a non fiction book written in 1991 by Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon called Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets. It had some interesting characters, but really only one legitimate star going into its first season in Ned Beatty. Andre Braugher quickly became the star of the show while grilling suspected criminals in their claustrophobic interview room known as “The Box.” It debuted following the 1993 Superbowl (a lackluster affair as the Dallas Cowboys hammered the Buffalo Bills 52-17 in case you were wondering) and struggled to hold an audience nearly the entire time it was on the air. The critics loved it, but the hapless Friday night audience apparently preferred the lighter fare served up by Don Johnson and Cheech Marin on Nash Bridges. I never saw a single episode of that show, but once upon a time Don Johnson proved he could do Friday nights (at least at the very beginning) on Miami Vice. Chicks dug him of course, but nobody I know thinks of Nash Bridges as groundbreaking.
Baltimore native Barry Levinson directed Homicide and the filming was characterized by jump cuts and weird angle shots you never seemed to see on prime time. It was almost as if the footage was unedited at times. It was gritty and full of violence. I just loved it. The thing that pumped me up a lot of the time was the music they weaved into this drama. I knew most of the songs back then, but not all of them and that is a big plus for me as a viewer. I love movies and TV shows that you walk away wondering who the artists were. So very hip no? I used to go out and find the featured artists. Luckily I was rarely home (remember VCRs?) when the actual show was on the air so I could watch the credits slowly and carefully to locate them.
Today it seems like every TV show has a soundtrack. Melrose Place, Friends, The OC (multiples in their case), etc. I don’t know what decade a good Rock soundtrack came into vogue on TV (we all know the movies make a nice side living on a great soundtrack, but TV was different until about twenty years ago), but the music on Homicide was way beyond the usual fare. Somebody actually did some homework. They were playing Blues, Cajun Music, Alternative Rock, R&B, Country…whatever tied into the theme of murder and the dark side. I was listening to my Sony iPod like device this morning at the gym and The Iguana’s “Boom, Boom, Boom” came on. I hadn’t heard that song in quite awhile, but it got me to thinking about why I even knew about it. I heard it on Homicide. So I started thinking about other songs I had heard (not necessarily first) on Homicide and decided to post a few. The funny thing is there is no actual soundtrack you can buy for this show as far as I know.
I’m going to leave you with songs by Collective Soul, Soul Coughing, Garbage, Better Than Ezra and Live. All of these songs appeared on episodes of Homicide: Life On The Street. Hope you like them. I obviously couldn’t post them all, but if you dig a bit you will find Beck, Seal, The Reverend Horton Heat, Nine Inch Nails, Peter Gabriel, Counting Crows, Blondie, Earth, Wind & Fire, Heather Nova, Tom Waits, The Cowboy Junkies, Joan Armatrading and Smashing Pumpkins. Not too shabby.
Buy The Complete Series of Homicide: Life On The Street from Amazon here.