We hear music everywhere: on the radio, on our way to class, at our events, and yes, in the TV shows comprising our Netflix sessions. But shows centered around music and the music industry – scripted, plotline-based shows (excluding reality TV programs a la “American Idol”) – were scarce until the massive success of “Glee” a decade ago (don’t worry, it got onto the list). Now, shows focused on the trials and tribulations of being a musician and making it in the industry have grown much more common. Highlighted below are some of the best TV shows about music out there. Happy binge-watching!
1) The Get Down: Created by acclaimed director Baz Luhrmann, The Get Down is a Netflix Original series and cinematic masterpiece packaged into 11 hour–long episodes spread out over two seasons. The show, set in South Bronx during the 1970s at the peak of its urban decay, tracks the rise of hip-hop (then a niche subgenre) during the peak of the disco era from the perspective of teenagers trying to make it in the music industry. A poignant coming–of–age musical drama starring Justice Smith, Shameik Moore, Herizen F. Guardiola, and more, the show’s soundtrack (which contains both original songs and covers) is similarly impressive, featuring rap, disco, and salsa. The Get Down is authentic, a zoomed–in saga of one of the most influential eras in musical history, and is definitely a must–watch.
Where to watch: Netflix
Entry point: Start with Episode 1 to understand the cinematic story arcs that stretch through the seasons.
2) Empire: Empire is a Fox hip–hop soap opera guaranteed to hook you. Centered on the fictional music company Empire Entertainment, the show depicts the drama surrounding the founders, the Lyon family, as they compete with each other for control of the company as well as make their mark as musicians. With a cast including Terrence Howard and the ever–so–talented Taraji P. Henson, intricate plotlines and theatrics characterize this show. Like The Get Down, Empire’s Timbaland–produced is another of the program’s highlights, playing important roles within the plot. The songs, which are a mix of R&B, rap, pop, and more, are earworms, sung by the musically talented cast members themselves. Listen to Empire Cast tracks such as (ft. V. Bozeman), , (ft. Jamila Velazquez), (ft. Becky G), (ft. Alicia Keys), and (ft. Serayah) to hear the musical range of the show. If you’re looking for some popcorn-worthy drama, Empire is well worth your time.
Where to watch: Hulu, Fox, etc.
Entry point: While starting at the beginning is definitely preferable, the show’s fast–paced storylines mean that with a little Internet–sourced background knowledge, you can likely start anywhere.
3) Mozart In the Jungle: The ensemble comedy–drama series Mozart in the Jungle follows the classical music scene in New York City, focusing on the lives of those in the New York Symphony. Based on a by oboist Blair Tindall, the slightly surrealist program features cameos from real–life musicians like Lelie Resnick, who plays many of the oboe solos in the show performed by protagonist Hailey Rutledge (portrayed by Lola Kirke). The show was by publications like The New York Times for its emphasis on promoting overlooked female composers and conductors, some of whose music was even used in its soundtrack (listen to Missy Mazzoli’s piece or Paola Prestini’s innovative composition ). Character–focused yet comedic entertainment, Mozart in the Jungle spotlights a style of music not often seen in pop culture.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime
Entry point: With its lighter tone and shorter episodes, you can probably start Mozart in the Jungle anywhere if you have to.
4) Atlanta: An inventive, smart comedy–drama produced by Donald Glover a.k.a. Childish Gambino (who also stars as the protagonist), Atlanta is the critically–acclaimed show following two cousins living life managing and performing within the Atlanta rap scene. Hyper–personal, original, and with vividly developed characters, the show blends subtle social commentary with intelligent humor. Atlanta has been called the by many; Street thinks you’ll like it too.
Where to watch: Hulu, FX, etc.
Entry point: It's a sitcom—start anywhere if necessary, but preferably begin at the well–received pilot episode.
5) Glee: It was obvious Glee would be on this list. The massive success of this comedy–drama series centered on a high school glee club and their experience on the show choir competition circuit irrevocably changed the TV industry, and gave the show millions of dollars in album sales, video games, live concert tours, films, and more. Tying in social issues surrounding race, sexuality, gender identity, and more, Glee stayed relevant through its six–year run. Its hit soundtracks consists of cover songs of both popular music and show tunes, both of which the characters perform on screen. If you’re wondering why “Don’t Stop Believin” is so overplayed today, you can thank “Glee”—the show’s cover version restored the 1981 rock anthem to popularity. Upbeat, charming, and widely–praised, Glee may be your next musical television fix.
Where to watch: Netflix, Fox, etc.
Entry point: The show's cast is ever–changing as characters graduate from high school, so you can start at the beginning of any season and probably adjust easily to the plotline.