The Best TV Scores of 2023

The Best TV Scores of 2023

At its best, television shows use their extended running times to tell the kinds of stories that grow and change with the characters. It’s a wonderful opportunity for composer to do more than dash off a set of character themes and figure out where to seed the explosive braaaaams inside an action sequence. Some of the best TV scores of 2023 were weird, wonderful swerves that added something strange and surprising to the landscape of a show and expanded how we thought about the series. Even when dealing with returning television shows that had already forged their musical identities, our picks found interesting twists on old themes or ways of repurposing material that added something new to the plot beats we all expected/dreaded.

What made 2023 such a wonderful year for television score, even given that the WGA and SAG strikes loomed over a large chunk of it, is how true this is across the board for shows both old and new. Season 3 of “Only Murders in the Building” finds a whole new, Broadway-ified gear within Siddhartha Khosla’s signature playful, New York steam vent of a score; Season 2 of “The Gilded Age” remains as imperious as Bertha Russell is, and Harry Gregson-Williams even adds a little bit more scheming oboe and a little bit more grandeur, as befits The Opera Wars. Aime Doherty’s work on “Blue Eye Samurai” doesn’t need to go nearly as hard as it does but the music matches that show’s gorgeous animation in its ambition; and it seems impossible, but the Newton Brothers did indeed create (wildly different!) banger thriller scores for both “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “Goosebumps.”

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Still, we had to pick some shows to elevate over all the incredible work done this year; what unites our best TV score picks for 2023 is that they all find ways to encapsulate the spirit of their series, not simply underscore or add emotion on top of it. You can listen to the “Succession” Season 4 album and feel the entire arc of the show’s last season. You can put on the soundtrack for “A Small Light” and intuitively understand the oppression that show’s protagonists were fighting against. Even on “The Last of Us,” which borrows wholesale from one of the great video game scores, the adjustments the TV score makes are key to crafting our sense of the broken world the characters need to contend with. The top TV scores of 2023 were windows into their stories, and ones we could get lost in for a long, long time.

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