It’s fascinating how music can be central to creating atmosphere in a television program, whether it is used to build suspense, elicit sympathy for a character or accompany a humorous scene. It’s even more interesting when shows use songs and music from other countries, provoking different reactions from different audiences worldwide.
Some viewers may find certain musical choices odd while others will think them amusing, but audience members from the country whose music is being used are more likely to feel pride or, perhaps, mild embarrassment.
We went looking for Greek music on the soundtracks of American TV series, and found some right where we expected, while others came as a complete surprise. Enjoy!
New Girl (2016)
Season 6, Episode 9. Elizabeth Meriwether’s sitcom deals with the relationships and the career choices of a group of people in their early thirties. In this episode, called “Es Good,” Jess (played by Zooey Deschanel), who has strong feelings for her friend Robby (Nelson Franklin), brings a Greek carpenter to Robby’s house as her date. His name is Stavros (George Lako), he doesn’t speak English and he brings along as a gift a weird wine he made himself. Robby, meanwhile, has a date of his own, too.
When Robby begins to sing with his date, Stavros starts singing, too, delivering a very poor version of the ballad “Perasa Na Dho” (“I’ve Come By To See”) by Despina Vandi. Jess tries to join in, but she ends up singing gibberish and off key.
The Wire (2004)
Season 2, Episode 11. David Simon’s crime drama, set on the streets of Baltimore, is widely regarded as one of the greatest shows in the history of television. In Season 2, the mysterious figure known as “The Greek” (played by Bill Raymond), the leader of a narcotics organization in Baltimore, organizes a farewell dinner for his gang. Just as the episode comes to an end, you can hear the sound of a bouzouki and it’s clear that you’re listening to Greek music.
With the Greek-American writer George Pelekanos consulting, the producers chose a 1980s song, “Efyge, Efyge” (“She Left, She Left”), sung by the legendary performer Stelios Kazantzidis (1931-2001). The song was selected as part of that season’s official soundtrack.
The Simpsons (2015)
Season 27, Episode 10. When Marge Simpson gets Homer fired from the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, her desperate husband returns to his first-ever job as a dishwasher in a Greek restaurant.
As the music from “Zorba the Greek” plays, this episode of television’s longest-running primetime show recreates all the Greek stereotypes from tourist posters, films such as “Never on Sunday” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” and more: dancing, breaking dishes, huge black moustaches, gyros, fauns, a cute Cerberus, an ouzo named “Socrates’ Revenge” and satirical references to the Greek welfare system all feature in this tribute to Greece.
Season 6, Episode 2. The series’ protagonist, Carrie Mathison (played by Claire Danes), is trying to care for her colleague Peter Quinn (Robert Friend), who has developed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and partial paralysis after exposure to sarin gas.
Quinn, who thinks that he has the situation under control, refuses treatment and goes to the neighborhood mini-market. In the store, music is playing over a speaker and Dimitris Basis can be heard singing “Lypimeni” (“Sad”), a song by Mikis Theodorakis and Lefteris Papadopoulos. Suddenly, Quinn’ s vision begins to fail him, and he collapses. (Trust us, it’s not because of the song.)
High Fidelity (2020)
Episode 1. Hulu’s recent 10-episode reprise of Stephen Frears’ classic film based on Nick Hornby’s book was not a huge success. Starring Zoë Kravitz as Rob, the owner of a record store and the master of unsuccessful relationships, the show surprised its audience when it featured a short sample of some Greek lyrics backed by electronic beats.
In the scene, Rob’s friend and colleague Simon (David H. Holmes) enters the store and rushes to the store’s record player, muttering excitedly that he’s finally found an original copy of “Gallop,” an album from Lena Platonos, a pioneer of Greek electronic music. Rob seems to approve and the song that begins to play is “Ki Akoume ‘S’ Agapo'” (“And We Hear ‘I Love You’”).
Unfortunately, at this moment, the character Cherise (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) enters the store; she turns the song off, replacing it with “Come on, Eileen.”