Friday, 12 March 2010

Women in TV week: Alexandra Patsavas

The focus of today's profile is on Alexandra Patsavas the owner and founder of Chop Shop Music Supervision. This company is responsible for the music in several of my favourite shows; Chuck, Mad Men, Gossip Girl and the OC as well as others such as Greys Anatomy, Private Practice and Supernatural and the web series Rockville. They are also the company behind the excellent Twilight and New Moon soundtracks, both of which I own despite not being a Twilight fan, this is what happens when you get tracks by Thom Yorke and Radiohead, I will buy your album. As I have previously written about on several occasions soundtracks can often be a vital part of my enjoyment of TV and film, not just because music can help set the scene but also because my enjoyment can then go on for much longer after the screen has faded to black. I am always happy when I discover a new band via this medium and it has happened on many occasions thanks to Patsavas and Chop Shop Music. 
This is most evident in the case of Frightened Rabbit who I first heard in the Chuck season 3 premiere Chuck vs the Pink Slip where the song 'Backwards Walk' was used, this prompted me to check out their MySpace which I really liked, I got some of their old albums then their new one and I'm seeing them live this weekend. I may have still discovered them without this appearance in Chuck but it would've taken longer and I would have probably missed this gig. Phantom Planet is another band that I discovered through their use in a Josh Schwartz show, but not how you would expect. I was not a fan of the theme song 'California' from The OC (except for the slowed down version that was used in season 3 episode 2 and features on The OC mix 5 CD) and so when I heard 'Raise the Dead' in the season 2 Gossip Girl episode 'The Serena Also Rises' I was surprised to hear it was them and I am now a big fan despite my original reservations. It was also in this episode that I heard Lady Gaga for the first time with the song 'Poker Face' and I knew it was going to be a good one when the episode started with a favourite of mine Conor Oberst's 'NYC- Gone, Gone'.
Patsavas and Chop Shop music don't only use new and upcoming bands and artists but they also use some well known music, especially in Chuck which is the show amongst all that they represent that references many things in pop culture so it has been brilliant that Huey Lewis and the News. Talking Heads, Heart and Rush have been some of the bands that have featured on the soundtrack. Chuck is probably the Josh Schwartz show that has had the least said about the music but it is probably my favourite in regards to the music used and I would really love for a soundtrack CD to made, this is where my petition starts for this to happen. The use of Bon Iver in season 2 was one of my favourite musical choices with 'Skinny Love', 'Blood Bank' and 'Creature Fear' all getting used to chronicle different parts of the Chuck/Sarah relationship from the bad moments ('Skinny Love') to the good ('Creature Fear'). I knew that I was going to like Chuck soundtrack from the pilot when I heard The Shins 'A Comet Appears' was used over the pivotal scene at the end of the episode.
The success of Chop Shop Music in TV is most evident by The OC, a show that span for four seasons but that produced six separate soundtracks (including a Chrismukkah mix). The OC as a show really did utilise the idea of music and it's importance with teenagers, mostly exemplified by Seth and his love for Death Cab For Cutie. The first appearance of live music in the show was in season 1 when they went to see Rooney, this became a regular thing in season 2 when the Bait Shop (much like the Peach Pit in the original Beverly Hills 90210) was used as a music venue in Newport Beach where bands such as The Killers, Death Cab For Cutie, The Thrills. Modest Mouse and The Walkman appeared. The use of the Jeff Buckley version of 'Hallelujah' as a song that made Marissa think of Ryan (season 1 episode 2 'The Model Home') and its use in the season 1 finale was inspired in which it echoed when Ryan first came to Newport (this clip has had over a staggering 6 million plays):

However, and this is my only major criticism of the music in the show was that when Marissa died at the end of season 3, instead of the Jeff Buckley version of 'Hallelujah' Imogen Heap's was used instead. For some reason I cannot get on board with Heap as an artist and I have found her inclusion on the soundtrack to not just The OC (The Last Kiss being another) as rather jarring, particularly in emotion heavy scenes. This was most evident for me when the song 'Hide and Seek' was played at Caleb's funereal and I ended up really disliking the scene. Music can really work in both ways, to make a scene better or to make it worse and unfortunately the use of Imogen Heap always goes the latter way for me. Rant over.
The importance of the use of music in The OC can be seen through the exclusive first plays that it had for several big recording artists. The first was in season 1 when The Beastie Boys debuted their new single 'Ch-Check it Out' on April 28th 2004 in the episode 'The Strip'. This followed in season 2 with two major first plays, episode 15 'The Mallpisode' (aired March 10th 2005) which was also dubbed the Beckisode as it featured five new songs from his then unreleased album 'Gurero'. The other was Coldplay's 'Fix You' which got it's first airing in the May 12th 2005 episode 'The O.Sea' and was the song that played Caleb's death, Seth and Summers first prom dance and Ryan just makes it to prom, it was a great choice of scene for this song and worked well will all the turmoil and potential hope that played out for all the characters.:

Gossip Girl has had musical cameo's as well, Lisa Loeb was part of the 'Top 10 Forgotten Bands of the 90s' (along with Rufus' band Lincoln Hawk) in the season 1 episode 17 'Woman on the Verge' and she performed her hit 'Stay'. Cyndi Lauper also appeared as herself in season 2 'Bonfire of the Vanity' but did not perform. No Doubt starred as eighties band Snowed Out and performed the Adam and the Ants song 'Stand and Deliver' in the Lily based eighties flashback episode 'Valley Girls'. The appearances haven't stopped there and perhaps the most impressive appearance to date was getting Sonic Youth to perform 'Star Power' in the episode 'Rufus Getting Married' which got all the music bloggers talking. Lady Gaga has also been in Gossip Girl in season 3, performing 'Bad Romance' in 'The Last Days of the Disco Stick'.
Patsavas founded Chop Shop Music in 1998 and in the 10 years that have passed she has really created a dominant company in the realm of soundtracks and it is for this achievement that I wanted to detail why I think what Patsavas and her team have done in this time is impressive and how it has had a direct influence on some of the music that I have fallen in love with. I am glad that I can round this week off with another women who has had great achievements in television and why it gives me hope that women in TV in all facets are achieving great success.

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