Composer, musician and producer Jesse Novak -- yes, he’s related to B.J. from The Office -- understands what goes into an iconic TV theme. As the mind behind BoJack Horseman, The Mindy Project and Superstore, he’s created distinctive music that expands these TV worlds as well as the whimsical title theme for the latter, which is now in its third season on NBC.
A memorable theme, he says, “has its own life. It feels like a character, in a way, and it’s part of the universe. It gives you a feeling that you associate with what you’re watching.”
While he’s worked on a number of recent TV hits, Novak’s most memorable work has to come from the animated Netflix series, which recently returned for a fourth season in September and released a soundtrack of its score and original songs, including much of the music from the show’s celebrated underwater episode (“Fish Out of Water”) from season three.
“I like the very first scene after the title track from that episode because that’s when I first knew how the episode was going to go, when I was writing those notes,” Novak recalls of creating the beautiful, yet melancholy score that carries the episode’s narrative, which largely doesn’t feature any spoken dialogue from the show’s main characters.
And when it came to creating the music for Horsin’ Around, the show within a show on BoJack, Novak drew upon memories of the golden age of those popular ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s sitcoms. “I was inspired by a number of songs that were sort of in the background of my childhood,” he says. “I have a lot of love for it.”
Ahead of the vinyl release of the BoJack Horseman soundtrack, Novak shares his favorite TV themes with ET:
1. Cheers (Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo)
“Even though this is from the early '80s, to me it represents the spirit of ‘70s songwriting and the decades of sing-along sitcom themes from before. It’s rooted in that tradition and has such heart. How can you not sing along when the chorus drops?”
2. Game of Thrones (Ramin Djawadi)
“Another masterpiece. It truly gets you in the mood for the show, which is a big task, given how deep and fantastical that universe is. You get drawn in immediately and it gets more epic as it goes.”
3. Curb Your Enthusiasm (Luciano Michelini)
“I think those three opening tuba notes provide the perfect amount of anticipation for the main melody. Apparently Larry David heard it in a commercial and wanted to use it years after the fact, which I respect. Sometimes you hear something that just grabs you.”
4. Law & Order (Mike Post)
“Cool, classic, iconic. Probably the best-known theme by Mike Post, who is a true master as far as I’m concerned. I like how restrained it is, and yet it transports you.”
5. Rugrats (Mark Mothersbaugh)
“Catchy, whimsical, colorful and fun. It’s layered with all these kooky, subtle accents and flourishes and yet it’s very gentle. I think it captures something about the magic of early childhood.”
Listen to a collection of Novak’s recent work for BoJack Horseman, The Mindy Project, Superstore and more on Soundcloud.