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8 of the most memorable fictional TV music makers

"The Monkees" TV series turned a group of actors into a hit-making band in the 1960s.AP

“Daisy Jones & the Six,” currently mid-season on Amazon, chronicles the ups, downs, and way downs of a fictional rock band that hits it big in the 1970s. Based on the 2019 novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid, the show is entertaining if not original, as it delivers the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll we’ve seen many times before in similar pop tales.

The band, vaguely modeled after the romantically complicated Fleetwood Mac, falls into a long line of bands and solo acts created for TV shows including “Nashville,” “The Partridge Family,” and “Hannah Montana.” Some of them even went on to have hits in the real world — or have you already forgotten the Banana Splits and the song that landed them at No. 96 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1969? The lyrics — “One banana, two banana, three banana, four/ Four bananas make a bunch and so do many more” — are imbued with the wisdom of the ages. Here are some other memorable fictional TV music makers.


The Archies (from “The Archie Show”)

Bubblegum pop, this is your quintessence, featuring Archie, Reggie, Jughead, Veronica, and Betty rocking the tambourine. The real band behind the cartoons was a collection of studio musicians assembled by music impresario Don Kirshner in the aftermath of the Monkees, and they came up with many songs for the comic book characters including “Bang-Shang-A-Lang” and “La-Dee-Doo-Down-Down.” But the Archies are known primarily for their No. 1 single in 1969, “Sugar, Sugar,” which promised, in the words of Veronica, or was that Betty, “I’m gonna make your life so sweet, yeah, yeah, yeah.”

Robin Sparkles (from “How I Met Your Mother”)

The introduction to Robin Sparkles is one of the great moments on “How I Met Your Mother.” It arrives in the episode “Slap Bet,” in which the gang tries to figure out why Cobie Smulders’s Robin Scherbatsky refuses to go into shopping malls. Turns out Robin was a teen pop star in Canada, and she had a big hit called “Let’s Go to the Mall” in support of which she had to tour the malls of the Great White North. We get to see the video for the song, which is packed with goofs on 1980s pop culture and Canada (like when Robin rhymes “sorry” with “Tori” in the lyrics). Later in the series, Sparkles returns, notably as her angry alter ego, Robin Daggers. Watch out Sasha Fierce.


Lady Parts (from “We Are Lady Parts”)

I love this six-episode British series from Nida Manzoor about the five Muslim women in a punk band in London. See it, if you haven’t already; it’s on Peacock. As in “Daisy Jones & the Six,” the actors are performing the songs, anthems filled with snide putdowns that reflect where they are in their lives. They don’t look or act like stereotypes, as they find expression through exuberant music, tattoos, vapes, and, most of all, songs about politics and romantic rejection (check out “Bashir With the Good Beard” and “Voldemort Under My Headscarf”). A second season has been commissioned, and I eagerly await it.

Jamal Lyon (from “Empire”)

Jussie Smollett played the most talented son of Lucious and Cookie Lyon — at least until his personal and legal issues got in the way. An R&B singer, his performances were a series highlight. Jamal is a gay man who comes out publicly by singing a remix of Lucious’s classic song about women, “You’re So Beautiful,” with the lines, “It’s the kind of song that makes a man love a man, a man love a man.” Throughout, his father glares from the audience, as the crowd dances in ecstasy.


The Monkees (from “The Monkees”)

The pre-fab four were created for the series “The Monkees,” but of course they went on to become much bigger than the two-season-long sitcom (which won an Emmy for best comedy, by the way). They were a Beatles rip-off, but the material was savvy enough to bring them to No. 1 a number of times, including “Last Train to Clarksville” by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, “I’m a Believer” by Neil Diamond, and “Pleasant Valley Sunday” by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. I’m not gonna lie: When “Daydream Believer” comes on, I don’t turn the channel.

Dr. Fünke’s 100 Percent Natural Good-Time Family Band Solution (from “Arrested Development”)

The series is dense with jokes, and I laughed especially hard at this one, which, true to the rhythms of the writing, gets a few callbacks throughout the series. Turns out Tobias, Lindsay, and Maeby were a folk band in the mid-1990s that was sponsored by some questionable psychotropic drug supplements. Hoping to spark his marriage, Tobias tries to get the band back together for a wellness convention, but things go poorly. “This family is not about to start using,” Tobias says when Lindsay says she wants some pills during a rehearsal. “We are pushers, not takers.”

Girls5eva (from “Girls5eva”)

I laugh out loud at this punchy comedy, whose first two seasons were on Peacock and whose upcoming season will be on Netflix. It’s a parody of show business and the greed machine that creates fads such as the one-hit 2000 girl group Girls5eva, whose surviving members decide to make a comeback. The fake pop songs, most written by Jeff Richmond and show creator Meredith Scardino, are simultaneously awful and irresistible. “We’re gonna be famous 5eva,” they sing in the theme song, “‘cuz 4eva’s 2 short.”


Mouse Rat (from “Parks and Recreation”)

Andy Dwyer is in this band, which went by a few other names along the way. They play a number of times on the show, including a very appropriate performance of “Sex Hair” at the Pawnee diabetes telethon. But their crowning achievement is their touching tribute to Li’l Sebastian, the beloved miniature horse of Pawnee. Called “5,000 Candles in the Wind,” they played it more than once, but never better than the first time at the memorial for the tiny fella.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at Follow him @MatthewGilbert.