Between Jimmy Fallon's Zack Attack reunion and Polaris, the Pete and Pete house band, touring, we've hit a new wave of nostalgia: one for TV music. This is especially bizarre, because TV is among the worst offenders of creating bad fake bands. Generally used as a plot contrivance to get a character to act like an egotistical dick for a while, TV shows rarely produce their own Spinal Tap, The Wonders, or Sex Bob-omb. Though, even when the bands are awesome, there's something noticeably strange about them. Here are ten of TV's greatest and strangest fake bands:
Dimension and Mission Control (Freaks and Geeks)
The opening scene of the Freaks and Geeks episode "I'm with the Band" features the best depiction of teenage rock ‘n; roll obsession in TV history: Nick (Jason Siegel) channeling Neil Pert in a performance of Rush's "Spirit of the Radio" for the sold-out crowd in his mind. But playing Rush isn't going to get him to the top. No, if Nick wants to rock ‘n’ roll, he needs to learn some Cream songs, because that's all anyone in Chippewa, MI knows. Nick and his band, the tentatively named Mission Control, practice “Sunshine of Your Love” ad nauseam, before he auditions for local rockers Dimension, falling apart during a spirited version of “Crossroads.” Even with all the Clapton covers, "I'm With the Band" is still a classic episode of one of the best shows ever made. Side note: had Dimension written some originals, they probably wouldn't have been booed off the stage while opening for Jethro Tull.
The Blowholes (The Adventures of Pete and Pete)
Never mind Polaris, here’s The Blowholes, Little Pete's Polaris cover band. When Little Pete overhears Polaris practice on his walk home from school, he sets out on a quest to hear the song one more time, going as far as forming a band. Like "I'm with the Band," "A Hard Day's Pete" is loaded with poignant moments about the power of music, song, and inspiration. It also has a band fronted by a tattooed 12-year-old and features alt-rock person of note Syd Straw and power-pop virtuoso Marshall Crenshaw. Only in Wellsville.
Zack Attack (Saved by the Bell)
Saved by the Bell's own fake band, Zack Attack, is indicative of this show's complete disregard for continuity. Not only had we never heard of this well-practiced group before, we never heard from them again. Who is Zack Attack? Obviously, it's that band the gang has had this whole time. "Rockumentary" begins with Zack falling asleep before Zack Attack practice, and within the nightmarish dreamscape of Zack's mind, we see the band achieve the highs and lows of rock stardom without any of the uppers addiction that we'd expect from Jessie. But the strangest part of all: even in his wildest dreams, how the hell does a Wham knock-off like “Did We Ever Have a Chance?” take the world by storm like that? Slater’s sultry voice? I'm calling bullshit.
Girl Talk (Full House)
I know what you're thinking, don't you mean Jesse and the Rippers? Well, to that, I say, “How rude.” On one particularly strange episode of a series made up of particularly strange episodes, "We Got the Beat" features Stephanie, her common riff-raff friend Gia, and Stephanie's least favorite person in the world, Kimmy Gibler, starting a band to compete in a Star Search-style contest at the Smash Club. Uncle Jesse coaches their band, Girl Talk, but pushes them so hard that the girls refer to him as "uncle slave driver." All that practice doesn't pay off as Stephanie totally blows the gig, playing some questionable guitar on a song that doesn't have any. Years later, an electronic musician would mash up pieces of the 90s, like these, to create club music.
Drive Shaft (Lost)
Drive Shaft was the band that created Lost's greatest mystery: what the hell was the song "You All Everybody" about? As anyone who spent months binging on Lost knows, having this ear worm stuck in your head comes with falling down the rabbit hole of the series. But while their song title, band name, and album title are all terrible—Drive Shaft's sophomore record is called Oil Change—the band gave us one of the show's best episodes, "Greatest Hits." It also gave us that fantastic scene where the band films a commercial dressed like little babies inside a giant crib.
Mystik Spiral (Daria)
Has any animated teenager ever given any less of a fuck than Trent Lane? Consisting of Daria's best friend's brother, Trent, and his tight-lipped partner in crime, Jesse, Trent’s band Mystik Spiral took grunge parody to the extreme. Failing to give their audience even the slightest inkling of a good time, Mystik Spiral, who might change their name, performs songs like "Ow! My Face," "Icebox Woman," "Paingasm," and a cover of "I've Been Working on the Railroad," with such malaise that it’s anyone’s guess why they play in the first place. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more definitive parody of grunge music. God bless, Mystik Spiral.
The Gnats (Gilligan's Island)
When The Mosquitoes blasted onto the Gilligan’s Island music scene in 1965, everyone that saw them started a band. Or, well, they tried. In the episode “Don’t Bug The Mosquitoes,” castaways of the week, The Mosquitoes, a Beatles-esque band looking to escape their fans, emerge on the island, and Gilligan, the Skipper, Mr. Howell, and the Professor form The Gnats to impress their new friends, hoping they can leave with The Mosquitoes when the time comes. But because The Mosquitoes are sadists, they leave the ill-fated passengers of the SS Minnow to die on that godforsaken sandbox. Though The Gnats never played again, you can still hear the sounds of The Mosquitoes during the opening credits of season one as the band that played them, The Wellingtons, performed “The Ballad of Gilligan’s Island.” That would be the last we hear of them, though. The Wellingtons were replaced by season two.
Motherboy (Arrested Development)
Choosing between Motherboy and Dr. Fünke's 100% Natural Good-Time Family Band Solution is like choosing between my children. Maybe its all the Teamocil, and the fact that I don’t have any children, but I'm gonna have to go with Motherboy on this one. The band is a metatextual work of comedic genius. Based on the hip-hop group Arrested Development, who attempted to sue 20th Century Fox for the rights to the name "Arrested Development," Motherboy parodied the kind of confusion Arrested Development (the musicians) feared. In the episode "Motherboy XXX," fans of the heavy metal band Motherboy, which rocked pretty hard back in the 70s, mistake a creepy mother-son beauty pageant also called “Motherboy” for the band. With a look that blends of Jethro Tull and KISS Motherboy only made one appearance on the show and, sadly, they weren't included on the series soundtrack.
Crucifictorious (Friday Night Lights)
The recently reunited Crucifictorious from Friday Night Lights might be most true-to-life fake band on this list. A Christian metalcore band that keeps referring to themselves as “speed metal band,” a fallacy this site has pointed out before, Crucifictorious' members barely understand what this band is or why they exist. Their original performance on Friday Night Lights is the realest metalcore show ever on TV, both for the band and its audience. The crowd politely watches in pain as the Crucifictorious hams it up on stage. The scene could've been filmed at any VFW in any suburban town on any Friday night, and it would've looked exactly the same.
Chemical Toilet (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia)
Bands fight, but for Chemical Toilet, the ill-fated punk band fronted by Mac on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, that was point. After deciding that any idiot can make it in music as long as they have the right attitude, Mac persuades the gang to join Chemical Toilet and subsequently alienates them. First, and most foolishly, he boots singer/songwriter Charlie Kelly out of the group for writing “Nightman,” an ode to Charlie’s own horrific childhood. Then, Mac has the nerve to deny Dennis’ silver unitard and pitch-perfect voice. Much like how Dave Mustaine started Megadeth after Metallica, the ousted members, Charlie and Dennis, form Electric Dream Machine and write the infamous “Dayman.” And like Metallica, Chemical Toilet soldiers on with a flame-print BC Rich guitar around Mac’s neck and drummer who can’t play. Their one gig goes about as poorly as you’d expect, which isn’t too bad for a band that never wrote any songs.
Matt Schimkowitz was the fifth member of the Be-Sharps. Follow him @mschimkowitz.