Emmys: ‘The Leftovers’ Music Supervisor on the Final Season’s Greatest Hits

Justin Theroux
Justin Theroux in HBO’s The Leftovers (Photo: HBO)

As we enter Emmy season — nomination voting runs June 12 to June 26 — Yahoo TV will be spotlighting performances and other contributions that we feel deserve recognition.

This year, Outstanding Music Supervision makes its long-awaited debut as an Emmy category. In honor of the milestone, Yahoo TV asked music supervisors for some of our favorite series to answer the same set of questions about their work this season — and to name a past show they believe would have been recognized had this category existed sooner.

We begin with Liza Richardson, music supervisor on HBO’s The Leftovers.

HBO's The Leftovers. (Photo: Ben King/HBO)
The Leftovers (Photo: Ben King/HBO)

1. What song placement are you proudest of this season?

Probably the opening song of the season, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” by Good News Circle because it exactly narrated the scene, on the nose. It has everything. It’s ironic, funny, weird, surprising, unusual, creepy. To quote Damon Lindelof, “well that f–king works.”

2. What was the most challenging scene/moment for you this season creatively?

There was one spot where we were trying to jam in an ’80s song to call back the a-ha “Take On Me” moment, a song for the scientists, and it just wasn’t making any sense, so the editor and I convinced everyone it should be score. We abandoned ship. Sometimes songs just don’t fit. I don’t think you should try too hard to make a song work. When nothing works, nothing is going to work.

Christopher Eccleston as Matt in HBO's The Leftovers. (Photo: HBO)
Christopher Eccleston as Matt in The Leftovers (Photo: HBO)

3. Was there a song swap that worked out even better than your original idea?

Yes in episode 305, where Matt has to walk through the sex party on the boat, we had a Barry White song — a great Barry White song, mind you — and it worked pretty well, but we wondered if it had been used too often in “sexy” scenes throughout film and TV history, maybe too cliché. So we put in “Do You Believe” by the Supreme Jubilees, which is groovy and sexy, very analog and cool, but also happens to be a gospel song, so it lent a religious overtone to this bacchanalian orgy scene. Loved it.

Justin Theroux as Kevin in HBO's The Leftovers. (Photo: HBO)
Theroux in HBO’s The Leftovers (Photo: HBO)

4. What’s the song that isn’t the theme song of the show that you think would make the perfect theme song for the show?

This season we changed main title songs every episode — so much fun. For ep 307 where Kevin is the president of the United States and he’s lost Nora and has regrets, I wanted to use “The Most Beautiful Girl (In The World)” by Charlie Rich, because it’s kind of a longing, missing person song: “If you see her, tell her I love her, tell her I’m sorry, tell her I need my baby” — the lyrics would have been perfect. But it occurred to me a little too late and I missed the opportunity to present the idea.

Also, for ep 305, “It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World,” Matt and God have a long talk, so the song “Have A Talk With God” by Stevie Wonder would have made a great main title song.

For 303, “Crazy Whitefella Thinking,” a good alternative main title song would have been “Take Me in the Lifeboat,” which is a bluegrass anthem that asks God to save you from the great apocalyptic flood — a topic that Senior is obsessed with. My fave version of this song is by Dwayne Friend.

5. Name a past show that you think would have been recognized for its music supervision had the Emmy category existed.

Six Feet Under.

6. If you haven’t already mentioned it above… What’s the song you never thought you’d get the rights to this season but you did (and how did you do it)?

“Rocking” by Australian Children’s Choir, which appears in ep 303, is a traditional carol originating out of the Czech Republic. It was released back in 1982, and the label unfortunately had no information on whether this version was Public Domain or a copyrighted arrangement. All points led to Public Domain. However, after many long distance calls and vault digging, the label was finally able to confirm who the choir director was at that time, Richard Gerner. Thankfully, the Australian Children’s Choir still exists, and we were able to get in touch with the current choir director. Luckily, they were able to provide us with the mobile number for Mr. Gerner, who has long since worked outside the choir business, but he advised that he did, in fact, re-arrange this piece of music and would be happy to license it for the show. When we say we go to the ends of the earth to clear a song, we mean it.

Read more from Yahoo TV:
Review: ‘The Leftovers’ Series Finale Was Achingly Beautiful
The ‘Leftovers’ Series Finale Answers What Happened to the Departed
Emmy Talk: ‘This Is Us’ Dad Ron Cephas Jones on His TV Takeover