Gael García Bernal as conductor Rodrigo De Souza in Mozart in the Jungle.EXPAND
Gael García Bernal as conductor Rodrigo De Souza in Mozart in the Jungle.
Sarah Shatz

5 Must-See TV Shows About the Music Industry

If you're wondering why there's a sudden deluge of television programming revolving around the world of music, look no further than a show featuring high school kids earnestly singing “Don’t Stop Believin’" by Journey.

Nearly a decade ago, the success of Fox’s Glee made other networks realize the potential of creating shows centered around performers pouring their hearts out behind a microphone.

Now, as viewing habits focus more on streaming content, there's so much to choose from that it can prove tough to settle on what to watch next. That's why Phoenix New Times has put together a guide to some of the best TV shows about music that are streaming now.

The criteria for this list is simple: The storyline must be centered on the music industry — whether it's a band trying to make it, a struggling symphony, a rapper on the up and up, or a record label in disarray. (Which is why you won't find Crazy Ex-Girlfriend here.) And all the shows are all scripted, ruling out reality competitions like The Voice.

Here's what to watch next.

Mozart In The Jungle
Sex, drugs, and Mahler. This half-hour dramedy pulls back the velvet curtain of the New York Symphony to reveal simmering resentments, corporate meddling, artistic passion, and torrid affairs.

The show revolves around young oboist Hailey Rutledge (Lola Kirke), who gets a chance at her dream job from the symphony’s new and idiosyncratic conductor Rodrigo De Souza (Gael García Bernal in his Golden Globe-winning role). While working her way up the ladder, she meets an eclectic cast of characters who help her discover why she is passionate about playing music in the first place.

Mozart In The Jungle is based on Blair Tindall’s memoir of the same name, lending a sense of authenticity to a world that few viewers are familiar with. Having actor/musician Jason Schwartzman and About A Boy’s Paul Weitz behind the scenes to guide the show around the typical workplace sitcom cliches has kept it from flaming out too quickly. There’s a trove of drama here that will keep your inner band geek happy.

The show's currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Its fourth season dropped on February 16.

The Flight of the Conchords are not crying.EXPAND
The Flight of the Conchords are not crying.
Nicole Rivelli/Courtesy of HBO

Flight of the Conchords
This HBO comedy series follows the exploits of “New Zealand’s fourth-most-popular folk parody duo” as they try to make it in America. When we meet the clueless twosome, played by Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, they are more focused on meeting women than their careers. The pair's social circle includes a neglectful band manager (Rhys Darby) and a single, slightly unhinged fan (Kristen Schaal). The indignities only get worse. McKenzie takes a job as a human billboard in one episode. In another, the musicians try their luck at sex work to make ends meet.

What keeps the show’s leads from utter narcissism is their stupid sweetness and determination to make a living from their art. It also helps that McKenzie and Clement write catchy and uproarious songs, from apocalyptic tunes about robot invasions to ditties about David Bowie’s nipples. The show ended after its second season in 2009, but McKenzie and Clement still perform to sold-out audiences around the world. And they are reportedly making a return to HBO this spring for an hourlong special.

Flight of the Conchords is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, as well as HBO Go and HBO Now.

Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard star in Empire.
Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard star in Empire.
Chuck Hodes/FOX

Empire
There's a long list of reasons why you should watch Lee Daniels’ prime-time hip-hop soap opera. It's rooted in Shakespeare’s King Lear. The original soundtrack was produced by pop mogul Timbaland and performed by the talented young cast. And the series doesn't shy away from controversial topics.

But let’s face it, the real reason America continues to tune in every week to the hour-long Fox drama is Taraji P. Henson, who plays Cookie Lyon, the show's most compelling character. The rap mogul's not one to mince words, and has a witticism at the ready always.

A few of our favorites include: “Queens don’t compete with hoes,” “If you want Cookie’s nookie, you better ditch the bitch," and “The streets aren’t made for everybody. That’s why they made sidewalks.”

Empire is currently in its fourth season on Fox. You can introduce yourself to Cookie and the rest of the Lyons’ den on Hulu.

Wendell Pierce, delivering another wordless monologue.
Wendell Pierce, delivering another wordless monologue.
Courtesy of HBO

Treme
When this HBO drama debuted in 2010, many critics praised it how the show depicted the residents of a post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans neighborhood. There were idealistic disc jockeys and musicians who were optimistic that music would buoy the recently flooded city. But there were also characters who felt angry and abandoned, and wondered whether they should bother rebuilding at all.

The show, which ended in 2013, also had its critics. Many complained that the series, from David Simon and Eric Overmyer, wasn't as captivating as the duo’s previous creation, The Wire. But like the city the show is based in, Treme had a beat all its own.

It offers plenty for music fans to enjoy, including casual run-ins with musicians like Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint. Horns seem to fill the air as the camera follows eccentric residents around the historic community that gives the show its personality. And it's easy to get caught in the rhythms of these artists, who are fighting to get back what they lost in the flood.

Treme is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, a well as HBO Now and HBO Go.

The comedy of sitting around: Brian Tyree Henry, left, and Donald Glover.EXPAND
The comedy of sitting around: Brian Tyree Henry, left, and Donald Glover.
FX

Atlanta
There's a scene in the first season of Donald Glover's Atlanta that will make you laugh while you cringe.

Up-and-coming rapper Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) has just been released from jail for his involvement in a shooting incident. He sees a kid shouting his stage name as the kid uses a toy gun to mime the incident with his friends, causing the child’s mother to become upset.

Paper Boi feels guilty for being the inspiration for their make-believe game. Just as he starts to express his regret to the boy’s mother, she recognizes the man giving the apology. The mother becomes starstruck and starts taking selfies with him. All Paper Boi can do is smile through his unease.

Atlanta finds tension and humor in Glover’s sly observations about society. Cultural issues are explored with a deft and thoughtful hand, and there's an authenticity to the show's writing, likely inspired by Glover's rap career as Childish Gambino.

And they make fun of Justin Bieber in one episode, so there’s that.

Atlanta is currently streaming on Hulu. Season two, which has been titled Atlanta Robbin' Season, premieres on March 1 on FX.

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