A brief history of how much Mozart's music rocked classic TV

From Lurch playing a sonata on the Addams Family to Winchester blaring his music on the M*A*S*H finale, TV kept Mozart firmly woven in the pop fabric.

After The Addams Family theme song ends at the start of the episode "Lurch and His Harpsichord," we see the tall TV butler seated at a piano, playing some Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The sounds of Lurch tickling the ivories can be recognized as "Piano Sonata No. 16." It's one of Mozart’s simplest tunes, something he never published in his lifetime, but a song that became quite popular in the centuries since.

While Mozart's music has scored movies since the 1930s, popular TV shows didn’t really turn to the influential Classical composer to help them set scenes until the 1960s, when Bachelor Father featured a kid playing two songs on the piano: "Chopsticks" and Mozart's "Divertimento in F major."

After that sitcom gave Mozart a spin, perhaps it was The Twilight Zone that tapped Mozart the most evocatively next. In "Miniature," a dollhouse figurine plays another piano sonata to more haunting effect, using it to lure a young Robert Duvall into leaving the world as he knows it behind.

In the Seventies, Mozart kept rocking the TV, particularly on Columbo, where the soaring song "Eine kleine Nachtmusik" — which translates to "a little night music" — was used in not one, but two episodes in 1972.

It was around this time that musically-minded shows from The Muppet Show to WKRP in Cincinnati also turned to the famous composer to hit certain notes.

Many Looney Tunes fans likely associate Mozart with Bugs Bunny and his pals, as his music was woven more and more into the franchise as it has grown into modern day.

But perhaps the biggest impact Mozart made on TV happened in the 1980s, when M*A*S*H had Winchester blare the song "Clarinet Quintet I Allegro" from his phonograph in the series finale. Later in the same episode the song was performed again by Chinese musicians.

That means there was an encore of Mozart in TV's famously most-watched episode!

This wasn't the first time that M*A*S*H wove Mozart's music into its wartime chronicles, having featured a piano sonata or two in prior episodes in 1975 and 1979.

Whether M*A*S*H made it hip or not, by the 1990s, Mozart was on every single hit show, including The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Seinfeld, Friends and every iteration of Star Trek.

Currently, IMDb reports that Mozart featured on the soundtrack of more than 1,700 movies and TV productions.

In his lifetime, Mozart influenced notable composers like Ludwig van Beethoven and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. But as creative as the musical genius was, there’s no way he ever imagined his songs would remain such a significant part of the pop culture fabric for hundreds of years past the moment he first played them, crossing time and media and still rocking TV today.

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PulsarStargrave 27 months ago
("ROCK ME, AMADEUS!") Looking forward to an article about WARNER BROS. raiding their music inventory for their cartoons!

FLEISCHER studios was originally located in New York and they got JAZZ artists to contribute music for POPEYE and BETTY BOOP! TRUE STORY, I once bought a Jazz "PRIMER" CD of several obscure tunes and one tune which I think was called "Fussin" was instantly recognizable; because I had heard it recently in one of my favorite Popeye cartoons, "The Paneless Window Cleaner"! Who knows, my taste for SWING music might have been developed from watching old Popeye cartoons!
MrsPhilHarris 33 months ago
Interesting how classical music show up in comedies. I know Will played Fur Elise on Fresh Prince Of Bel Air. I must say though I love when Bugs plays Hungarian Rhapsody as does Tom of Tom & Jerry in Cat Concerto.
Peter_Falk_Fan 33 months ago
When I think of a Bugs Bunny cartoon with classical music, I think of Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in 'Rhapsody Rabbit'.
LoveMETV22 33 months ago
Well Winchester got his moment- like Radar's Ahh Bach moment in the "Love Story" episode. Any other composers get their moment aside from Mozart and Bach?
Peter_Falk_Fan 33 months ago
In case anyone was wondering, 'Etude in Black' and 'The Most Crucial Game' (both from season 2) are the two "Columbo" episodes with "Eine kleine Nachtmusik". Columbo even plays "Chopsticks" (rather choppily ) in 'Etude in Black'. He did this on purpose to irritate the murderer.
Pacificsun Peter_Falk_Fan 33 months ago
That was a good episode!

I'm catching them retroactively. And it's fun because I've heard so much conversation about all the episodes.
harlow1313 33 months ago
"Well, at least it ain't Bug music!" - The Hatrocks
LoveMETV22 harlow1313 33 months ago
Flintstone fan?
harlow1313 LoveMETV22 33 months ago
Only as a child, but the oddest and most useless things are stuck in my memory.
LoveMETV22 harlow1313 33 months ago
Same here, don't hear the term Hatrocks or Bug Music too often.
madvincent 33 months ago
I love the sound of the harpsichord
Runeshaper 33 months ago
Mozart = AWESOME! It's so cool that his music has been a part of so many TV and film productions (-:
daDoctah 33 months ago
And let's not forget the episode "The Talented Neighborhood" of The Dick Van Dyke Show, in which a young boy sings (wa-a-ay below tempo!) an aria from Don Giovanni.
ETristanBooth daDoctah 33 months ago
Mote. Zart.
LoveMETV22 33 months ago
Interesting story. I'm sure someone did a lot of research on those connections.
madvincent LoveMETV22 33 months ago
In reference to the twilight zone episode isn’t that the banned hour long episode....I have seen it but tough to find on tv
LoveMETV22 madvincent 33 months ago
Yes , they're currently at Season 3. "Miniature" is in Season 4 and it shows in the Episode guide but with no "remind me" option. So most likely they don't show it. According to Wikipedia : " this episode was not included in the syndication package for The Twilight Zone".
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