Rob Brunner
September 21, 2001 AT 04:00 AM EDT

THEME SYNDICATE Remember when TV intros were sung by hopelessly unhip acts like Al Jarreau (Moonlighting) and Jack Jones (The Love Boat)? Not anymore. With artists as credible as Dido, They Might Be Giants, and Cheap Trick contributing their talents to recent programs (Roswell, Malcolm in the Middle, and That ’70s Show, respectively), TV execs are now seeking out cooler, more obscure acts. For example, the folks behind the buzzed-about Fox comedy Undeclared have tapped Portland, Ore., psych-pop band Dandy Warhols’ ”Solid” (from their 2000 CD, Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia) as the series’ opener. ”[Music from real bands] is better produced than what you can do when you’re doing a TV show,” says creator Judd Apatow (Freaks and Geeks). ”I’m sure the Dandy Warhols spent an enormous amount of time making their album, and in that time I probably shot 13 episodes of my show. It’s just a great song.”

AWARD TO THE WISE MTV’s Video Music Awards spectacle is fun, but it makes serious music fans long for an award based purely on artistic merit—something like Britain’s prestigious Mercury Music Prize (winners have included Portishead and Pulp). Enter music-industry consultant Greg Spotts and MCA A&R exec Tom Sarig, who’ve created the Shortlist Awards. Judged by a panel that includes Beck, Trent Reznor, Mos Def, and Macy Gray, the annual award will recognize an obscure but worthy artist. ”Whenever we go to the studio we ask people what they’re listening to, and you often learn about something great,” says Spotts. ”We wanted to let the consumer pose that question to some of their heroes. Most people don’t have the opportunity to find out what’s on Beck’s turntable.” The winner will be announced at a ceremony in late October.

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