Sunday, January 22, 2006

Bring back TV theme songs!!

There is an meme going around asking us bloggermeisters to list our favorite TV theme songs. And that got me thinking – I MISS TV THEME SONGS.

Networks today, so deathly afraid of tune out, have all but eliminated theme songs and opening credits. They go by so fast you can’t tell the difference between opening titles and vanity production cards. And I think it does a disservice to the shows and the viewers. A good opening title sequence can really set the tone for the show. CHEERS wasn’t just a bar, it was the place where everyone knows your name. If it premiered today you’d see the logo, an animated glass of beer being filled, and ten seconds of “Sweet Caroline”.

It would be a little hard to sell that the Monkees were this goofy playful rock band if the extent of their theme was “Hey hey, we’re the Monkees!” America would be saying “Hey hey, so what?”

Networks complain that sitcoms are all the same then take away their signature feature.

And here’s what they don’t understand -- a good theme and opening title sequence ATTRACTS viewers. Some people tune in specifically because they LIKE the title sequence. That was me with the Drew Carey “Cleveland Rocks” opening. If only the show was that good.

An added benefit in this day of synergy and cross promotion is that they can become hit records on their own. (HAWAII 5-0, WELCOME BACK KOTTER, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE) Think of all the free three minute plugs your show will get when KIIS-FM is playing the shit out of your theme. (I’m not being local here. Every city in America, Canada, Australia, and Yemen has a KIIS-FM).

These themes can become part of pop culture. I bet more Americans know the words to GILLIGAN’S ISLAND than the Star Spangled Banner. Hell, more people can sing the lyrics to CHARLES IN CHARGE. These ditties are burned into our brains. When we’re 90 and can’t remember if we put our pants on we’ll still be able to sing the MASH theme and the JEFFERSONS. (A year ago I would have put BEWITCHED in that category but I think Nora Ephron has permanently killed it. When are they going to stop letting her make movies?)

And ultimately here’s what we’re talking about – twenty more seconds. That’s all. Twenty more seconds. Maybe thirty. God forbid thirty-five. The same amount of time it takes to run a promo for LOVE MONKEY. What would YOU rather watch?

****

Okay, so in no particular order – my ten favorite TV themes.

MASH
PETER GUN
CHEERS
WELCOME BACK KOTTER
DICK VAN DYKE SHOW
MIAMI VICE
DREW CAREY SHOW
MR. LUCKY
MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW
TOP CAT

****
One final thought, if you have opening titles then maybe the credits won’t extend so far into the show. Considering how large some of these casts and staffs are it’s not inconceivable that someday on a comedy credits will roll all the way through the tag.

43 comments:

CharlieDontSurf said...

No love for The A-TEAM?

Ken Levine said...

Rarely watched it. But it's hard to narrow down my favorites to ten.

Honorable mention: MAN FROM UNCLE, OPEN ALL NIGHT, BOB NEWHART SHOW, ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, HONEYMOONERS, MAUDE, HAWAIIAN EYE, BAT MASTERSON, FRIENDS, I SPY, HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, BONANZA, JACK BENNY SHOW, BULLWINKLE. And I know I'm forgetting a dozen others.

rashad khan said...

I concur w/ bry: the theme from "The A-Team" rawked. As a matter of fact, I can't think of any Cannell-produced series that DIDN'T have at least a catchy theme song.

I guess we should bow our heads and give thanks to Mike Post.

the Ascetic Sensualist said...

A good opening title sequence can really set the tone for the show.

Yeah, but an incongruous opening title sequence can drive people away. I flipped away from about a dozen episodes of Taxi during the opening credits, before realizing that that dreary, sad tune they had over the opening shots of a taxi rolling around was in no way representative of the sharp, fast-paced comedy in the show.

the Ascetic Sensualist said...

(I’m not being local here. Every city in America, Canada, Australia, and Yemen has a KIIS-FM)

Only stations in the western part of the United States start with "K". Here in the East Coast our 96.9 Kiss stations have to be WKSS, or WKST.

Anil Khedun said...

For me Cheers is the most recognisable theme, followed by Magnum, Knight Rider and Dallas! These aren't the best songs, but I remember them vividly and loved it when Buster Rhymes used a sample from Knight Rider in Turn It Up. I do miss theme songs.

VP19 said...

A shoutout to "The King Of Queens" (aka "The Honeymooners" for the 21st century), one of the few series left that has a theme song. Like the show itself, it isn't all that much, but has its own charm. (Although any series that has Nick Bakay on board is all right with me.)

Frank Strovel III said...

In junior high school we were forced to sing "Suicide Is Painless" by our chorus teacher who was too thrilled to learn there were actually lyrics to the song.

Of current TV shows I like the theme to Scrubs ("I'm no superman...").

rashad khan said...

For me, it's a three-way tie among CHEERS, HILL STREET BLUES, and THE ROCKFORD FILES for favorite theme song.

Pam Atherton said...

Mike Post is the best of all time!! ROCKFORD FILES, LA LAW,MURDER ONE, NYPD BLUE, HUNTER, SILK STALKINGS (my personal favorite), HILL STREET BLUES, and the incredible LAW AND ORDER. Of course, none of them have words, but all are memorable nonetheless. He won his first grammy for arranging Mason William's CLASSICAL GAS. He and Mancini are the icons of the TV theme song field!

Vlad said...

Top Cat! Awesome!

Ascetic, you're right that our stations start with a W out here in the East, but we still have a "Kiss FM" in Cleveland. I don't know what its actual call letters are. We have a K-Rock now too. They just renamed our "Xtreme" station last week.

Anonymous said...

Sopranos, Mission Impossible.

Jutratest said...

BIONIC MAN was a work of art!

I've watched the CRIME STORY opening many times in my youth, but rarely understood the show, as I was too young.

mstarr said...

FYI: That was me who started the TV Theme Thingee.

http://apartmenttwo.blogspot.com/

It's my contention that if you want to get to know a person, ask them what their favorite themes are. You'll be able to figure out everything else. :)

Tom Quigley said...

How about the theme to ST. ELSEWHERE? Listening to it incessantly caused four people I know to flunk out of med school. They all shaved their heads and became Howie Mandel worshippers...

Howard Hoffman said...

LAS VEGAS.

Yeah, they ripped it off from OCEANS ELEVEN but I love the opening credits anyway - mostly for the visuals if ya catch my drift.

Also, I always get a chill when the cold opening dovetails into the theme on THE WEST WING (moment of silence here for its upcoming end-of-run).

The full closing credits music on MAGILLA GORILLA rocked the house. Hoyt Curtin made the blandest cartoons actually watchable.

And for sheer overpowering energy, ANIMANIACS.

Thanks to my college years, MAGILLA GORILLA is the only thing I remember before 1985.

Juancho said...

Vlad- Hey, another Clevelander! Our KISS station is WAKS, so it sort-of has a tag at the end.

Although it originated on film, the PINK PANTHER theme will baby elephant walk though all of our memories.

Doug said...

The Sopranos?! I know it's not that old, but come on! What a catchy tune!

Anonymous said...

THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO and
NORTHERN EXPOSURE

marc said...

Hello people - everyone is forgetting The Simpsons

Anonymous said...

I loved the episode of 'Scrubs' where Ted's band sings TV theme songs. I doubt most people can get rid of the theme song to 'Facts of Life' from their minds once they've heard it once.

MoviePen said...

This is really a way to get a feel for the age of your readers, isn't it?

I think you're partially right -- theme songs have given way to theme music instead. I bet most folks would be able to name the show with just a few notes of many series. Stargate, Desperate Housewives, even the few notes of Lost are all distinctive -- we've just lost original lyrics you can jam to in the car with the windows up (or down).

Aside from other mentioned, Gilligan's Island would have to be up there in the memorable theme song list for me.

rashad khan said...

[i]This is really a way to get a feel for the age of your readers, isn't it?[/i]

Not necessarily. I was only 18 months old when HILL STREET BLUES premiered.

Anonymous said...

Once of the absolute best TV themes was Jonny Quest - a great jazzy action number...

And actually, the theme for Batman was pretty good too, until the chanting starts...

dts said...

"The Fall Guy" anyone?

Charlie said...

Ironically, LOVE MONKEY has a theme song...

mega said...

No love for the funk-stroll-strut that is the Sanford And Son Theme? Quincy Jones is rolling over in his...what? never mind. I also appreciate The Wire using the same song, "Way Down In The Hole", every season, but having a different person cover in it in a different style, Tom Waits being the bestest.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

Drew Carey! Left that one off my list. Guess I'll give him Lone Ranger's spot since that theme was stolen from Rossini.

Paul Parducci said...

Unfortunately the theme that rammed back into my brain after reading this post was "The Brady Bunch" theme. However my all time favorite is from "The Andy Griffith Show"
Great Blog by the way, I will link it.
Yours in TV,
Paul Parducci

Anonymous said...

Well said! Although I did like the 1st several seasons of Drew Carey. They just ran out of gas.
I do feel that the credits run too far into shows now, but even worse are the huge animated logos and promos that obliterate most of a scene when they run them...

BiLL Earl said...

Hey Beav,

My faves were the theme to "The Lieutenant" and "Banacek", both, as far as I know, have never been released on vinyl/cd etc. Anyone know otherwise?

BiLL
http://billearl.blogspot.com

Jon Sherman said...

How is it no one has mentioned "Barney Miller"? I've seen all of, oh, maybe three or four episodes of the show in my life, and yet I can hum at least the opening bars. Then I sort of lose it once it gets all jazzy. At least I think it gets all jazzy. Maybe there's a reason no one mentioned it. Okay, never mind.

Paul Duca(tomservo56954@comcast.net said...

Ken--or as we from Reelradio refer to you, Beaver...is your commentary SUPPOSED to be squished up on one side of the computer screen?

Jimmi said...

For me the greatest theme of all time has to be from DOCTOR WHO. This, however, does not include the 80's renditions of it.

glen423 said...

Don't forget Michael Parks doing his OWN theme song to that long-running tv show of the late 1969, 'Then Came Bronson.' Would have liked to have owned that Harley when production folded.

Jon Sherman said...

How about "It's Garry Shandling's Show"? It didn't tell you much about the show, but at least you understood what the song was about.

Stephen Benson said...

thanks to this posting i spent most of the day yesterday fighting the theme from "the greatest american hero" out of my head. thanks ken

Chris said...

I cast another vote for THE A-TEAM, which has burrowed its way into the popular consciousness to a remarkable degree. There are a handful of people to whom I've assigned that theme as a ringtone. When one of them calls me, heads turn, women smile, and men give me a spontaneous thumbs-up as they imagine that the call is summoning me to a barn where I will help my friends build a tank out of common farm implements.

VP19 said...

glen423 said...
Don't forget Michael Parks doing his OWN theme song to that long-running tv show of the late 1969, 'Then Came Bronson.' Would have liked to have owned that Harley when production folded.


Oh, yeah. "Goin' down that long, lonesome highway, bound for the mountains and the plains..." Good song, and actually a top 40 hit. I can recall it made the survey and got a lot of airplay on WOLF in my hometown of Syracuse.

Bob said...

39 replies and not a one has mentioned "The Golden Girls" theme. For shame!

"And if you threw a party/and invited everyone you know/You would see/the biggest gift would be from me/and the card attached would say...thank you for being a friend."

Poetry. Pure, lump-in-the-throat poetry.

The "Doctor Who" theme is cool, too, and has aged well.

Rachel said...

Theme songs can be nice and all, but I'd be happier with them being longer if they could be their own chapter on the dvds (they always seem to be integrated with the teaser or following chapter). You only really need to hear the theme once per sitting, and most people I know watch dvds in sets of 3 or 4 episodes.

Paul Duca(tomservo56954@comcast.net) said...

Bob two posts up...the situation for THE GOLDEN GIRLS isn't quite the same, since the song wasn't specifically created for use as a TV show theme (is was originally a Top 40 hit in 1978 for its writer, Andrew Gold--although he IS 2nd generation Hollywood...his father was veteran film score composer Ernest Gold).

Anonymous said...

There's these guys: http://www.staytunedtheband.com/
Looks like they have videos here: http://www.youtube.com/user/CarnageAsada