Sunday, August 08, 2010

I miss TV theme songs

Yesterday's post was just a tease.

There was an meme going around asking us bloggermeisters to list our favorite TV theme songs. And that got me thinking – I MISS TV THEME SONGS. I wrote about this before but the condition still exists so I'm writing about it again.

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. (WELCOME BACK KOTTER, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, HAWAII 5-0) 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.

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 WIPE OUT. What would YOU rather watch?


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








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.


Rays profile said...

"it’s not inconceivable that someday on a comedy credits will roll all the way through the tag."

They actually did that on the one-episode wonder "Turn-On." I don't think that's the reason it only lasted one show.

benson said...

I remember when Drew Carey would debut a new opening, you'd tune in just to see that. And I always loved The Vogue's "Five O'clock World.

And my favorite thing about the Cheers theme was the line in the second verse "and your boyfriend wants to be a girl"

I would also add to my list the theme from "Big Bang Theory". Always fun to hear Barenaked Ladies.

PlayItAgainSam said...

I think the last TV theme song that made it to top forty was the Friends theme. Coincidence?

There's a bit of a hoopla about the theme for Human Target being redone...I personally thought the opening credits for that show were the best part, great music, with clever, interesting visuals. But you know, it's always the MUSICIAN's fault if the show doesn't get good ratings.

Anonymous said...

Even after it's been canceled, burned and buried I'm still watching the JOHN FROM CINCINNATI credits every now and then. Absolutely fantastic stuff.

Julian said...

"Sing" the MASH theme, or just hum along? How many people actually know the lyrics from the movie?

I learnt to play it in a school band, aged 13, and the music was titled "The MASH Theme". I guess the original title wasn't considered appropriate for school children.

Dodgerbobble said...

It would take me days to shorten my list to a top ten. I'm only 32 years old, but I grew up watching a lot of Nick at Nite. Shows like "Mr Ed" and "The Addams Family" really stuck with me.

If I had to chose something more modern, it would have to be "Woke Up This Morning" the theme song from the "Sopranos". The moment that song started, I knew my Sunday night was ready to begin.

Timothy said...

I would also add to that list of best theme songs the following:

For fans of classic TV, 10 seconds of a phone ringing followed by those words is what a theme song is all about.

Chris L said...

I don't know why, but all the animated shows still have theme songs, The Simpsons being probably the longest most elaborate. But even the 10-minute Aqua Teens have one.

From what I've seen, some British sitcoms are still "carrying on" the tradition too.

Kate said...

Chris L - Agreed. I was actually tracking down the link for the Venture Bros opening. As far as shortened openings go, I was under the impression the short openings of just the title with a bit of music was because of time. The Simpsons has to write in four acts now because of new commercial breaks.

Try this one out. It's the season one opening to 'The Venture Bros':

Brian said...

Thanks a lot Ken - now I have to go listen to all those. I found a good version of Jonh Sebastion singing the theme to Welcome Back Cotter BTW.

You forgot "Dukes of Hazzard"!

OTL said...

Look up the opening theme to the anime series "Cowboy Bebop" sometime; and awesomely catchy jazz tune.

brickben said...

This is fun! Mt top ten INPO:Barney Miller
Room 222
Mash (although the TV version ends a little upbeat for 'Suicide is painless')
The Flintstones
Dick Van Dyke
The 1st Cosby Show (Hikky Burr)
And the opening and closing themes from WKRP.

dgwphotography said...

I have to agree with all of these. Shows just aren't the same without a good, catchy theme - I love that Hawaii Five-O is keeping the theme for the reboot.

Peter Gunn, Mission Impossible, 5-0, Cheers, Rockford, Magnum PI even the Love Boat just puts a smile on my face.

But nothing strikes me like William Shatner saying, "Space, the final frontier..."

amyp3 said...

Three words: Parks and Recreation
(composers Gaby Moreno & Vincent Jones)

Parks & Rec if you need lyrics

Also 30 Rock, short but catchy
(composer Jeff Richmond)

And thanks, Ken, for putting the Monkees theme song into my head.

Nat G said...

And when you had a "concept" show, the theme song explained the set-up. Say what you want about The Nanny as a series, but that's one damn fine theme song, and it lets you know what's going on. Green Acres worked. 5-0, Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, Days & Nights of Molly Dodd are on the list for the no-lyrics themes. The Gary Shandling Show theme was perfectly suited for the show. The more downbeat opening of Mary Tyler Moore season 1 is a hair better than the relyriced version of subsequent seasons (or the no-lyric version toward the end.)

But the senator, while insisting he was not intoxicated, could not explain his nudity....

Nat G said...

Oh, and I forgotten to mention Malcolm In The Middle. Hiring They Might Be Giants to write a short, catchy theme song should've been as obvious as hiring Sarah Palin to not govern.

--Nat (who actually rather liked the original Drew Carey Show theme, "Moon Over Parma")

Tom Quigley said...

The theme from ST. ELSEWHERE was part of the attraction of the show for my younger brother which contributed to the reasons why he decided to become a doctor; and while he's not an M.D., (Ph.D. research scientist in drug and alcohol abuse) it goes to show how much a good TV theme song can stick with you and sometimes even end up being a motivating influence.

WilliamJansen said...

I think The Big Bang Theory has an awesome theme song. Great lyrics that you want to appreciate more than once, an opening sequence where you catch new visuals all the time, and the geeky atmosphere, that the show is aiming for.

Michael Tassone said...

Theme from Batman always got me pumped, but then again I was 4.

Sean said...

One of my favorites, which I remembered for years and recently found online: "A Year in the Life." Really pretty song that fit that show so well, the one year it was on. The melody still holds up.

-bee said...

I have long wondered why modern-day marketers have turned up their noses at 'jingles' for both TV show intros and TV commercials.

A lot of these jingles from my childhood are lodged in my head as firmly as Christmas Carols - what better way to sell a product or TV show?

Maybe some of it has to do with the changes in popular music (maybe today's songwriters just don't have the necessary chops that the long-gone tin pan alley types had) - but I imagine its more that marketers - always looking to appeal to the young - fearing that jingles seem ridiculous and dated.

Maybe Don Draper could explain it. Mad Men seems to be getting into exactly this territory - the origins of the trend away from 'obvious' marketing into something more esoteric.

Speaking of Mad Men - I really do love their credits. I think the simple, ominous credit for "Lost" was superb and I think the "Sex & the City" credits did a great job setting the tone for the show. My all-time favorite credit sequence was for The Sopranos - it was long, but I loved watching it every time.

I can't say I LOVE a lot of those older credit sequence songs, but I sure do REMEMBER them - which one would THINK should be the end goal.

Tim W. said...

I don't think I could even make a list. There are far too many. One of my most useless and best skills is remembering theme songs from shows long since gone. I've remembered themes songs for shows I literally haven't seen in 25 years. I must have a part of my brain that holds these theme songs forever. And it seems to be bigger than the part that is used to remember people's names. It's a skill, what can I say.

Anonymous said...

LOST took something like 3 or 4 minutes to run through all of its post-teaser credits. It was awesome.

Mary Stella said...

From shows that are on today, the only theme song that consistently sticks in my head is the one to True Blood. Perfect for the show.

From the last few decades, I loved the theme songs to:

Mary Tyler Moore Show
Golden Girls
The Monkees
Courtship of Eddie's Father
Miami Vice

wv = undying, much like the earworm I've now put in my own head of, "People let me tell you 'bout my BEST friend!"

TC said...

I think the first 45 rpm record I ever owned was Theme from SWAT.

franko said...

Here's my top-ten list of favorite theme songs, in roughly reverse order:
10. Muppet Show - just try not to smile.
9. Peter Gunn - toss-up between this and Hawaii 5-0, but it turns out this is much cooler.
8. Barney Miller - I'm a bass player, so this one's mandatory.
7. Six Feet Under - Thomas Newman's too brilliant.
6. Fat Albert - "Yeah, yeah, yeah, gonna have a good time!"
5. Mary Tyler Moore - This defines early 70s music to me.
4. Monkee's Theme - 60s version of the Muppet Show.
3. Rockford Files - Cooler than you remember. Lots of early synths and bass harmonica, and what more do you need?
2. Sanford & Son - Coolest thing on this list.
1. Twin Peaks - Just hauntingly beautiful, in a way that was different from anything that came before it, and much that has come since.

Question Mark said...

I kind of wish that 'Dexter' had a proper theme song since a) its opening credits are long enough to support an actual song and b) the lyrics would inevitably be hilarious.

Gary said...

Mannix, Maverick, The Lone Ranger, Peter Gunn, Mr. Lucky, Dick Van Dyke, 77 Sunset Strip, Bob Hope's Theme, Hawaii 5-0, Magnum PI, MASH, All in the Family, Mighty Mouse, yes, there's way too many.
One of the all-time worse themes:
Surfside 6, queue it up now at:

Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of the "Bonanza" theme song, although it's easy to see why they decided not to use the lyrics.

Harold X said...

A friend of mine wrote a song that was supposed to (and did) run under the end titles of a hit sitcom. Unfortunately, with all the stuff that networks and stations run over the end titles, nobody's ever heard it. (Still got paid, though).

My choice, though, would be "Movin' On Up," from The Jeffersons.

Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of the theme from "Coach". It sounded like a real college fight song. And how can you forget the theme from "Mr. Belveder". Classic song!!

Scott in H.C. said...

You got me going, Ken. My top 10 in no particular order:

Mary Tyler Moore Show
The Rockford Files
The Name of the Game
The Bob Newhart Show
Lets Make A Deal
Psych (I like how they have done R&B, Bollywood/Hindi, Spanish, and Christmas versions as well)
Sesame Street ending credits, with Toots Thielemans'harmonica)
Speed Racer
NBC Sunday Night Mystery Movie

Anonymous said...

Here's sort of a theme song related question, Ken -- NBC was the first network to kill the end title theme-with-credits, going to the promo for some upcoming show while the credits run on a sidebar. That began in the 1994-95 season. The only show that escaped the end title carnage was "Frasier" -- was that due to the clout of the producers/star/studio (writers?), was it just grandfathered in, or did some exec at NBC really, really like to hear Kelsey Grammer sing?

Chris A said...

Greatest American Hero!

Also I love the theme song from Psych

scottmc said...

There was a time when 'Love is All Around', the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme, was disparaged. Sonny Curtis, who wrote the song, also wrote one of my favorite songs; the classic Bobby Fuller Four 'I Fought The Law and The Law Won'.

cam.robbins said...

Wow, I feel like quite the contrarian. I don't know the lyrics to many theme songs, and for the ones I do, it's only bits and pieces:

"where everybody knows your name"
"three hour tour"

And that about sums it up.

I can recognize the theme music from several shows within a few notes, and seem to have the same affection for those notes that everyone here has for the songs with words.

I wonder if it's a) just weird little ol' me b) a generational thing (I'm 32) or c) different for comedies and drama (I tend to watch more drama).

Michael T said...

howza 'bout "Love American Style"?

Kathryn Hartog said...

I understand where you're coming from and I also lament the death of the opening credit music. I can always remember these songs as they are part of the show. Like a few people said, the The Big Bang Theory theme comes to mind, as well as the mood-setting song from Firefly. Even if the song is vapid and poppy it relates to the show in the same way as a TV commercial or radio jingle.

When I watched Veronica Mars earlier this year, I never skipped the song. The same went for Ally McBeal that I watched more recently. These two shows also illustrate something else about theme songs: when they changed the arrangement, the show to come was cast in a different light.

An end title song has the same effect, which is why it's unfortunate that a lot of networks don't let you hear the end theme. I'd watch the House credits if they did, just for that damn song. And in Canada the A Channel doesn't show previews with the end credits. Every time I watch Castle, I stick around for the incredibly catchy end credit music.

ML said...

So many the list would go on and on. WKRP, MTM, The Bob Newhart Show, Dallas, Bosom Buddies, Swat, Rockford Files. I'll even admit to a liking for the Dukes of Hazzard (guilty pleasure)
One theme (and opening) that still tugs on this cold old heart is Hill Street Blues. The piano, the cold drab winter streets as the cars roll out. A good sort of depressing.

Ron Rettig said...

Rawhide theme
Have Gun Will Travel theme

bevo said...

Yes, we need more tv theme songs. More importantly, those songs need to be available *FREE* on iTunes.

I have an entire playlist devoted to tv and a few movie theme songs. I love a good theme song.

Here's what kills me? Shows that refuse to release an iPod friendly version of their song. I am looking at the people at MI-5.

Hell, I watched The Equalizer every week just to hear that song. Yes, I later bought the Stewart Copeland CD just to hear that song. I also bought another one of his CDs so I can hear the Dead Like Me theme.

For those of you who like the MTM theme song (and it is just terrific), which version do you prefer? I like the Joan Jett version but there is a slow almost CW version of Love Is All Around that is nice.

wv: gorksts - People who are in favor of or in support of gork.

blogward said...

The 'Cheers' theme was just long enough to open a bottle of wine and pour to glasses in a relaxed manner.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Isn't anybody going to mention PERRY MASON? (Raymond Burr, not the other one.)

FRANK'S PLACE used Louis Armstrong's immortal recording of "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?" Just one of the good things about that show.

BEVERLY HILLBILLIES must be rattling around in a lot of heads, judging from the parodies I keep coming across.

I don't know about the national anthem, but I can sing the theme to PALLADIN.

Mike Schryver said...

Way, way, way too many to list. I'll add one that I don't see mentioned - I absolutely loved the original theme to Remington Steele.

comythr - What it sounds like when some British folks say "Come Hither".

Anonymous said...

I love TV theme songs. Psych has a great theme song and they mix it up with difference singers and versions each season.

Having teenage girls, iCarly and Sonny with a Chance also have theme songs that we don't skip on the divver.

Anonymous said...

Nobody mentions the Happy Days theme song? Not a complicated song but it took them two seasons to write it.

emily said...

"And what do you call your act?"


Dave Mackey said...

The Jack Webb procedurals always had great themes - "Dragnet" by Walter Schumann, "Adam-12" by Frank Comstock (who's still alive and writing charts), and "Emergency" by the king of em all, Nelson Riddle.

daniel in cherry hill said...

how about The Wire. A diffrent version of the same song each season.


Og said...

I assumed that the elimination of the title sequence was a rare moment of content-driven decision, where the writers got a minute or two more to actually put story into the show.

I think of the simple openings of the latter series of Weeds. As much as I loved the "Ticky Tacky Little Boxes" openings of the early episodes, just the 10 seconds of ambient with the weed logo and Jenji Kohan's credit seemed appropriate. Done. Now, on with the show...

Jeff said...

Some great themes in no particular order ...

1. Hawaii Five-O
2. The Addams Family
3. The Jetsons
4. The Mod Squad
5. That Girl
6. Peter Gunn
8. The Monkees
8. Mannix
9. The Green Hornet
10. Jonny Quest (1964 and 1996)
11. Mission: Impossible
12. Time Tunnel
13. Batman
14. The Wild Wild West
15. S.W.A.T.

I watched way too much TV as a kid.

Remember also the composers of these great themes: Earle Hagen, Neal Hefti, Vic Mizzy, Lalo Schifrin, Hoyt Curtin, Morton Stevens, Henry Mancini, John Williams, Billy May, Gary Lionelli, Richard Markowitz, Barry De Vorzon, and Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart.

Wayne said...

I also miss TV theme songs but what I don't miss is similar thing. The theme song in 2nd rate Western movies.
Where a chorus that sounded like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in dungarees would sing a wordy tribute like "They rode in their hats! They rode in their ponchos. They fired their guns! For these were the Big Brave Honchos!"
Maybe one big name like Robert Mitchum padded out with a sports star like Jim Brown and a hot starlet like Stella Stevens.
"For these were the Big Brave Honchos! Hee-yaa!"

Tom Quigley said...

Tough to come up with a Top Ten list, but here are some of the favorites I remember, in no particular order, and not limited to ten:

NEWHART (the one set in Vermont)
DR. KILDARE (Richard Chamberlain also had a hit record with it, although the TV theme was an instrumental)
STAR TREK (the original)

And one more that gets honorable mention from me, the theme from THE GOLDEN GIRLS... I know it was written by Andrew Gold, but the show's version was sung by my cousin, Cindy Fee...

Anonymous said...

Monk, Dukes of Hazzard,
and one that should have really sold the show but the networks abandoned it was Star Trek Enterprise.
The opening theme would have brought in new viewers.

Rick said...

Congrats to whomever mentioned TWIN PEAKS: it's absolutely haunting and I didn't even like the show. I also like the theme from BtVS.

The theme with a lyric that's bittersweet to me is "Love Is All Around" from the MTM show. The show premiered the year my long-time girl moved away to take her first job in TV news as a writer and associate producer--except she moved to Chico CA, not the Twin Cities.

I certainly can still sing all of my favorite, the theme from MAVERICK.
When I was ten or eleven I thought the lines "...Natchez to New Orleans, living on jacks and queens...Lady Luck is the lady that he loves the best..." was the height of lyrical sophistication.
(It still strikes me as pretty cool, actually.)

Anonymous said...

Watching the DVDs, I never skip Boomtown's intro:

Twin Peaks, too, like franco said.

I'd add The A-Team and The Dukes of Hazzard if these sacred works had not been so recently blasphemed.

DwWashburn said...

Well even though my id is Monkees related, I never cared for the theme that much. Maybe it's because it is on EVERY Monkee compilation record, CD, or DVD (I must have twenty copies of it now).

Repeating some already said, I have always liked Friends, the Rockford Files, Barney Miller and the Odd Couple.

For game shows, you need a theme that is celebratory in sound when a contestant wins. And for my money Match Game 7x was the best.

For cartoons you can't get better than Huckleberry Hound.

And for movies, the best theme ever written was "A Hard Day's Night".

camelama said...

I'm still furious that 'they' redid the Masterpiece Theater theme music ... last year? two years ago? It's just wretched now, they "modernized" it, jazzed it up, to try to grab a younger audience. Um, hello, I liked the old Masterpiece theme when I was young?! Again, you knew it was good TV time when that music started! Grrrrrrrrr.

GMJ said...

It is believed by numerous TV executives that viewers prefer to get into the show with very little or no theme. Many shows have either shortened or removed opening and closing credits. This is also why annoying technical discoveries like squeeze teases are the unfortunate norm. The ultimate in information overload.

(Unless I'm mistaken, this year may be the last time the Emmys will have a "Main Title Theme" category.)

Then again, it's been a lot of fun watching past shows from the 1950s through the late 1980s with full opening and closing credits on networks including the Retro Television Network (RTN) and hearing themes from various Universal TV shows including Kojak (Billy Goldenberg and John Cacavas), Emergency! (Nelson Riddle), The Rockford Files (Mike Post & Pete Carpenter) and Ironside (Quincy Jones).

Tony said...

Everybody seems to be forgetting great British TV themes: The Persuaders, The Avengers, Callan, The Saint, The Prisoner, Thunderbirds, Red Dwarf, Blackadder, UFO, Dr Who, etc (just to name the first 10 that spring to mind).

Iina said...

When I was a kid, there was this wonderful channel that showed classic American TV shows all the time. Good times.

My favorite TV themes are probably from M*A*S*H, Starsky and Hutch, Kojak, The Monkees, Thunderbirds, The A-Team and MacGyver.

Some of these I may have watched only for the theme song...

Joe Janes said...

I put "Get Smart" at the top of my list. Great theme and great opening credits. When I was a kid, I'd act them out as the opening credits played. Good times. I don't do it anymore. Honest.

Joe Janes said...

The theme from MASH! The original song is called "Suicide is Painless" and it does have lyrics.

I worked at a small radio station in Ohio where part of the morning host duties was to read the school lunch menus. Yep.

To make it more listenable, we'd often would play music under us. I think you see where this is going. Our music director was inept and would often put records in rotation without listening to them first. Such was the case with this particular version of "The Theme from MASH."

While talking about fruit cocktail and salsbury steak, the chorus "Suicide is painless" chimed in. Quite appropriate, really.

Anonymous said...

From Jan:

A couple from the past I really like: Firefly, Joan of Arcadia, Veronica Mars (first version) and Malcolm in the Middle, and—from the distant past—I was glad to see Tony listed the theme from The Avengers (with Diana Rigg, of course).

From shows that are on right now, it seems like cable does a much better job than network TV, and HBO does a particularly good job: Treme, Deadwood, Rome, Big Love (the first version—not the one from this past season), Six Feet Under, and—especially—The Sopranos, just to name ones that come to mind right away.

From USA, I particularly like the theme from Psych and the one from Monk. BBC America gives us Dr. Who. AMC has Mad Men and Breaking Bad. And two themes that I really like from network TV are from The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and The Big Bang Theory. FX, of course, has Rescue Me.

These are actually themes that I will sit through and enjoy every single time they’re on, and, in the case of Rescue Me, one of the reasons I started watching the series in the first place. (And, even though I’m often frustrated with different directions it’s taken since, I still continue to stick with the show.) They had me at “Come on, come on.”

Now if they would just cut down on the commercials (if you see old TV shows, they sometimes run almost 50 minutes for an hour show. Shocking!), the logos which take up sometimes 1/3 of the bottom of the screen, scenes of what is coming up (we’re already watching, for Pete’s sake), and repeating the last few lines from the scene before the commercials (and repeating the same commercial twice in the same block), maybe they’d have time to do a proper theme that just might catch viewer attention.

richard Y said...

Ken, was it really about the writers getting more content time or the advent of commercials demanding more air time being the demise of theme songs?

So many to pick just 10 but a good post to bring back some memories.

Glad Emergency! finally got mentioned.

Rockgolf said...

Want to test your skills at identifying TV themes? There an audio quiz at Sporcle.

100 clips in 10 minutes. Great stuff.

WV: shicidis, which I believe are the mutant offspring of chickadees and cicadas.

MattA said...

Maybe I missed their mention but what about Green Acres and HR Pufnstuf? I can still sing those. And they did a great job of setting their respective shows' premises.

Unknown said...

Let's see if I can do this, as some of my favorite theme songs are not from sitcoms.

BOSOM BUDDIES (billy joel)
ROBOTECH (orchestral)

Janet T said...

after all these comments- really ????
no Brady Bunch?

Anonymous said...

Frankie Laine singing Rawhide - best part of the show. Also like the Sopranos and True Blood.

Does a theme song need to have lyrics? If not,

NYPD Blues - the theme song sounded like a subway to me.

Deadwood is also a favorite - set the tone of the show.

Anonymous said...

quincy jones- the odd couple

Larry said...

Is that anything like Neal Hefti's The Odd Couple?

chas said...

You mentioned Top Cat. How about some other cartoon themes like Super Chicken, Tom Slick, George of the Jungle? I guess any Jay Ward cartoon theme will do.

Mike Schryver said...

I thought of two more themes I really liked, but they're pretty obscure. The theme to Norman Lear's "Sunday Dinner", sung by Kim Carnes; and "Good Sports", sung by Al Green. For a long time, I looked for recorded versions of both of those, without success.

uno said...

Secret Agent Man

It starts with one of those simple but killer guitar licks and has some great lyrics.

"Don't let a wrong word slip
when you kiss persuasive lips
odds are you won't live to see tomorrow"

"They're giving you a number and taking 'way your name"

benson said...

Something a lot of people don't know about Quincy Jones: he discovered and produced Lesley Gore.

mike said...

Leave us not forget Davey and Goliath and All in the Family. And the whistled theme for Andy Griffith.
And if you walk up to someone and go, 'do-do-do-do' everyone knows, Twilight Zone.
I Love Lucy, immortal.
Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Anonymous said...

I didn't read all 77 preceding comments so maybe it was mentioned, but the theme from BONANZA.

It's tied to the Monkees' theme because the lead guitar player on both was studio ace Tommy Tedesco.

chalmers said...

I think theme songs/title sequences are a reason why in recent years cable shows, particularly on HBO, have developed more devoted audiences than their network brethren.

I remember the crowd cheering at a public "Sopranos" season premiere as the music came up and Tony ripped the NJ Turnpike ticket out of the machine.

I can still hum the "Sex and the City" theme, and replacing the "God Only Knows"/thin ice opening with "Home"/falling through the air opening disturbed a lot of "Big Love" fans and possibly augured the reviled fourth season.

Most of my favorites have been mentioned. These songs/openings serve a double purpose: they set the tone for what's coming and serve as a reminder after you've watched.

As far as tone, when you heard Bob James' "Taxi" theme, you knew that the show offered a little more than typical 70s sitcom hijinks.

On the back end, it's impossible to say "The Andy Griffith Show" without having Earle Hagen's theme run through your head.

I do think "Parks and Recreation" theme/opening is worthy of the old favorites and hope it wins the Emmy.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe no one mentioned the Chuck Theme Song and title sequence. The song combined with the animation nails the tone of the show.

The Milner Coupe said...

Monk (both of them)
John From Cincinnati
Andy Griffith
U.S. of Tara
Rockford Files
Barney Miller

thomas tucker said...

Hmm. Did anyone mention Hill Street Blues?

Anonymous said...

Some themes transport me back to my childhood, giving an instant pang of nostalgia. Weird happy/sad feeling of 5pm after school playing lego on the floor and Happy Days/Gillians Island/The Flintstones/I dream of Jeanie/Bewitched comes on. Yearning for the simpler times i think.


jbryant said...

People forget that Earle Hagen wasn't the sole writer of the Andy Griffith theme. Herbert W. Spencer, father of a friend of mine, co-wrote the music, and actor Everett Sloane, best known as Bernstein in Citizen Kane, wrote the lyrics, which I suppose were deemed better when whistled.

GMJ said...

In addition to my last post, here are few more of my favorite theme songs or theme music. (In no particular order):

It Takes a Thief (Dave Grusin)
The NBC Mystery Movie (Henry Mancini)
The Name of the Game (Dave Grusin)
Hawaii Five-O (Morton Stevens)
Police Woman (Morton Stevens)
The Streets of San Francisco (Patrick Williams)
Barnaby Jones (Jerry Goldsmith)
Six Feet Under (Thomas Newman)
The Patty Duke Show (Sid Ramin/Bob Wells)

Among many others...

A_Homer said...

Theme songs? Norman Lear's productions killed them off as they became longer and longer and more alike to the point of parody.

Thank God for Seinfeld getting rid of them. Anyway aren't there always different prepared versions - the full-length, three verse one, that maybe was used for the pilot and first episodes; the shortened versions that follow in season 2 or 3 if a show lasts that long and commercial space creeps up, up finally the one in syndication packages that probably is nothing more than a few bars to signify what was once three verses. (Andy Griffith Show goes from the whole song to end up with a couple of bars of whistle and one guitar strum)

Someone mentioned Venture Brothers intro as well as Aqua Teen - yes, THERE'S theme music that is also cool. But it's relatively condensed, like a good cartoon is too.

Anonymous said...

One that is so obvious that everyone's forgotten it:
the theme song for Carson's Tonight Show. Not just a good composition, but it ran for so long that you were automatically conditioned to prepare for some end-of-the-day entertainment.

And a Special Mention award:
The Charlie Brown Christmas sound track. OK, not a theme song. But given the possible disaster that could have resulted from "write some christmassy music for a cartoon", I'm sure it exceeded all expectations.

Rob said...

Here's 20:

The Simpsons
King of the Hill
All in the Family
The Jeffersons
The Brady Bunch
Barney Miller
Night Court
Sanford & Son
What's Happening
WKRP in Cincinnati
Hawaii 5-0
Dukes of Hazzard
The Waltons
Mr. Belvedere
St. Elsewhere
Lou Grant
Dick Van Dyke
That Girl

Cap'n Bob said...

No one mentioned The Roy Rogers Show. "Happy Trails" is an American icon. I'd also add the theme from The Jackie Gleason Show and I Love Lucy.

Who are the Venture Bros? Did the poster mean The Ventures?

Sérgio said...

My list:

Hill Street Blues
Saracen (tv-serie UK)

Laurie A. said...

Love, love the PSYCH theme song (and the show for that matter). My four year old even walks around the house singing it.

Also really liked the Weeds theme song from the early seasons (Ticky Tacky) and how it was done by so many different singers - even children's cusic Goddess Laurie Berkner and my neighbor Pete Seeger.

Roger Owen Green said...

I might have missed it, but I had affection for The Cosby Show theme, in part becuse it had 7 different versions in 8 years.

also, just as music, I always loved the theme from Perry Mason, and the outro music ( longer version of the intro) was even better.

But I have 7 CDs w 65 themes each, so I LOVE themes. anyone mention George of the jungle? Or the JEOPARDY theme?

WV: insingj - shorthand for insert singing jingle, obviously.

Majid Ali said...

I love Cheers theme song

Anonymous said...

Fred Rogers of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" sang the intro to his show very faithfully, as well as the end song, "Tomorrow, tomorrow" and later versions, "It's a such a Good Feeling." Fred Rogers wrote all of his own music for his show and won numerous awards for his songs and performances. Clearly some of the greatest music in televisions' history.

Anonymous said...

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you - "Hardcastle and McCormick"!

The music is rather dated, but the energy level really got us excited for the show!! The actual episode inevitably let us down, of course, but... Killer theme.