The 50 Best TV Theme Songs
May 31, 2017 8:48 AM   Subscribe

Paste Magazine ranks the 50 Best TV Theme Songs Of All Time. All of you kids hanging out on my lawn probably don't even know what a "TV theme song" is, you damn snake people! But there was a time when commercials didn't take up 16 minutes of every broadcast hour and so the networks would actually let producers use a minute or two for a damn opening theme song! A lot of TV theme songs were used to recapitulate the premise of the show itself, especially in the wacky days of the 1960s and '70s, but some just featured an unforgettable riff, a mood-setting musical interlude, or an inspired re-purposing of an existing song.

Like every other "Best Of" list ever, this one gets some picks dead wrong (There is no way in HELL "Theme From The Rockford Files" is #50!), and doesn't stray too far from pretty familiar territory, but there's a YouTube link for every single one, so you can listen to ones you're not as familiar with, or if you just want a trip down Memory Lane. All but one are from American television, because obvs. Argue amongst yourselves.
posted by briank (264 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
 
cheers and m*a*s*h are numbers 1 and 2 so this list is correct, no need to read the rest of it
posted by burgerrr at 8:56 AM on May 31 [15 favorites]


I'm not sure the "Think" music should count as a theme song, but I mostly just want an excuse to sing the praises of the original, synthesizer version of the 1984 Jeopardy! theme. That big, fat bass drone patch... *drool*
posted by SansPoint at 8:56 AM on May 31 [5 favorites]


Ctrl-f "unbreakable"

Okay, this list is fine.
posted by vverse23 at 8:57 AM on May 31 [18 favorites]


The Barney Miller Theme/Opening isn't ranked in the top 10. I cry foul! :-]
posted by zuhl at 8:58 AM on May 31 [30 favorites]


This is a goddamn travesty. Where's "Good Times"? Temporary layoffs! Easy credit ripoffs! And then, where's "Maude"? That's Donny Hathaway singing, you peasants of Paste!
posted by thelonius at 8:58 AM on May 31 [36 favorites]


I remember a time when every home-grown nu-wave band did their own take on the Peter Gunn riff. It was practically required.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:59 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, the advent of a) forward-thinking streaming series, like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflx, and b) great shows suddenly appearing on formerly anonymous networks (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on The CW) has opened the floodgates to anyone who wants to nail a theme song and set their show apart.

That's gonna be a, uh, fascinating transition.

(Dammit!)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:59 AM on May 31 [19 favorites]


Also, where's the Mystery Science Theater 3000 theme song?! Any version?!
posted by SansPoint at 9:02 AM on May 31 [18 favorites]


Ctrl F for "Ironside" :(
posted by drezdn at 9:02 AM on May 31 [6 favorites]




Wow, some super hot takes here. I've never even seen Kimmy Schmidt, and I know it doesn't belong on this list.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:04 AM on May 31 [6 favorites]


I'm not even opening that list. I know from here that someone's made a mistake and somehow not every single one in the top 10 is by Mike Post, and if I read it I'll just get mad and say some things that I'll regret later.
posted by komara at 9:05 AM on May 31 [5 favorites]


The Price is Right theme was siiiick, though.
posted by klausman at 9:06 AM on May 31 [12 favorites]


Standing tall, on the wings of my dream!

Came here to point out that omission. Didn't leave disappointed.

At least they got "Thank you for being a friend".
posted by Talez at 9:06 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


Wow, some super hot takes here. I've never even seen Kimmy Schmidt, and I know it doesn't belong on this list.

Well there's your problem right there. You've probably never even seen the inside of a public blimp.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:07 AM on May 31 [29 favorites]


I can understand leaving out 'Hikky Burr' (especially when you have a better Quincy Jones joint on there), but leaving out 'Miami Vice'?
posted by box at 9:07 AM on May 31 [9 favorites]


And let's not forget the Mancini lounge sound of Mr. Lucky...
posted by jim in austin at 9:07 AM on May 31


OK, I have to object to the anodyne John Williams Olympic fanfare, which isn't even the best Olympics music (that would be Bugler's Dream) or the best NBC Sports theme (that would be Roundball Rock, by (yes) John Tesh). Harrumph.
posted by Zonker at 9:07 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


No Game of Thrones? It's hard to hear even the first few notes without visualizing what you'd be seeing on the screen. I'd also have included the Law & Order theme. With a few minor changes it worked for several offshoots from the mothership show.
posted by fuse theorem at 9:08 AM on May 31 [11 favorites]


I was skeptical that this article would go anywhere - I'd think that many show theme songs are well-regarded because of nostalgia for the show, rather than any value in the song itself (looking at you, Fresh Prince of Bel Air). But while there are a lot of examples of that, there are also a lot of legitimately great songs here that can easily stand on their own absent any connection to a show.

That said, from the write up on the Mad Men theme: "The perfect representation for a show that forever changed television."

Oh come ON
posted by ZaphodB at 9:09 AM on May 31 [6 favorites]


No The Jetsons?

Who made this list? the fuck is wrong with them?

Top three are pretty good, I guess, though Barney Miller should be in the top five I mean, come on.
posted by bondcliff at 9:10 AM on May 31 [11 favorites]




Let's get this out of the way: Your favorite TV theme song sucks.

Also, neither Peter Gunn nor the Twilight Zone are #1, therefore this list is incorrect.

Thirdly, does nobody but me remember HEY YOU GUUUUUUYS!!!! /something something something/THE ELECTRIC COMPANYYYYYY!!!
posted by scratch at 9:12 AM on May 31 [14 favorites]


(Someone more invested than I am might enjoy comparing and contrasting this list to the top-40 list they did in 2008.)
posted by box at 9:14 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Ooohh I DEFINITELY HAVE OPINIONS ABOUT THIS.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:14 AM on May 31 [6 favorites]


Ctrl F for "Ironside" :(

I wonder if Quincy Jones ever went on to anything else after composing that?
posted by fairmettle at 9:14 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


cheers and m*a*s*h are numbers 1 and 2 so this list is correct

The "Cheers" jingle is hideous and it's made the world a worse place
posted by thelonius at 9:15 AM on May 31 [17 favorites]


The Rockford Files and WKRP are 50 and 49 so either this list is upside down or it is already wrong

I'm gonna ugly fight someone in the street

like on COPS

which incidentally has a stupid theme song
posted by louche mustachio at 9:17 AM on May 31 [19 favorites]


CTRL-F Rockford Files
Okay, list checks out. Tables remain unflipped.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 9:17 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]




huh, weird, this list is in the wrong order
posted by GuyZero at 9:18 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


The "Cheers" jingle is hideous and it's made the world a worse place

i'm truly amazed people are allowed to be this wrong
posted by burgerrr at 9:19 AM on May 31 [25 favorites]


Yeah, the sappy Cheers song is only memorable because the show was brilliant. But it doesn't stand on its own.

I'll throw out Get Smart
posted by vacapinta at 9:19 AM on May 31 [15 favorites]


The Price is Right theme was siiiick, though

I came here to lament the lack of Edd Kalehoff as well. Goddamned savages, I tell you.

Monday Night Football Theme
ABC World News Tonight
10 Hours of the TPIR theme just to rub it in.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:21 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


My idiosyncratic complaint is the lack of the theme (not considering the voiceover bit which is also great) for Buck Rogers
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:22 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


“Come on knock on our door....”
posted by Fizz at 9:22 AM on May 31 [11 favorites]


If office radio has taught me anything, its that the Greatest American Theme Song goes:

Believe it or not, I'm walkin' on air
I never thought I could feel so free
Flyin' away on a wing and a prayer
Who could it be?
Believe it or not it's just me

posted by Capt. Renault at 9:23 AM on May 31 [49 favorites]


No Rugrats?

No Pokemon?

No Thundercats?

Clearly someone didn't watch their Saturday morning cartoons.
posted by threetwentytwo at 9:23 AM on May 31 [6 favorites]


The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt theme song is such an ear worm it deserves to be classed as a memetic hazard. This last weekend my SO said "I can't get the Kimmy Schmidt song out of my head" just as I was thinking about how I couldn't get the Kimmy Schmidt song out of my head.

Also, this list should be one song long, and that song should be the theme to The Garry Shandling Show.
posted by ejs at 9:23 AM on May 31 [14 favorites]


I'll forgive leaving off the NCIS ear worm theme, but forgetting Lost in Space is unforgiveable.
posted by lagomorphius at 9:24 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


The Partridge Family, The Barney Miller spinoff Fish and Laverne & Shirley had great themes.

Also, Two Broke Girls needs to do a tribute show to Laverne & Shirley (like Charmed did for Bewitched, IIRC) posthaste. It's more or less the same show.
posted by jonmc at 9:25 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


There's no Bob Newhart Show, so I judge this list faulty.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 9:27 AM on May 31 [7 favorites]


Bojack Horseman should be on this list twice, once for the opening credits and again for the closing credits.
posted by ejs at 9:28 AM on May 31 [27 favorites]


(Someone more invested than I am might enjoy comparing and contrasting this list to the top-40 list they did in 2008.)

On quick glance I was surprised how close the lists are to each other. But the 2008 version correctly includes much more Mike Post.

This is missing the Johnny Carson era Tonight Show theme. The first two notes meant the next hour was going to be special, but it's also a pretty great song on its own. Unless it ended with "Guest Host Jay Leno" which meant I'd be getting more sleep that night.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 9:31 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


I can't believe they forgot Bill Medley's unforgettable theme to Friday Night Football.
posted by goatdog at 9:31 AM on May 31


I can't access the linked article, so I can't exult in/complain about the inclusion/exclusion of the theme song from Judd Hirsch's Dear John, the most depressing sitcom theme song ever:

"Dear John. Dear John.
By the time you read these lines I'll be gone.
Life goes on, right or wrong
Now the sun is dead and gone. Dear John.
Since we've sung love's last song. Dear John.
Since we've sung love's last song. Poor John.
Since we've sung love's last song. Dear John."
posted by the sobsister at 9:32 AM on May 31 [11 favorites]


OK seriously how do you talk about the Dr. Who theme song and NOT MENTION DELIA DERBYSHIRE

I AM YELLING

(┛◉Д◉)┛彡┻━┻
posted by louche mustachio at 9:32 AM on May 31 [18 favorites]


My parents used to watch Dallas, and it was on just after my bedtime to serenade me to sleep for years, so I'm bummed that its earwormy theme isn't on this list.
posted by janell at 9:33 AM on May 31 [6 favorites]


My kid came home from preschool singing the days of the week to the tune of the Addams Family theme and it was pretty much the best.

Honestly, though, the most recent themes on this list just aren't that good. Even the ones that are memorable enough to stick don't really have singable melodies. It's like there was a decade quota (sorry, Mad Men; I'd sub you for House, M.D., but still not be thrilled about it).
posted by uncleozzy at 9:33 AM on May 31


No Magnum P.I. ?!?
posted by leotrotsky at 9:34 AM on May 31 [13 favorites]


They left off the theme from S.W.A.T., with it's 1970s wacka-jawacka goodness and introducing us to the wonderful world of militarized policing. The cover by Rhythm Heritage even hit #1!
posted by TedW at 9:34 AM on May 31 [10 favorites]


There is no way in HELL "Theme From The Rockford Files" is #50!

It's almost like they justify that by saying Mike Post and Peter Carpenter composed too many awesome theme songs, , so how can we really pick? "…Between them they composed theme music for a mind-boggling number of shows, including CHiPs, Magnum P.I., The A-Team, Hunter, Hill Street Blues, ..."

But then, they give Post and Carpenter credit for the Remington Steele theme song, which was composed by Henri Mancini. So this ranking is definitely suspect.

Besides, according to wikipedia, The Rockford Files theme became a Top 10 hit in both the U.S. (#10) and Canada (#8). It ranks as the 85th biggest U.S. hit of 1975, and the 84th biggest Canadian hit of 1975. That only gives it a 50th spot ranking in this list??

Also Mike Post made the Law & Order theme song (with is completely omitted), so I say DUNG DUNG* to all of this.

*Oh yes I did.
posted by Kabanos at 9:35 AM on May 31 [6 favorites]


Seriously, no X-Files?

The truth is out there, on some other list.
posted by HumanComplex at 9:36 AM on May 31 [29 favorites]


Also, where's the Mystery Science Theater 3000 theme song?! Any version?!

They probably got bogged down in a Joel Version/Mike Version argument, as is per usual with MSTies (at least, us Old Skool MSTies Joel forevah)

I'm bummed by the lack of Smurfs. La la lala la la...
posted by Elly Vortex at 9:36 AM on May 31 [6 favorites]


I feel like "existing music tracks which were used as theme tunes" and "original theme tunes" need to be separate lists. You may as well make a film soundtrack list where you compare The Empire Strikes Back OST with the Guardians Of The Galaxy 70s music compilation.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:37 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


Hey hey hey. Where's Fat Albert?
posted by Toubab at 9:37 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


This is a fun list; my main complaint is that they don't mention the Husker Du cover of "Love Is All Around." Come on, it's got a great video and everything!
posted by languagehat at 9:37 AM on May 31 [5 favorites]




Is the ticking that opens "60 Minutes" considered a theme song?
posted by Quaversalis at 9:38 AM on May 31 [7 favorites]


I just want to link to the Airwolf theme song. Not because it should be anywhere on this list. But just because Airwolf.
posted by Kabanos at 9:39 AM on May 31 [14 favorites]


Law & Order (original and SVU) and Twin Peaks are definitely missing. But for some reason, my brain immediately went to Growing Pains, so there's that.
posted by defenestration at 9:39 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]




If being mimetic is reason enough to be on the list, Ducktales needs to be in the top 10.

Animation hasn't gotten a fair shake in this list at all though, tbh.
posted by tofu_crouton at 9:41 AM on May 31 [6 favorites]


No theme song pulls me instantly back to another time and place like the opening bars of Angela, the theme from Taxi.
posted by rocket88 at 9:42 AM on May 31 [28 favorites]


So. Just the one UK TV theme tune in there.

Off the top of my head -

Picture Box
The Body In Question
The Sweeney
Blake's Seven
The Avengers
The Prisoner. THE PRISONER, Y'ALL.

And that's before Gerry Anderson's entire opus (Oh, OK, UFO), Sir Prancelot, and.... ooooh, I haven't even got into the latter half of my life. All together now - Black Aaaaader, Black Aaaader, goldfish shoals nibbling at my toes...

(If you're going to listen to just one you haven't heard before - Sir Prancelot is an absolute classic)
posted by Devonian at 9:44 AM on May 31 [15 favorites]


Animation hasn't gotten a fair shake in this list at all though, tbh.

Agreed, if only because my first ctrl-f was Doug.
posted by General Malaise at 9:45 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


I'm scoffing at the omission of the Bob Newhart Show and Dallas. But I also want to vote for the bombastic charms of Falcon Crest.
posted by dnash at 9:47 AM on May 31


I don't know that it would be anyone's favorite, but the Love Boat theme is iconic enough that it should break the top 50.
posted by Kabanos at 9:48 AM on May 31 [16 favorites]


Also seems to be missing Nelson Riddle's Route 66...
posted by jim in austin at 9:49 AM on May 31 [7 favorites]


No Perry Mason?

Another shit list by people of, at best, questionable taste
posted by doctor_negative at 9:49 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


So. Just the one UK TV theme tune in there.

Ah, holy hell, how about Are You Being Served?
posted by uncleozzy at 9:49 AM on May 31 [6 favorites]


Rawhide? Mr. Ed? How old is the staff on average, 80?

Also, note that only two cartoons were listed : the Flintstones and the Simpsons (as those are the only ones the masses are familiar with, apparently?). What happened to Rocko's Modern Life?
posted by Delia at 9:51 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


(Also, Netflix, et. al., if you're reading, please give us the option to skip theme songs. Kimmy Schmidt's is great, but if I have to hear it more than three times in an hour, I want to kill my TV, Roku and myself.)
posted by General Malaise at 9:51 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


I've decided that, as punishment, the authors of this list should be tied down and forced to listen to this 2-hour loop of of the Murder, She Wrote theme song.
posted by Kabanos at 9:51 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


No "Hockey Night In Canada" theme?
posted by HillbillyInBC at 9:52 AM on May 31 [8 favorites]


It's in line right behind The Littlest Hobo.
posted by Kabanos at 9:54 AM on May 31 [8 favorites]


Rockford files number 50? WTAF. Let me do a little research here.

ctrl+F: Silver Spoons. Nope.
ctrl+F: Facts of Life Nope.
ctrl+F: Simon & Simon Nope.
ctrl+F: Diff'rent Strokes Nope.
ctrl+F: Charles in Charge Nope.

FAKE NEWS.
posted by dirtdirt at 9:54 AM on May 31 [22 favorites]


Ah, holy hell, how about Are You Being Served?

And who on the entire planet doesn't know the Benny Hill theme, eh?

If you haven't heard Coil's take on Are You Being Served?... well, your life is about to change. Probably has, just from the realisation that such a thing exists. Let alone the awesome beauty of its reality.
posted by Devonian at 9:54 AM on May 31 [8 favorites]


I'm not sure where it fits into the top 50, I'd suggest somewhere maybe in the low 20s, but I feel it is my duty to remind you people that there's only one theme song that has the line "and best of all I don't pay property tax!" and that is the theme about a certain Mr. B.J. McKay and his best friend The Bear.
posted by bondcliff at 9:54 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


This list appears to be a mix of "great theme songs" and "mediocre theme songs from shows we really like".
posted by rocket88 at 9:55 AM on May 31 [11 favorites]


So. Just the one UK TV theme tune in there.

So no Morse? (Damn work filter)
posted by Flashman at 9:55 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


(I actually covered the AYBS theme a few years back, right here (checks writing on hand) on Metafilter!)
posted by uncleozzy at 9:57 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


The goosebumps-inducing theme to Good Times is the most glaring omission, but I was frankly surprised that Simon & Simon didn't even get credit for what would be today a reeeeally long opening theme.

Still, pretty pleased Knight Rider made the cut.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 9:58 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


Hot take: while 'The Wire' is an excellent tv show, one of my favorites, I don't think 'Way Down in the Hole' belongs on a list like this one. Like, I'll give you the Blind Boys of Alabama version, and the Tom Waits OG.

But then, returns diminish. The Neville Brothers one is just aight, the DoMaJe one is, and I hate to say this about something created by children, not all that good (those ad-libs! 'keep him in the trash, yo!'), and the Steve Earle one seems like service to whoever occupies the overlap in a Venn diagram of 'Wire' fans and Steve Earle stans.

Outside of baseball, .400 is not a good average.

This list appears to be a mix of "great theme songs" and "mediocre theme songs from shows we really like".

Yeah, that.
posted by box at 9:58 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


The Underdog Theme Song is number one on my "rising above expectations" list. An uplifting choral backdrop and clever rhymes for a mere children's cartoon? Amazing.

And if you want a Gen-X nostalgia cover, here's The Butthole Surfers.
posted by PlusDistance at 10:00 AM on May 31 [9 favorites]


Glad to see "Game of Thrones," "Law & Order," "Taxi" and "Hill Street Blues" get some love above.

Other glaring omissions:

Firefly (extended version)
The Dick Van Dyke Show
Cops
posted by DrAstroZoom at 10:00 AM on May 31 [6 favorites]


this 2-hour loop of of the Murder, She Wrote theme song

That's my afternoon sorted, then.
posted by uncleozzy at 10:00 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


Black Beauty, Sky At Night, The Onedin Line, Upstairs Downstairs, Edge of Darkness...

(shut up, Devonian, you've gone a funny colour... must be that PAL vs NTSC thing)
posted by Devonian at 10:00 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


IT'S BEEN A LONG ROAD
GETTIN' FROM THERE TO HERE


sorry not sorry
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:01 AM on May 31 [8 favorites]


Also: Star Blazers
posted by dirtdirt at 10:02 AM on May 31 [8 favorites]


Sometimes a listicle looks perfect, nothing to rearrange. But sometimes there is a terrible, unforgivable omission. By the rain and thunder, the wind and haze, WHERE IS THE PERFECT STRANGERS THEME SONG
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:04 AM on May 31 [5 favorites]


I don't think that's in the list (there's another one by Lalo Schifrin), but I've always appreciated the theme from mannix. Actually, I'm pretty sure I've never made it further into the show than the opening credits, and nonetheless, the theme has stayed with me.
posted by nicolin at 10:04 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


No Red Dwarf ?.


Fail.
posted by some loser at 10:05 AM on May 31 [10 favorites]


Also: Star Blazers

I AM SO GLAD YOU MENTIONED THIS because it gives me an excuse to post this performance of the original Japanese theme, Uchuu Senkan Yamato, which is both supremely cheesy and divine at the same time.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 10:09 AM on May 31 [9 favorites]


WHERE IS THE PERFECT STRANGERS THEME SONG

You mean the theme song to The Leftovers?

(speaking of which, Iris Dement's Let The Mystery Be should be on this list)
posted by bondcliff at 10:10 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


I'm sure Veronica Mars did have a theme song, but I remember nothing of it despite watching two seasons. Which is not a good sign. In contrast, a number of the others started playing in my head the moment I saw the name, even if I hardly watched them ("Movin' on Up"). And I join in saying where the hell is the X-Files? Probably the most memorable modern theme song apart from "Friends".
posted by tavella at 10:12 AM on May 31


Also, Netflix, et. al., if you're reading, please give us the option to skip theme songs

Apple TV is worth the price just for being able to press the Siri button and say "skip ahead ninety seconds."

Also, this list is egregiously missing the theme song to end all theme songs, the theme from Too Many Cooks.
posted by ejs at 10:14 AM on May 31 [19 favorites]


No Unsolved Mysteries?! Please. Also missing some great CanCon:

The Littlest Hobo

Danger Bay

The Edison Twins

and of course...

The Raccoons
posted by ghost dance beat at 10:15 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


The Underdog Theme Song is number one on my "rising above expectations" list. An uplifting choral backdrop and clever rhymes for a mere children's cartoon? Amazing.

That may have been my first exposure to anastrophe
posted by thelonius at 10:16 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


As someone who grew up with Hockey Night in Canada I'm appalled that the best sports theme ever is not on this list, which is of course, the NBA on NBC theme from the 90sl.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:22 AM on May 31


I was going to post about the omission of The Prisoner but I was so busy spluttering with indignation at the concept of such a list that didn't feature it in the top 5, let alone one that omitted it altogether, that Devonian got there first.

And yes, as Devonian also mentions, pretty much anything Barry Gray did for Gerry Anderson, but the standout has to be Thunderbirds.
posted by Major Clanger at 10:26 AM on May 31 [5 favorites]


Since we're including British shows and preexisting songs then this is hard to argue against for #1.
posted by TedW at 10:27 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


This list includes instrumental theme songs.
This list does not include Night Court.

∴ This list is invalid.
posted by Shmuel510 at 10:29 AM on May 31 [17 favorites]


Hey hey hey. Where's Fat Albert?

I hate to break it to you, but one of those Cosby kids kinda damaged the brand later in life.
posted by TedW at 10:31 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


No House? Massive Attack were robbed!
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 10:34 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Oh shit, I just remembered this grave oversight! Or this version, with added irony.
posted by scratch at 10:35 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


I like a lot of the choices, but no Taxi? At all?

Knight Rider over Welcome Back Kotter? These are my fists. Put yours up.

The Mary Tyler Moore theme - "Love is all around" - caught me off guard by making me kinda sad. A lot of these do, actually.
posted by Caxton1476 at 10:36 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]




No Spider-Man, no Star Trek TOS. Clickbait listicles have hit a new low.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:39 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


OMG GUYS, ROUTE 66????
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:39 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Reviewing the list and the comments here and the lesson is that TV theme songs are freaking great.
posted by Caxton1476 at 10:41 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Also, whilst it's good to see Doctor Who there (although as noted above Delia Derbyshire needs credit too!) there have been so many versions over the years hardly anyone will agree which is the best (although most fans seem to think the late 1980s version wasn't it). I suspect that, as with 'which Doctor is the best?' the answer is the one that was current when you were hiding behind the sofa at the age of 6 (so for me, late Jon Pertwee / early Tom Baker). To help you decide, here are all of them from 1963 to 2013.

And if you want to make your own version, there's the BBC's Radiophonatron (requires Flash).
posted by Major Clanger at 10:42 AM on May 31 [8 favorites]


BTW, when viewing all these clips, if anyone happens to see someone roll some paint over another person's face
posted by Kabanos at 10:42 AM on May 31 [25 favorites]


WHERE IS THE PERFECT STRANGERS THEME SONG

Incidentally, that song makes a better theme for Enterprise than the Enterprise song did.
posted by thecaddy at 10:43 AM on May 31 [8 favorites]


Netflix, et. al., if you're reading, please give us the option to skip theme songs

In my Nexflix, we have a "skip credits" button that does exactly this. Been there for months, if not longer.
posted by bonehead at 10:43 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


The Six Million Dollar Man (although perhaps more memorable for the title sequence as a whole than the music alone).

And who, of a certain age, can forget... BATTLE OF THE PLANETS!!!
posted by Major Clanger at 10:51 AM on May 31 [8 favorites]


No Midsomer Murders. As mentioned earlier, no Miami Vice. No Voltron, or Thundercats.

Much as I love Cheers, that themesong gets annoying around the 10th repeat of the day.
posted by monopas at 10:52 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Did anyone else just listen to about 5 seconds of each of your favourite. Thus loading a full weeks supply of earworms to natter at you endlessly? Although having the Barney Miller base-line in my hide is no bad thing.
posted by AnodeCathode at 10:55 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Most shocking omission: Baretta, the finest slice of 70's TV funk this side of the mean streets.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:57 AM on May 31 [8 favorites]


I'm scratching my head at why Laverne & Shirley was included but not the theme to Happy Days ("a theme song that could have made this list in its own right"?).
posted by blucevalo at 10:59 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


(and this was the version of Sir Prancelot I was looking for - the Boards of Canada version. Because I love you, and want you to be happy.)
posted by Devonian at 11:04 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Pretty good list, but this thread needs moar Invader Zim .
posted by JohnFromGR at 11:05 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


How about instrumental theme songs that have had lyrics added? Murder She Wrote. Macgyver.
posted by Ipsifendus at 11:08 AM on May 31 [5 favorites]


I'm shocked that the list didn't didn't didn't didn't didn't didn't didn't didn't BATMAAAAN!
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:09 AM on May 31 [8 favorites]


No Greatest American Hero? Feh.
posted by emelenjr at 11:09 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


When in this world the headlines read
Of those whose hearts are filled with greed
Who rob and plunder those in need
To right this wrong with lightning speed
Comes Underdog!
(from memory)
George of the Jungle
Pee Wee's Playhouse
And a shout out to my brother who told me he had a crush on Juliet Mills in Nanny and the Professor
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:10 AM on May 31 [5 favorites]


uh... Degrassi?
posted by Cosine at 11:12 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


If you are Canadian and old like me, the Beachcombers theme is fused into your DNA like so many logs floating on the water, or something.

And if I speak too much of The Friendly Giant I may weep. That pan across a totally cool model of a town until you get to a huge boot and then "look up, WAYYYY up" and then that recorder and flute song with the drawbridge opening and then he puts out the tiny furniture for you
*weeps*
posted by chococat at 11:12 AM on May 31 [13 favorites]


No Cowboy Bebop?
posted by DynamiteToast at 11:13 AM on May 31 [7 favorites]


Beat me by about 10 seconds. For posterity: Tank! from Cowboy Bebop.
posted by dephlogisticated at 11:14 AM on May 31 [11 favorites]


Westerns: 'Ballad of Paladin' ('Have Gun Will Travel'), and 'Bonanza'

(Unrelated: suffice it to say that the makers of the quickly-cancelled Ferris Bueller tv show did not get the rights to 'Oh Yeah'.)
posted by box at 11:15 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


The list seemed dated to me, so I did a quick tally of decade in which the show aired its first episode and then took a count. I had to make judgement calls in a few places, like the Olympic theme. There are also a lot of shows on borders, where they started in 1969, for example, and ran for a decade - they're counted as 60s, still. I'm thinking a better way to structure the data would be as a range, but I didn't feel like putting that much work into it.

50s: 2
60s: 14
70s: 13
80s: 8
90s: 3
2000s: 7
2010s: 2

There were a lot of things that surprised me about run dates. For example, if you'd asked me when The Flintstones was on the air, I would have most certainly said primarily the 50s, but it actually ran from 60 to 66.
posted by codacorolla at 11:16 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


Another fine example of 70's wakachika wakachika: The Fantastic Journey. I was nuts over that show. Yay Roddy McDowell.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:18 AM on May 31


First of all, that's not even the actual Rockford Files theme. I know, because I had the single. (You can hear it here.) Excluding Barney Miller and The Bob Newhart Show themes is inexcusable, especially the second version of Bob, with the hot trumpet solo (I believe the theme had a title, which was "Home to Emily"). And here's a personal favorite of mine, from a show that very few people remember. But I do.
posted by Man-Thing at 11:20 AM on May 31


And for Christ's sake, where's Gumby, damn it?
posted by octobersurprise at 11:22 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


I also noted that there were a lot of these that I recognize more from pastiche and satire, but had absolutely no clue that it was from a TV show, nor what that TV show was. Whatever the hell Peter Gunn is, for example.
posted by codacorolla at 11:24 AM on May 31


I'm sorry, any list without the theme song to the Donna Pescow classic "Angie" is not worth anything.
posted by xingcat at 11:24 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


it closes with the magical WKRP in Cincinnaaaaaati... it was an original song written specifically for the show. —Josh Jackson

No shit, Josh.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:25 AM on May 31 [6 favorites]


I like a lot of the choices, but no Taxi? At all?

I can't listen to that theme anymore without hearing John Hamm.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 11:25 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Whatever the hell Peter Gunn is, for example.

Spoken like someone who has never been in high school marching band.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:26 AM on May 31 [6 favorites]


I note, approvingly, 1973's Six Million Dollar Man theme from upthread, but feel for completeness' sake I must point out the undeniable fact that the main melody was stolen from the UK's bucolic soap opera of 1972, Emmerdale Farm - itself nabbed from Tonto's Expanding Head Band's non-TV Cybernaut of 1971.
posted by Devonian at 11:26 AM on May 31


I demand Northern Exposure! If you can hear a couple of bars without picturing an ambling moose ...

I hate Sponge Bob but the theme song is inexplicably hilarious to me. I think because it sounds like the singer is completely bonkers. It's just ALL IN.
posted by Occula at 11:26 AM on May 31 [6 favorites]


Wait, there's no Three's Company on this list?!?

Fuck you, Josh.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:28 AM on May 31 [5 favorites]


Spoken like someone who has never been in high school marching band.

I mean, that was my point, I know the theme in terms of its use as a generic brassy, business-like theme, but had absolutely no clue (and still have no clue) about the show.
posted by codacorolla at 11:28 AM on May 31


No Wide World of Sports?

NO ABC'S WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS? What's wrong with this list? What in the wide, wide world of sports is-a goin' on here?

And Knight Rider's theme is a rip-off of "Trans Europa Express" by Kraftwerk, c'mon. If it has to be on the list, lower reaches of the 50, then, for cleverness.
posted by droplet at 11:28 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


The Definition Game Show, which used Soul Bossa Nova.
posted by nubs at 11:29 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


I mean, that was my point, I know the theme in terms of its use as a generic brassy, business-like theme, but had absolutely no clue (and still have no clue) about the show.

But you don't need to! That's what makes it great. The theme tune says all you need to know.

And facts about the theme tune! Like this:

* The song was featured in the popular arcade game Spy Hunter in 1983, when developer Midway was unable to secure the rights to the James Bond theme.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:32 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


We are poor little lambs
Who have lost our way
Baa, Baa, Baa
posted by rocket88 at 11:39 AM on May 31 [6 favorites]


I could "WHY IS THIS THEME SONG MISSING" all day, but the theme song whose absence from this list I am most displeased by is the theme for the Macneil-Lehrer News Hour.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:39 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


Dragnet.
posted by JanetLand at 11:39 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Also, Netflix, et. al., if you're reading, please give us the option to skip theme songs

Apple TV is worth the price just for being able to press the Siri button and say "skip ahead ninety seconds."

Also, this list is egregiously missing the theme song to end all theme songs, the theme from Too Many Cooks.


I know you can on their newer shows, albeit it appears it only works on the browser client and only once you have watched one episode of said show.
posted by Samizdata at 11:42 AM on May 31


Pretty hard to strip nostalgia from these conversations, although objectively speaking the 70s had the best theme music. /troll ;)

However I do concur with the article's premise that we have passed the golden age, exhibit a.) The Portlandia Premium Cable Title-Sequence skit, if you haven't seen it, you're welcome!
posted by jeremias at 11:54 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


Kimmy Schmidt's is great, but if I have to hear it more than three times in an hour

I... Are you watching the episodes themselves on fast forward?
posted by ominous_paws at 11:55 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


BTW, when viewing all these clips, if anyone happens to see someone roll some paint over another person's face …

Oh, this one in the title sequence? Great theme tune, too. Classic.
posted by Devonian at 11:57 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Sometimes a listicle looks perfect, nothing to rearrange. But sometimes there is a terrible, unforgivable omission. By the rain and thunder, the wind and haze, WHERE IS THE PERFECT STRANGERS THEME SONG

For those of you grieving the absence of Perfect Strangers:

THIS WILL MAKE IT ALL BETTER.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:57 AM on May 31


Barney Miller is too low on the list. And they missed Stark Raving Mad.
posted by Splunge at 12:00 PM on May 31


Don't know why but that paste site takes my desktop machine to its knees.
posted by bz at 12:01 PM on May 31 [5 favorites]


Yeah. It's a single page with 50 YouTube embeds. That'll do it.
posted by Splunge at 12:02 PM on May 31


How old is the staff on average, 80?

Couldn't be or they would remember Count Basie's wonderful "M Squad" (Lee Marvin cop show)
posted by Alter Cocker at 12:03 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Square Pegs. Nice. That's a show that never hit its full potential.

For your consideration...
The Venture Bros. by JG Thirlwell aka Foetus.
Sealab 2021. Song by Calamine.
The Aquabats! Super Show! by The Aquabats! for Justice!
posted by Zack_Replica at 12:05 PM on May 31 [9 favorites]


50 and 49 belong in the top 10. This list is wrong.
posted by NoMich at 12:06 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


The list seemed dated to me, so I did a quick tally of decade in which the show aired its first episode and then took a count.

It definitely does, and it's interesting to think about stuff from the last 15-20 years that's memorable enough for this kind of list, because it feels like a lot of shows have cut way back on theme songs so they're often just the bare minimum of generic instrumental music. Also, I don't watch a ton of current TV but spent my childhood watching a ton of Nick at Nite, so I'm primed to think Taxi and the Dick Van Dyke Show when I think about TV theme songs.

Anyway, for more recent things that could easily have made this list, I'd put King of the Hill out there, especially the less-heard full version. The rebooted Battlestar Galactica's theme song probably isn't my favorite piece of music from its excellent soundtrack, but it's definitely a strong and memorable entry. I see someone else has already mentioned Game of Thrones, which honestly probably should have made the list just based on instant recognizability and show popularity. For sheer diversity, the last season of the Drew Carey Show put on 3 different versions of each of the 3 theme songs, which is pretty fun if you'd like to, for example, hear Reba McEntire cover 5 O'Clock World.

Stretching back a little further but still a little clear of 70s stalwarts, Family Matters is possibly my favorite of the Extremely Corny 80s/90s Sitcom songs. I'm not going to link to Saved by the Bell because even looking at the title is getting it stuck in my head, but it's definitely memorable. Similarly, I wouldn't say that Frasier's theme is good, exactly, but it instantly comes to mind. I also went through a phase where I listened to the Malcolm in the Middle theme song a lot for whatever reason.

I've watched my share of The Office, House, 30 Rock, etc., but struggle a little to remember how the theme songs go. Sheer probability suggests that at least one of the quadrillion reality shows that's on now must have a decent theme song. I guess there's Storage Wars if you like to hear some guy growl about money.
posted by Copronymus at 12:08 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


Ineligible for this list but worthy of mention: the Sesame Street "Funky Chimes" outro from the 70s and 80s.
posted by HeroZero at 12:09 PM on May 31 [13 favorites]


I refuse to live in a world where the Monkees theme is only ranked #32.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 12:12 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Zack_Replica: Square Pegs. Nice. That's a show that never hit its full potential.

You mean it could top a guest spot by DEVO?
posted by SansPoint at 12:13 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Most shocking omission: Baretta yt , the finest slice of 70's TV funk this side of the mean streets.

Unfortunately the page refuses to load more than the first few before choking and reloading, so I had questions about two shows. Question #2 has just been answered, and I agree that it's a shocking omission.

Please someone tell me they didn't overlook my favorite, the theme from Streets of San Francisico.

Also, without seeing the rest of the list I assume The Rockford Files was supposed to be #5 and not #50, an egregious error and I hope they fired the person with prejudice (but not the racist kind.)
posted by Room 641-A at 12:13 PM on May 31


So, are almost all of the videos broken for other people? Or does YouTube just dislike me for some reason?
posted by jacquilynne at 12:14 PM on May 31


Thought I'd throw John Williams little jewel from "Suspense Theater" on the pile; here
posted by Alter Cocker at 12:16 PM on May 31


And now for something completely different... The Liberty Bell March.
posted by SPrintF at 12:18 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


No Archer?
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:21 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


Any list of theme songs that doesn't include The A-Team theme is just fucked up.

Also, it's Ja'net DuBois, not Ja'net DuBoise.
posted by holborne at 12:31 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


A list without the theme to Monty Python's Flying Circus cannot be taken seriously.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:35 PM on May 31 [4 favorites]


Bollocks. A correction must be made.

Please excuse any dupes with recent suggestions. I been busy, as you see.

In NO PARTICULAR ORDER: MacNeil / Lehrer Newshour

You got the fanfare, but left out the long lovely oboe and snare drum 'middle eight'.
MacNeil / Lehrer Newshour -- Bernard Hoffer

. . . a-a-and I see now that Inspector Morse had been covered. Nice clean copy, too. Thanks for that.
 
posted by Herodios at 12:39 PM on May 31 [12 favorites]


Secret Agent Man

I much prefer the original British theme to Danger Man - High Wire by the incomparable Edwin Astley, who also gave us The Saint, Department S and the original Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), the latter reminiscent of John Barry's work on The Persuaders and Vendetta.

I always thought Approaching Menace was an awesome theme tune for what turns out to be a general knowledge quiz.
posted by Grangousier at 12:40 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Missing:
Miami Vice
Fringe (yeah)
X-Files
Twin Peaks (look, it's internet law these days everything has to tie in with Twin Peaks)
Always Sunny (although arguably the payoff comes from the depravity that follows such a jolly tune, so I accept it)
Look Around You (particularly with the "Boards of Canada did it in secret" theories)
posted by lmfsilva at 12:43 PM on May 31 [5 favorites]


Needs more Carole King.
posted by Petersondub at 12:44 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Believe it or not / the song is not there,
one should that reside in the top three-hee-hee.
So clearly this list is / wrong and unfair.
Harumph / QED
(It was the best song / on TV!)

posted by grumpybear69 at 12:53 PM on May 31 [12 favorites]


Came in here to yell about the exclusion of I Spy, The Avengers, and The Prisoner, because I love a jazzy '60s cloak and dagger theme song ABOVE ALL ELSE, apparently. Glad (but unsurprised) to see that there are other nerds here who feel as I do.
posted by merriment at 1:01 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


NO ABC'S WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS? What's wrong with this list? What in the wide, wide world of sports is-a goin' on here?

That reminds me --

I used to love the old NFL on CBS theme from the late 1960s through early 1970s. Even though I hadn't heard it in like decades, a couple of years ago I was finally able* to track it down to its origin -- which turns out to be a now-obscure off-Broadway musical adaptation of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty . . .
Confidence -- Give yourself the breaks
Confidence -- You've got all it takes
What's the difference between a zero and a hero?
Confidence! (Confidence!)
Confidence! (Confidence!)
Confidence, that's AAAALL!!

------------------------------------------------------------
*Thanks, Internet!
posted by Herodios at 1:01 PM on May 31


The intro of the Mad Men them (the most distinctive part, IMHO) is actually a direct sample of the intro from Enoch Light's arrangement of Autumn Leaves, recorded many years earlier (Light died in 1978).
posted by TwoToneRow at 1:03 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Some of my favorite versions of TV themes are on the CD Jazz for Couch Potatoes (obscure, but available on YouTube, Spotify, etc). A real highlight is its reworking of the theme from "Gunsmoke", which surprisingly didn't make the list in the Paste Magazine list.
posted by TwoToneRow at 1:16 PM on May 31


Pretty good list, but I'm genuinely shocked and disturbed at the lack of The Fall Guy's theme song.
posted by zardoz at 1:18 PM on May 31 [5 favorites]


The intro of the Mad Men them (the most distinctive part, IMHO) is actually a direct sample of the intro from Enoch Light's arrangement of Autumn Leaves , recorded many years earlier (Light died in 1978).


another cute quote of a standard is the coda ("Life is unfair") of the "Malcolm and The Middle" theme, which is almost exactly the first phrase of "How High The Moon"
posted by thelonius at 1:21 PM on May 31


This is a good list, except where it isn't.
posted by kyrademon at 1:24 PM on May 31


My idiosyncratic complaint is the lack of the theme (not considering the voiceover bit which is also great) for Buck Rogers

I found the show and the music annoying -- except for this one particular treatment of the closing theme.
 
posted by Herodios at 1:33 PM on May 31


And what is the criterion for 'best'? Does it seem to be defined by Two rhetorical questions:
Where does Kimmy Schmidt’s remix magic rank with the greats? Which old-school classics hold up best? How great is it, really, to rhyme “horse” with of “course”?"
Does that remind me of today's 'news' with questions in the headlines? When did Mike Wallace ever headline a story with a question? Is that always a sign of 'fake news'? Do I digress?

So are these are simply 50 TV themes decorated with question marks simply in a desperate big to engage you, a reader overwhelmed with existential questions, begging for resolution? What is wrong with that sentence? Is this the afterlife?
posted by Twang at 1:34 PM on May 31


Kellyann? Is that you?
 
posted by Herodios at 1:36 PM on May 31


Sorry, the second line to my song should be:

one that should be there in the top three-hee-hee.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:38 PM on May 31


The page won't load for me, but the Sanford and Son theme song "The Streetbeater" by Quincy Jones is #1, yes? Cool.
posted by tristeza at 1:44 PM on May 31 [8 favorites]


Sweet Jesus, theme songs are Palovian as shit.

Adding my vote for The Greatest American Hero and Star Blazers. I will know their lyrics long after the memories of past loves and significant events have faded from my mind.

Also, I love what The Leftovers is doing this season with the thematically appropriate songs during the opening credits. I also love that it's the type of show where using the Perfect Strangers theme makes total sense by episode's end.
posted by bibliowench at 1:52 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Ach, here's another: The Vacant Lot.

"We're all so pretty, oh so pretty . . . "
posted by Herodios at 2:01 PM on May 31


Sweet Jesus, theme songs are Palovian as shit.

For many years when I was growing up, the theme to the MacNeil / Lehrer Newshour was practically the dinner bell.
posted by octobersurprise at 2:01 PM on May 31 [4 favorites]


Oh, and let's not forget the theme music from The Venture Bros. Great version of that classic 60's spy music.

The music is one of the greatest things about that show.
posted by PlusDistance at 2:20 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Kabanos: But then, they give Post and Carpenter credit for the Remington Steele theme song, which was composed by Henri Mancini. So this ranking is definitely suspect.

I think the Mancini one was only used in Season One. Seasons two through "five" used a different theme except now that I think of it again, that was probably by Mancini as well.

(I had books of tv theme piano sheet music as a teen.)

Also, the theme to The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. should be on the list, if only because of it being repurposed by NBC for the Olympics. (Also Brisco County was a great show that was ahead of its time for TV purposes. It would have fit into the TV landscape perfectly today.)

And beyond being a brilliant show that nobody outside Canada ever saw (though I think it ran on BBC America? maybe?), the first season of Slings & Arrows has the very best theme song. It ticks all of the boxes for a TV theme and then some. Making fun of Hamlet has never been more Noel-Cowardesque.

(P.S. No Animaniacs?)
posted by tzikeh at 2:26 PM on May 31 [5 favorites]


Miami Vice, Taxi, X-Files, and Greatest American Hero are the most glaring omissions. Night Court and Law and Order are also contenders. The theme from Amen could be a surprise pick for one of the lower slots, and Reading Rainbow might get a nod in the children's category.
posted by Svejk at 2:28 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Dammit, the theme to M*A*S*H the TV show was not original, but borrowed from the movie. I think that disqualifies it as a TV show theme. And the whole TV show never touched on the theme of suicide the way the movie did. So much wrongness.

Now, Gilligan's Island's theme: that was excellent. Here's my favorite version.

Also, Leave It to Beaver's them not only very wryly married its jaunty opening version to the mood of the show, but later in its run the closing version switched to a jazzed up version that first introduced me to that concept. It should definitely be on the list.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:33 PM on May 31




Now I feel like I'm obligated to comb through all of my DVD collections and compile a list of all the awesome theme songs that are missing from this wrong, wrong list. (Where the hell is The West Wing?)

Possibly the list should have been a top 100, considering just how MUCH television we have now.

Also needs a companion list of best outro themes.
posted by tzikeh at 2:39 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Dammit, the theme to M*A*S*H the TV show was not original, but borrowed from the movie. think that disqualifies it as a TV show theme.

Nope - a few of the chosen themes are songs that were already in existence and then appropriated for the shows ("We Used to Be Friends" by the Dandy Warhols was a single from their album Welcome to the Monkey House, for one example, and the Scrubs theme "Superman" is from Lazlo Bane's album All the Time in the World. I think the story goes that Zach Braff (J.D. on Scrubs) heard it on a soundtrack for an independent film and got the producers to use it as the theme, in a severely truncated form, of course.
posted by tzikeh at 2:49 PM on May 31


Needs more Carole King.

No. That's just a great song, regardless of any TV shows that use it.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:52 PM on May 31


Even back when Newton Minow (1960s FCC, NOT the guy they named Gilligan's boat after) called television "a vast wasteland", he was correct using the word "vast". (But then, I grew up in a Major Market with 5 channels in addition to the 3 networks) And going on 70 years since TV fever first took hold in America. Top 50 in 70 Years? Needs more like a Top 200. Or divide it up into kinda-decades (based on debut of series): Pre-1960, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, and (because of the recent de-emphasis on theme music) Post-2000. 40-50 of each. I think I found my next project to pitch to some websites/magazines other than Paste.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:53 PM on May 31


OH AND WHAT ABOUT THE ANIMATED TICK THEME???

(Dah dweeee dat dat dah dweee-dow... AAAAAAAAAAAAAH)
posted by tzikeh at 3:10 PM on May 31 [5 favorites]


Mr. Mitt makes fun of me on the regular when I can't distinguish the themes for Doogie Howser, MD and Quantum Leap.

(stupid Mike Post)
(they're even listed sequentially in the Mike Post entry for Rockford Files)
(I can't be alone in this)

So, if we can conflate the two - I'd like to enter a complaint that _that_ song isn't on the list.
posted by ovenmitt at 3:14 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Last addition, I swear:

Jeeves & Wooster.

To quote from another unrepresented show that should be there: I mean... really?
posted by tzikeh at 3:16 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]




Snuffy Walden's Friday Night Lights Theme
posted by kirkaracha at 3:27 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


For a long time, I got Miami Vice and Lunatic Fringe confused.
posted by shockingbluamp at 3:29 PM on May 31


And it's easy, but Louie.
posted by box at 3:42 PM on May 31


Oh wow, kirkaracha -- once I got sucked into Friday Night Lights (after resisting for so many reasons, all of them wrong), just hearing the first notes of that theme will bring on the tears. It's embarrassingly how quickly it happens.
posted by tzikeh at 3:44 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


Come ON, how can Simon and Simon not be on here?! It's not like I am asking for battlestar galactica or star blazers or something!

oh, that's my cousin, air-to-ground brown
posted by hearthpig at 3:44 PM on May 31


For your consideration: Ren & Stimpy's "Dog Pound Hop" - written and performed by the multi-talented Spumco animators.
posted by prinado at 3:53 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


As usual, Terriers is sadly overlooked.
posted by Sibrax at 4:14 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


a few of the chosen themes are songs that were already in existence and then appropriated for the shows

Including The Soprano's Got Myself A Gun by Alabama 3, who are from South London and not a trio, Which petty deception you'd expect from the sort of yahoos who'd wipe a man's stash out at a party in Nunhead down to levels no spectrograph could detect and then have the lead singer get off with the woman said man had been chasing all evening at said party.

Ruffians and talentless ne'er-do-wells, the bunch of 'em. Tony Soprano would know what to do.
posted by Devonian at 4:19 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


Did anyone else have those CDs of TV Show theme songs growing up? I am too young to have watched most of these and yet I knew all the songs thanks to hours upon hours of listening to those CDs . . .
posted by chainsofreedom at 4:40 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Why is it every time my brain attempts to recall the Unsolved Mysteries tune I get MacGuyver instead?
posted by wierdo at 5:10 PM on May 31


Wow, the mefis are taking me down memory lane today. One that sticks in my head is Mr. Roger's Neighborhood - "Its a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" theme.
Oh, let's not forget Heavy D and the Boyz performing the theme to the show In Living Color.
posted by Muncle at 5:43 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


Right -- without "I Spy" this list has no hope. You choose Hagen's "Fishin' Hole" instead? Looooooooooooosers (as a horrid president might say).
posted by allthinky at 5:54 PM on May 31


Top 5 English Canada Original Theme Songs

5 Degrassi Junior High
4 The Edison Twins
3 Danger Bay
2 Littlest Hobo
1 HNIC

Dishonourable Mention: Seeing Things
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:01 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


🎶 WE 🎶
posted by divabat at 6:09 PM on May 31


Oh, and the theme to Rawhide as #47? I don't think so...
posted by Mental Wimp at 6:16 PM on May 31


Ineligible for this list but worthy of mention: the Sesame Street "Funky Chimes" outro from the 70s and 80s.

aaaaaaaaand now I have a new ringtone
posted by Lucinda at 6:18 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Top 5 English Canada Original Theme Songs

5 Degrassi Junior High
4 The Edison Twins
3 Danger Bay
2 Littlest Hobo
1 HNIC


Dude. If you're not include my above-mentioned Beachcombers and Friendly Giant, at the very least you need to lose Danger Bay or shoe-horn in the Live It Up theme (engineered by "Dan Lanois"...I still have a copy after writing to the show when I was 11) or some Elwy Yost action with the seriously trippy Magic Shadows theme. But now I've opened up the fucking Pandora's Box of 1970's TVOntario goodness and which is impossible to close.
posted by chococat at 6:29 PM on May 31 [8 favorites]


a few of the chosen themes are songs that were already in existence and then appropriated for the shows

My favorite example of this is Crime Story's use of Del Shannon's "Runaway." That song over the rain-slicked neon of the opening credits seemed like the epitome of mid-'80s cool.

OTOH, Jim Steinman went the other way when he wrote the theme to ABC's Delta House, then repurposed it in a later song when the show failed.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:34 PM on May 31


30 something also by WG Snuffy Walden.
McGyver
Star Trek TOS needs no clip
posted by theora55 at 6:43 PM on May 31


There was a surprisingly fun remix album of a lot of the SF/spy/Gerry Anderson themes mentioned above put out in the UK by the name of Power Themes '90. The full album has 12 tracks, but Youtube seems only to have the VHS tape of music videos by the same name, which has somewhat fewer and in indifferent audio. Recommend you audition the original CD or equivalent via your usual source of obscure bits - it's excellent geek party material.
posted by Devonian at 6:44 PM on May 31


Did anyone else have those CDs of TV Show theme songs growing up?

No, but as a tween in the 70's, I was so enraptured by TV themes that I used to record them off the TV. I think I had a half dozen cassettes at one point.

Ah. Wonder Woman is another theme that makes my top 50. The first version, with the words: " ... Make the Axis fold / stop a bullet cold. / Change their minds / and change the world!"
posted by octobersurprise at 6:45 PM on May 31 [5 favorites]


I know for a fact that in the early morning hours of October 14, 1994, I spent an unknown period of time (between 30 and 150 minutes) alone in my apartment, wrapped in a comforter in my underwear sitting on the floor in front of my stereo, weeping uncontrollably and listening to the "One Day at a Time" theme on a CD on repeat.

I'm not saying this should qualify it as a Top 50 TV Show Theme Song necessarily, but it's surely some kind of pinnacle of songwriting or another.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 6:48 PM on May 31 [4 favorites]


the Live It Up theme

That song has always given me a weird anxiety reaction; not in an I Don't Like That Song way, there's just something about that disco-y beat and those ladies yelling at me to "Liveitup!" that freaks me out. They should really bring that show back.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:48 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Missing: Tra la la...

Also, I had to look up the lyrics before I stopped wondering how Gary Portnoy traveled back from the future and put "And your third Beyonce didn't show" at about 0:33 in the Cheers theme song?
posted by xigxag at 6:50 PM on May 31 [4 favorites]


No, but as a tween in the 70's, I was so enraptured by TV themes that I used to record them off the TV. I think I had a half dozen cassettes at one point.

I remember the themes from SWAT and Hawaii 5-0 (which I assume are on The List Which Will Not Load) bring played on the radio. They were definitely played at my 6th grade graduation.

listening to the "One Day at a Time" theme

The last of my innocence was shattered this weekend when I saw Valerie Bertinelli on Watch What Happens Live and she told Andy Cohen that she used to do lines with Mackenzie Phillips. Barbara Cooper, nooooo!
posted by Room 641-A at 7:31 PM on May 31


Everyone did lines with Mackenzie Phillips.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:49 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


I really like the opening theme to Carnivale and still find myself humming it from time to time, but all this article does is make me want to watch The Wire again.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:11 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


My gut instinct when scrolling through was that the absence of the Greatest American Hero and Psych (I Know, You Know) theme songs made me indifferent toward the validity of this list.

Embrace the deception, learn how to bed -- your worst inhibitions tend to psych you out in the end!
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 10:54 PM on May 31


tavella, re: Veronica Mars, does it help if I say, "We used to be friends..." or need we say more?
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 11:00 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Disappointed at the omission of Misfits of Science.
posted by MrBadExample at 11:14 PM on May 31


This is seriously one of my favorite topics ever. I love soundtracks and TV themes and it's been sad to see TV shows cutting out theme music more and more over the years. So it's nice to see shows that still make room in their running time for titles and theme music.

Surprised that Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? (David Mook and Ben Raleigh) hasn't been mentioned yet! (At least by name.) The link goes to the original theme from season 1.

There's also Pinky & The Brain (Richard Stone and Tom Ruegger) which is also pretty catchy.

The style of having lyrics that explain the show also reminds me of The Nanny (Ann Hampton Calloway).

Enthusiastically seconding tzikeh on The West Wing (W.G. Snuffy Walden, conducted by Pete Anthony). (This version has a drumroll beginning -- I wish these clips also edited in the drums that opened the "Previously on...", which in my mind is a prelude to the title music.)

The music is great -- for me, it's the orchestral arrangement that really makes TWW theme super special. Everything about it: the percussion, horns, winds, strings, the harp (I think) at the end -- perfect. The theme is one of the most important "characters" of the series. Somewhere I have an album of Walden's music which has this and the West Wing Suite on it -- unfortunately I don't remember who did the arrangement offhand, but I always want to stop and pay attention when listening to it. (I used to want to be a music soundtrack composer/conductor when I was a kid -- hearing this music as an adult reminded me again of why I fell in love with soundtracks.)

Seconding tzikeh again! on Jeeves & Wooster (Anne Dudley). This link goes to a version that shows the cool art deco-ey animated intro. So fun and very evocative of that time period. Nice violin solo and I like the wordless backup singing too.

A lot of my other favorites have already been mentioned too (e.g. Danger Man, Murder She Wrote, Twin Peaks, Firefly, Gumby...). I don't think these have been mentioned yet:

Agatha Christie's Poirot (Christopher Gunning) (clip also includes an example of closing titles).
The original series theme, with a unique intro title sequence. I've always wished I had the musical chops to play it on guitar or piano; every so often I'll search for covers of it on youtube.

Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime (Joseph Horovitz) (clip is a compilation edit of the titles).
From the original Tommy & Tuppence detective show from the 1980s. A lovely, bouncy tune that again seems to embody the style of the time period of the show (1920s). It's cool that they did different title sequences, with different illustrations, for each episode.

The Legend of Korra - End Credits (Jeremy Zuckerman).
(With Hong Wang on ehru.) Okay it's not the beginning title theme, but still. Whenever I watch this show now, the ending music always gets me in the heart, especially with the accompanying visual of traveling over the water, getting closer and closer to the city. When I got introduced to the show and heard the end credits theme for the first time, I kept thinking that the music was so superb and interesting (and serious), and certainly unusual for an American TV show aimed for kids -- almost out of place. It felt like it could be from a feature drama film. It wasn't upbeat and fun like the original Avatar: The Airbender series end credits -- it was very very different, just like Korra the show being different in tone from ATLA.

The theme seemed to take on different meaning depending on the episode, even though it was the same recording. It was really tough to listen to after the third season finale, because it felt tragic and sad then. Then for the last episode of the series, Zuckerman adapted the end credits theme into the final music cue, and when the final end credits started playing, it totally made sense -- it didn't feel out of place at all and was uplifting! I think it might be the first time I've ever considered a theme song having its own story arc as I watched a series.

Star Trek: Voyager (Jerry Goldsmith).
While the series had its ups and downs, one thing that I loved about VOY without reservation was the theme and especially the great performances from the brass. I think it's my favorite of the original Trek TV show theme songs -- I like the theme for TNG too, but like the article says, it wasn't written specifically for the TV show. I am surprised that TOS didn't make it on the list.

Seconding Muncle on Won't You Be My Neighbor? from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and adding It's Such a Good Feeling (his snaps after "snappy new day"!), both by Fred Rogers. A neat thing is that these weren't pre-recorded themes edited in for each episode, IIRC, so they were different renditions as the series progressed and we saw Mr Rogers and the cast get older. Johnny Costa's backing band was excellent (I loved that this show had jazz performers) and it is amazing to me that Mr Rogers and the band performed the music live for the tapings.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 11:55 PM on May 31 [6 favorites]


The Stranger Things theme is curiously absent, as it has inspired several remixes and a few articles in the music press about the synthwave genre.
posted by Svejk at 12:33 AM on June 1 [1 favorite]


Svejk: Yeah, Stranger Things is definitely distinctive -- for me it feels very unsettling, with terror just around the corner. I suppose I wouldn't want to listen to it on a regular playlist, but it definitely makes for an effective series theme.

If we're including TV miniseries, that opens up a lot more possibilities. A couple of my faves:

The Civil War (Ashokan Farewell by Jay Ungar) (with Molly Mason on guitar). Okay, okay, I know this wasn't written for the show, but I have to mention this one from the Ken Burns documentary. It's such a remarkable composition on its own and another piece that stops me in my tracks -- it fit in so seamlessly with the content of the program.

Anne of Green Gables (Hagood Hardy). From the Kevin Sullivan adaptation (IIRC this is the version used in the end credits of the sequel miniseries). The waltz-time theme is so lovely, and the music in general was a really memorable part of the series for me. Years ago when I realized I could find and buy hard-to-find music from the Internet, this soundtrack was one of the CDs I looked for.

...And a few more relatively recent non-miniseries themes (at least, compared to the many on the list) -- yeah they might not be in the top 50 all-time popular themes, but I still like them:

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (Greg J Walker) (extended version). 1920s dance party time!

Monk - season 1 (Jeff Beal) (links to pilot version). The series had had two different main themes, and each won an Emmy (I wonder how often that's been done?). The season 1 theme (my favorite of the two) was a jazzy upbeat instrumental with acoustic guitar and bass. It's a Jungle Out There (Randy Newman) was the the lively theme starting in season 2.

Lark Rise to Candleford (Julian Nott). Gentle folky tune. I especially enjoy how the meter changes in this.

Foyle's War (Jim Parker). The woodwind-focused arrangement was distinctive for a TV theme; sort of reminds me of the adagio melody solo in Bizet's Symphony in C.

Vera (Ben Bartlett). Another unsettling type of theme to me, sort of like trouble brewing. Very fitting for a detective/crime show. It feels like a quiet, unassuming theme at first but then seems to seep in, especially that bubbling synth. When I first watched a season of this, I was surprised that the theme music got caught in my head for a very long time.

Bletchley Circle (Nick Green). Interesting on its own -- the addition of the machine sounds made it even better, I think, regardless of whether they were authentic or not (the title sequence shows what appears to be a Bombe machine and Enigma machines).

I could list more, but I'll stop now. :)
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 1:25 AM on June 1 [4 favorites]


Okay I lied -- one more this morning. I just remembered the wonderful tango music of Mystery! (Normand Roger) accompanying Edward Gorey art on PBS. My favorite rendition was the version that started with the piano.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 1:58 AM on June 1 [6 favorites]


Other people have pointed out the terrible omission of The Prisoner, so everything is okay now. Whew!! Some of my other favorites that weren't included (and haven't been mentioned yet):
GaoGaiGar
Hajime No Ippo season 3
Cromartie High School
Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex
Granada's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Snuff Box
Starsky & Hutch
posted by heatvision at 3:59 AM on June 1 [1 favorite]


Much as I love Cheers, that themesong gets annoying around the 10th repeat of the day.

Stop doing that then.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 4:53 AM on June 1


Disappointed in my fellow Canadians for not mentioning KIng of Kensington.
posted by rocket88 at 9:00 AM on June 1 [3 favorites]


TV Themes that 'made the charts' (Billboard)
  • 1955* Happy Days (Rock Around the Clock) -- Bill Haley #1 (Singles)
  • 1959 Peter Gunn -- Ray Anthony #8 (Hot 100)
  • 1961 Bonanza -- Al Caiola #19 (Hot 100)
  • 1962 Ben Casey -- Valjean #10 (AC)
  • 1962 Dr. Kildare (Three Stars Will Shine Tonight) -- Richard Chamberlain #10 (Hot 100)
  • 1963 Beverly Hillbillies (The Ballad of Jed Clampett) -- Flatt & Scruggs #1 (Country)
  • 1963 Fireball XL5 (Fireball) -- Don Spencer #32 (UK Singles)
  • 1966 Secret Agent -- Johnny Rivers #3 (Hot 100)
  • 1966 Batman -- The Marketts #17 (Hot 100)
  • 1968 Mission: Impossible -- Lalo Schifrin #41 (Hot 100)
  • 1968* The Wonder Years (With a Little Help From My Friends) -- Joe Cocker #68 (Hot 100)
  • 1969 Hawaii Five-O -- The Ventures #4 (Hot 100)
  • 1969 Here Comes the Brides (Seattle) -- Perry Como #38 (Hot 100)
  • 1972 All in the Family (Those Were the Days) -- ‘The Bunkers’ #30 (AC)
  • 1975 The Rockford Files -- Mike Post # 10 (Hot 100)
  • 1976 S.W.A.T. -- Rhythm Heritage #1 (Hot 100)
  • 1976 Baretta (Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow) -- Rhythm Heritage #20 (Hot 100)
  • 1976 Happy Days -- Pratt & McClain #5 (Hot 100)
  • 1976 Laverne & Shirley (Making Our Dreams Come True) -- Cyndi Grecco #25 (Hot 100)
  • 1976 Welcome Back, Kotter (Welcome Back) -- John Sebastian #1 (Hot 100)
  • 1976***The Young and the Restless (Nadia's Theme) -- Barry De Vorzon & Perry Botkin, Jr. #8 (Hot 100)
  • 1977 Charlie's Angels -- Henry Mancini #22 (AC)
  • 1977 Starsky & Hutch -- Rhythm Heritage #93 R&B)
  • 1978* Bossom Buddies (My Life) -- Billy Joel #2 (AC)
  • 1978** Golden Girls (Thank You For Being A Friend) -- Andrew Gold #25 (Hot 100)
  • 1979 Makin' It -- David Naughton #5 (Hot 100)
  • 1979 Angie (Different Worlds) -- Maureen McGovern #18 (Hot 100)
  • 1980 The Dukes of Hazzard (Good Ol' Boys) -- Waylon Jennings #1 (Country)
  • 1980 The Love Boat -- Jack Jones #37 (AC)
  • 1980 Shogun (Love theme) -- Meco #70 (Hot 100)
  • 1981 WKRP in Cincinnati -- Steve Carlisle #29 (AC)
  • 1981 Hill Street Blues -- Mike Post #10 (Hot 100)
  • 1981 Greatest American Hero (Believe It or Not) -- Joey Scarbury #2 (Hot 100)
  • 1982 Dynasty -- Bill Conti #18 (AC)
  • 1982 Magnum P.I. -- Mike Post #25 (Hot 100)
  • 1983 Cheers (Where Everybody Knows Your Name) -- Gary Portnoy #28 (AC)
  • 1984 St. Elsewhere -- Dave Grusin #15 (AC)
  • 1985 Miami Vice -- Jan Hammer #1 (Hot 100)
  • 1987 Moonlighting -- Al Jarreau #23 (Hot 100)
  • 1987 Another World -- Gary Morris & Crystal Gayle #4 (Country)
  • 1988 L.A. Law -- Mike Post #13 (AC)
  • 1989 Growing Pains (As Long as We Got Each Other) -- Steve Dorff #7 (AC)
  • 1990 Twin Peaks (Falling) -- Julee Cruise #11 (Alt)
  • 1992 The Heights (How Do You Talk to an Angel) -- The Heights #1 (Hot 100)
  • 1993 Cops (Bad Boys) -- Inner Circle #8 (Hot 100)
  • 1995 Friends (I'll Be There for You) -- The Rembrandts #1 (Radio)
  • 1996 Party of Five (Closer to Free) -- Bodeans #16 (Hot 100)
  • 1998 Ally McBeal (Searchin' My Soul) -- Vonda Shepard #16 (Radio)
  • 1998 House (Teardrop) -- Massive Attack #10 (Bubbling)
  • 1998 The X-Files -- Mark Snow #45 (Dance)
  • 2000 The Sopranos (Woke Up This Morning) -- A3 #11 (AdtAlt)
  • 2001 Smallville (Save Me) -- Remy Zero #27 (Alt)
  • 2001 Malcom in the Middle (Boss of Me) -- They Might Be Giants #40 (AC)
  • 2004 Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (All Things (Just Keep Getting Better)) -- Widelife #5 (Dance)
  • 2006 Hannah Montana (Best of Both Worlds) -- Hannah Montana #64 (Digital)
  • 2008 iCarly (Leave It to Me) -- Miranda Cosgrove #100 (Hot 100)
  • 2014 Orange Is the New Black (You've Got Time) Regina Spektor #15 (Hot Singles)
  • 2015 The Ellen DeGeneres Show (Today's the Day) P!nk #20 (Digital)
*Sorry to start out with a ringer. Several times, a show copped a classic song (sometimes re-recording it) that had been a hit years earlier for nostalgia purposes. They are all starred (*).

** A hit for composer Andrew Gold in 1978, it was re-recorded for the show with vocals by Cynthia Fee.

***This had been used in the film Bless The Beasts and Children (1971). Bonus Factoid: if you take the pianist's right hand to be the melody, this is the third-slowest pop song ever.

NB: In many cases, the 'hit record' is not the same performance (or even the same artist) as that used on the teevy show each week. Beverly Hillbillies, Batman, Hawaii Five-O, and All In The Family themes definitely were not.

No doubt this list is not comprehensive. It includes only one UK hit and none from the movies (eg Unchained Melody, Magnificent Seven, Hang 'em High, The Morning After (Poseidon Adventure), etc.)

Waddya want -- blood?
 
posted by Herodios at 10:12 AM on June 1 [5 favorites]


I assume Speed Racer is somewhere on the list?
posted by Room 641-A at 10:17 AM on June 1 [1 favorite]




Which I believe has the genius title "Having an Average Weekend."
posted by clavicle at 10:37 AM on June 1 [2 favorites]


No Green Acres? It must be hard for people who write lists on the internet to be wrong all the time.
posted by zeusianfog at 10:51 AM on June 1 [3 favorites]


No doubt this list is not comprehensive.

No, but it's really good. I would add:
  • 1971 Gilmore Girls (Where You Lead) - Barbra Streisand #3 (Adult Contemporary)
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:55 AM on June 1


Back when rocks were soft, dinosaurs played mellotrons, and the idea that a dumb hollywood actor could become president was literally a joke, radio and teevy stations were required to use a percentage of their air for programming (now called content) in the public interest. This generally involved arts and 'public affair's chat shows, run between 3 and 6 am in the morning.

In the late 1970s I was involved with (among other things) producing some of these shows, and of course, each show needed theme music. We used a library of, eh, library music (also called production music or stock music), anonymous, pre-paid, uncredited music created for this purpose (also apparently, for porn flix, but I digress).

We pulled this disco-with-strings theme as outro music for some pubic affairs chat show, slapped our credits VO on it, and it was duly buried in the local classical music station's sunday night graveyard shift. The track was called something like "Come Fly With Me", or "Fly With Me Now", or "Mud in Your Eye" -- obviously to match the tune's repeated four note theme.

A few years later, a dumb hollywood actor became president, the bottom dropped out of nearly everything that didn't serve somebody's bottom line, radio stations no longer need public affairs programming, and I moved on to something else.

Imagine my surprise when five or six years after that, the very same track became the ubiquitous outro music for Robin Leach's execrable Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Pretty sure it didn't chart, but if you were around then, you know it.

It's usually attributed to Bill Conti (Rocky theme), but the copyright is shared by Conti and Michael Karp, who's created scores of scores of library music.
 
posted by Herodios at 10:59 AM on June 1 [5 favorites]


The Gilmore Girls theme is the original Carole King version, so I don't think you should count the Babs version as an example of a theme song that charted.
posted by zeusianfog at 11:14 AM on June 1


That's a horrible copy of "This is the theme to Gary's Show", linked in the article. The Gary Shandling Show theme song will never, ever leave my brain. If anyone can find a link to a better copy, I would love to have it.

Also: I knew someone on Metafilter would have already linked to Sesame Street's Funky Chimes version. Kind of the best music on TV when I was wee.
posted by EinAtlanta at 12:49 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]


Side by Side of the Hart to Hart intro and parody

Maybe I'm mistaken but didn't Max also mention Freeway (the Hart's dog) during the intro?
posted by Flashman at 5:04 PM on June 1


I wish I could read the list.

No, but as a tween in the 70's, I was so enraptured by TV themes that I used to record them off the TV. I think I had a half dozen cassettes at one point.

Me too. I used to set up the recorder and make sure I got all of them. A sign of things to come.

No Bob Newhart, no Taxi? NO AVENGERS?

The Avengers is the greatest theme song ever, for the greatest TV show ever, so this must be a parody list of some kind.
posted by bongo_x at 5:43 PM on June 1




I could never get the Buffy the Vampire theme song out of my head.
posted by eye of newt at 7:25 PM on June 1 [2 favorites]


250+ comments and no mention of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends? Only a minute long, it's a triumph of sound-design -- that looming orchestral tune-up bleeding into the sound of some fantastic circus contraption firing up, with airy calliopes, bursts of steam, turnstile ratchets, and the ringing of midway games. And then at the climax it just explodes into a raucous, joyful earworm of a tune on ragtime piano and krazy kazoos. It's delightful, best since The Jetsons.

Also, my vote for Best Podcast Theme (now that the original MeFi Podcast intro is defunct): the irrepresible jingle for Jon Lovett's Keepin' It 1600 spin-off Lovett or Leave It by the band Sure Sure. "Straight shoo-tah... respected by both sides!"
posted by Rhaomi at 9:39 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


Which reminded me of a track I used on a podcast, which I subsequently discovered had been a theme for a Brazilian broadcast, and which is very catchy indeed.

Took me some time to track it down, though, as all I could remember of it was that it came from a CD called something like Moon Harps And Orbiphones. Actual CD title - Orbitones, Spoon Harps and Bellowphones, so that was a chunk of Sunday morning gone...

Worth it, though. Uakti - Arrumação (Straightening Up)
posted by Devonian at 8:02 AM on June 4


I'm late to this party but can I nominate Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures as having the worst theme music? It's like a Maoist proclamation set to bad dance music.

The Pac is back!
Ghosts [are] chomping at his feet!
He is our hero!
Pac cannot be beat!

posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:58 PM on June 4 [1 favorite]


I notice nobody has mentioned Seinfeld yet. I'll even let the horrid Frasier on the list if it means I can save my veto for Seinfeld.

A bunch of musicians I knew in the 80s used to just tear up the Barney Miller theme for extended amounts of time as a warmup exercise before shows. That is so obviously #1 I think they just didn't put it there on purpose to generate outrage clicks.
posted by ctmf at 11:51 PM on June 4 [3 favorites]


This article is EXTREMELY relevant to my interests, thank you.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:50 PM on June 8


You are all correct! I will bring Johnny Staccato by Elmer Bernstein to the YouTube hole we'll all be in this weekend...
posted by mimi at 8:13 AM on June 16


Jeez, what kept Greatest American Hero out of #1? That song was everywhere. Ah, it was "Endless Love," another song you couldn't get away from back then.

Sharing in the Mike Post love, I give you: Richie Brockelman, Private Eye

I think the guitar version of The Munsters is the best.
posted by rhizome at 11:43 AM on June 18


The theme song to Star Wolf (aka Fugitive Alien, aka "He Tried To Kill Me With A Forklift"), is actually pretty awesome in full. Also great, but not heard on MST, is the end theme -- give it a minute.

Also, there are places online where if you just write We... alone on a line, someone's bound to continue it with ...are the Crystal Gems...
posted by JHarris at 8:06 AM on June 23


Oh, if we're on to guitar versions now, here's The Shadows' take on the Thunderbirds theme.
posted by Grangousier at 11:10 AM on June 23


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