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April 29, 2009 9:24 PM   Subscribe

TV-INTROS - Where all we care about is how the show starts.

Main Title Heaven

Paste Magazine's 40 Best TV Theme Songs of All Time

Previously | Via
posted by carsonb (60 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
What? No Mannix?

Otherwise? Awesome!
posted by Xoebe at 9:42 PM on April 29, 2009


Oh my God. Electric Company and Airwolf? The original 1980s TMNT intro? FUCKING THUNDERCATS?

BEST. POST. EVER.
posted by Effigy2000 at 9:43 PM on April 29, 2009


I found Mannix!
posted by Xoebe at 9:45 PM on April 29, 2009


Back in November of last year, one of the MetaFilter Music Challenges (I know, most of you don't know what I'm talking about, but bear with me) was to write a theme song for an imaginary television series. I think it would be appropriate to link to the results here:

That Guy In That Room (by flapjax at midnite)
Three-Camera Sitcom (by uncleozzy)
Brother North-Wind's Secret (by doubtfulpalace)
It's Jay! (by cortex)
and
Real Bad Dad (by dagosto)

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled FPP.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:47 PM on April 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


They don't have My World And Welcome To It (probably because nobody but me remembers a semi-animated sitcom based on Thurber panels), so here it is.
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 9:55 PM on April 29, 2009


Heh. You know what I love about the He-Man and the She-Ra intros? The fact that they're essentially the exact same intro except that they've changed everything from stereotypical boy interests to stereo-typical girl interests. Check it. He-Man gets;

1) A tiger as a steed
2) The beautiful sorceress as an all-knowing ally
3) The laser shootin', machine fixin' Man-At-Arms
4) An alien as comic relief
5) An inept Skeleton with a bunch of mutants as henchmen

Meanwhile, She-Ra gets;

1) A Unicorn
2) Shimmering light people as an all knowing ally
3) Madam Razz as the ugly, somewhat clumsy best friend who is useful to have around but isn't quite as good at anything as She-Ra
2) Hordak who is... well, I don't know what the fuck he is but he's clearly evil and so is that bitch who's with him. You just know it.

Meanwhile, their phrases to transform into their steroid-induced super-hero alter egos is "By the power of Grayskull!/I have the power!" for He-Man and "For the honor of Grayskull!/I am She-Ra!" Because clearly women can't have the power! They're all about honor and the defending of pretty Crystal Castles! Only men can have the power and get to defend cool old castles with a skull as the doorway!

Interesting to know that whoever the ancient prophets were that created the power swords of He-Man and She-Ra were all about gender roles. Or selling specific toys to boys and girls. I can't remember now which came first...

I loved me some He-Man as a kid, but the nostalgia value can only go so far as a jaded, cynical adult. Now when I see those cartoons, once I get past the nostalgia value I can't help but think 1) How conceited is He-Man to say he's THE most powerful man in the Universe. I mean, really? The WHOLE universe? How do you know? And 2) The dude's name is He-Man. Think about that for a second. He. Man. He AND Man. It's as if they decided they really needed to reinforce the fact that He-Man is a dude. What's He-Man so insecure about that he needs to remind us he's such a Man? Hmmm?

All that said, the Thundercats intro is still cool, no matter how old one gets and what decade they view it in. I will not hear a bad word against the Thundercats. Not one.
posted by Effigy2000 at 10:10 PM on April 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


BOO HISS! Babylon 5 had five different intro sequences, one for every year. Only the first season is represented. BOO HISS! And The Wire isn't on here at all, another show that had five different intro sequences, all featuring variations of Way Down In The Hole by Tom Waits. Hmph.

The Bablyon Project was our last, best hope for peace. It failed.
posted by WolfDaddy at 10:11 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I found Hordak endlessly fascinating. It's the what is he thing.
posted by grobstein at 10:11 PM on April 29, 2009


I think we can all agree that TV intros in the 70s and 80s set the gold standard. The A Team? Barney Miller? The Greatest American Hero? Dallas? Night Court? Thirty seconds of TV music gold, all of them. And that's just the tip of the icerberg.

In the 90s, however, this seemed to change and Hollywood got lazy with theme songs. The TV intro theme song is, sadly, a lot artform that only later generations will be able to mine the reason for its demise. Ironically, the TV intro's demise seems to have no correlation to quality...starting in the mid-late 90s, TV shows' quality generally started getting much better. But the songs still suck. Or are at the very least completely forgettable.
posted by zardoz at 10:13 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


WolfDaddy, I was going to say exactly the same thing about B5 - the theme and opening narration for the first season was also the worst of the five. Give me the season four or five opening credits any day!
posted by crossoverman at 10:15 PM on April 29, 2009


Now THAT is a barebones website....
posted by GavinR at 10:19 PM on April 29, 2009


The TV intro theme song is, sadly, a lot artform that only later generations will be able to mine the reason for its demise.

Eric Deggans blames Frasier.
posted by carsonb at 10:20 PM on April 29, 2009


No Call to Glory. They suck.
posted by ebarker at 10:26 PM on April 29, 2009


Bernt, I remember "My World And Welcome To It" very well, thank you. It introduced me to James Thurber's writings, which this one kid was surprised to discover were NOT sit-commy (MWAWTI was less sit-commy than most such shows those days, but there was no way they'd do pure Thurber on NBC).
posted by wendell at 10:28 PM on April 29, 2009


And I blame the demise of TV show themes on "Friends"... because nothing at all is better than "I'll Be There For You"...
posted by wendell at 10:29 PM on April 29, 2009


One more thing I must add: SUPERCAR!!!
posted by wendell at 10:34 PM on April 29, 2009


And I simply must add, that the Star Trek: Enterprise theme would have been so, so, so much better if they'd not used Faith of the Heart as the music. Visually, the intro is awesome... perfect even. But Faith of the Heart ruins it all, giving it almost some kind of 80s sitcom feel. Had they just thrown in a decent orchestral/instrumental piece... well, the show would still have been ass, but at least the intro would always have been remembered for being good.
posted by Effigy2000 at 10:49 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Eric Deggans blames Frasier.

What about Murphy Brown?
posted by scrowdid at 10:53 PM on April 29, 2009


Hey, I consider the theme to Fraser to be one of the better themes ever -- I still have the delightfully surreal lyrics memorized, and it's been off the air for how long?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:53 PM on April 29, 2009


Retrojunk.com has a lot of intros to old TV shows and you don't have to download anything onto your computer. They also have tons of old commercials and PSAs.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 10:55 PM on April 29, 2009


Just found a place that only has the audio, but of a bigger selection.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:06 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid, The Bill Cosby Show had the funkiest theme song around!
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:00 AM on April 30, 2009


Bazin weeps for this post, but then clicks through to watch Werewolf, and smiles.
posted by ford and the prefects at 12:29 AM on April 30, 2009


Oriole Adams, I hadn't heard that in decades, thanks for that! It was indeed the funkiest TV theme the world had ever heard up to that point. And maybe since.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:35 AM on April 30, 2009


"In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire... The A-Team."

BUH-BA-BA-BA
BUH BUH BUAH
BUH-BA-BA-BA
BUAH BUAH BUAH

***fires machine gun wildly, car flips over and explodes, no one gets hurt***
posted by Rangeboy at 2:47 AM on April 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


EmpressCallipygous's link has all the versions of MST3K! But still no Mannix, I'm afraid.
posted by TedW at 2:50 AM on April 30, 2009


Also, while Mark Snow's X-Files theme has been justly praised here and elsewhere, I think his theme for Millennium is just as good.
posted by Rangeboy at 3:08 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


It was on right during dinner or at bedtime or something, so I couldn't always watch it. But I never failed to make a point of watching the intro to MacGyver. And to sing along, naturally. dadadadada DA da da DA
posted by DU at 4:47 AM on April 30, 2009


MeFites who enjoyed this post might also enjoy my post from last year of 279 opening credit sequences from 80s TV shows.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:58 AM on April 30, 2009


Also, while Mark Snow's X-Files theme has been justly praised here and elsewhere, I think his theme for Millennium is just as good.

I love the lyrics for the X-Files theme, to which Mark Snow admitted in an interview:

"The X-Files is a show/with music by Mark Snow...."
posted by Lucinda at 5:17 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Space: 1999

Best. Opening. Music. Ever.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:31 AM on April 30, 2009


And I simply must add, that the Star Trek: Enterprise theme would have been so, so, so much better if they'd not used Faith of the Heart as the music. Visually, the intro is awesome... perfect even. But Faith of the Heart ruins it all, giving it almost some kind of 80s sitcom feel. Had they just thrown in a decent orchestral/instrumental piece... well, the show would still have been ass, but at least the intro would always have been remembered for being good.

Enterprise premiered on 25 September 2001, which is precisely the last time I heard the opening credits theme (save for the Mirror episodes). I am told they changed the arrangement of the song after the first or second year, but that only brings to mind the adage about turds and the polishing thereof. Once in a while I would be a bit slow on the draw with the mute or the fast forward and get "It's been a ---" before it disappeared, but in general, I have been innocent of it since four minutes into the first show.

And you are dead right about the visuals: I think if one could convey a message to the original Star trek fans forty years ago, they might be surprised to find that Star Trek was still on the air in the 21st century but flabbergasted to learn that the opening credits every week contained footage shot on another planet and the general public did not find it that noteworthy.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:44 AM on April 30, 2009


Hey, I consider the theme to Fraser to be one of the better themes ever -- I still have the delightfully surreal lyrics memorized, and it's been off the air for how long?

I think the point made by the Guy Who Blames Frasier was that the song was used in the closing credits, not the opening sequence (which, based on how long it takes to draw a stylized Seattle skyline, wasn't very long.)

Closing credits are a rare beast nowadays too, what with networks shoving them into a corner of the screen so they can run the same promos you've been seeing all evening, or your local news can start scaring you with teasers about SWINE FLU: COULD IT BE IN YOUR BACKYARD? But the opening themes are the most important thing. That's the best branding a show has, and the best link to memories. Ask someone if they remember an old television show, and chances are if they do, they'll start singing the theme.

(This is coming from the guy who collected the TV Tunes records as a kid.)
posted by Spatch at 6:04 AM on April 30, 2009


I found Mannix!

bastards~!...the Mannix theme is like the worst earworm I've ever had. Stays there for a month. I'm considering trying to work out a guitar arrangement just so I get sick of it and it goes away. Til then, its me and Mike Connors dammit.
posted by timsteil at 6:21 AM on April 30, 2009


Did anyone see the Lost titles last night? The Starship Enterprise flew out of the 'O'. What kind of bullshit was that? They're just going to have to take it out for the DVD.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:37 AM on April 30, 2009


The reason we don't hear opening/closing TV themes songs as much any more is simple: money.

Cable TV exploded in the late 80s/early 90s, and VHS (and later, DVD) rentals continued to skyrocket, so the networks found themselves hemmoraging audiences. In order to boost revenue, networks focused on squeezing in as many commericals into a show as possible.

The theme song used to be considered a critical part of branding a show, but as the pressure to add more commercials increased, it became viewed as expendable. Exec began to insist that theme songs get shorter and shorter, so the time saved could be transferred to advertisers. Thus, the highly-abbreviated or non-existent "theme songs" of today.
posted by magstheaxe at 6:55 AM on April 30, 2009


It's also the reason that an "hour" long show only contains between forty and forty-five minutes of actual show, and a "half hour" show contains around twenty-two minutes.
posted by magstheaxe at 6:57 AM on April 30, 2009


I saw it and was irritated, Champ. Lost is like religion for me and wife and we didn't need no Star Trek jumping all over it. even though it has sucked for two and a half seasons.
posted by Kwine at 6:59 AM on April 30, 2009


Also, Airwolf!
posted by Kwine at 6:59 AM on April 30, 2009


They had me at "Greatest American Hero"
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:10 AM on April 30, 2009


Modern TV themes that are original to the show (not just a Who song) are incredibly hard to come by. But I always sing along to The Big Bang Theory by Barenaked Ladies.
posted by ALongDecember at 7:39 AM on April 30, 2009


Freaks and Geeks!

Love this intro. This Joan Jett song is also 50x better in its truncated form than the full 4 minute record edit.
posted by JBennett at 7:53 AM on April 30, 2009


I think we can all agree that TV intros in the 70s and 80s set the gold standard. The A Team? Barney Miller? The Greatest American Hero? Dallas? Night Court? Thirty seconds of TV music gold, all of them. And that's just the tip of the icerberg.

And Hill Street Blues, the second Magnum P.I. theme (the one you all know), and as previously mentioned, the first Airwolf. It's amazing what an adrenaline response that theme could provoke in a young teenage boy. WKRP also a classic. And Rockford Files. Simon & Simon was ok.

For some reason, the theme to What's Happening!! haunted me for a good part of my childhood. I didn't remember the show, just the theme, and it drove me crazy. I think I may have watched it while sick with a fever. I associate it with delirium.

Good point about the Frasier theme. Never really thought about that.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:55 AM on April 30, 2009


the opening credits every week contained footage shot on another planet and the general public did not find it that noteworthy.

Hey, what now?? Is this like For Better or For Worse, where I miss the key interesting thing because I'm so turned off by the rest of the content to notice?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:05 AM on April 30, 2009


Whole Lalo Schifrin goin' on.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:14 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Simon & Simon was ok.

You misspelled awesome.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:16 AM on April 30, 2009


I have argued for years that whoever created the opening sequence for G.I. Joe (YouTube has the movie version) should be making advertisments for the real U.S. military. It's a brilliant bit of pro-military propaganda. I'm a long-haired middle-aged peacenik, but listening to that little "GI Joe is the codename for American's daring, highly trained special mission force" speech and the overly-heroic song lyrics still make me want to put on a uniform and punch a commie. Makes "Army of One" sound wussy in comparison.
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 8:16 AM on April 30, 2009


Yet another Cop Show, but the T. J. Hooker theme rocked in its time. One of those shows where you'd watch the first five minutes.

Room 222 gets points for being in 7/4.
posted by kurumi at 8:40 AM on April 30, 2009


Yeah ok, running it through my mental projector, it is a bit better than I gave it credit for. I think I am slightly biased by recent attempts to watch the show. Not as good as remembered. Oh well.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:46 AM on April 30, 2009


Since the "40 Best" link has Cheers at #1, it seems appropriate to point out the long version of the Cheers theme, shown as part of the 200th episode, which was not a traditional episode but rather Jim McLaughlin interviewing the cast, interspersed with clips from previous episodes.

...and your husband wants to be a girl.
Be glad there's one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name...

posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:14 AM on April 30, 2009


My favourite intro of all time is the one for TAXI. It was a nice little film about a melancholy cab grooving to some Bob James. The only problem is that it was followed by, well, TAXI.

And then there's M*A*S*H, with a beautiful instrumental of Johnny Mandel's "Suicide is Painless" -- my only beef being that awful cliché staccato bombast at the end.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:43 AM on April 30, 2009


The only problem is that it was followed by, well, TAXI.

Hey! I loved Taxi. Marilu Henner. Mmmm.

My vote for favorite TV intro goes to St. Elsewhere.
posted by Skot at 9:56 AM on April 30, 2009


Don't know why, but I can't get any of them to play for me (screen keeps getting hung up), so here's an alternate for one of the silliest theme songs ever, Land of the Lost, complete with the "AAAHHHHHHH!" scream.
posted by misha at 10:22 AM on April 30, 2009


Needs more KNIGHT RIDER!

...and DESIGNING WOMEN!

...and DUCK TALES!

...and FACTS OF LIFE!


Yeah, I kinda like these guys.
posted by orme at 10:28 AM on April 30, 2009


animal.

man.

animal. man.

animal, man, animal, man.

animalmananimalman!!!!

. . . MANIMAL.
posted by brain_drain at 10:36 AM on April 30, 2009


Enterprise would've been better if they'd used the "In A Mirror, Darkly" intro for the whole run of the show.
posted by Lucinda at 11:06 AM on April 30, 2009


mefi meetup primer
by me (believe it or not):

be sure to check the sidebar on metatalk because someone threw a party and invited everyone they knew from this site in your hometown and you may have missed it. the meetups allow you to put faces behind the where everybody knows your screen name. human contact is the reason that everything happens at a mefi meetup. as is true when posting to metafilter itself, the atmosphere at most meetups is about keeping your head above water, making a wave when you can.

one need not be be shy about meeting so many other mefites. indeed, i used to be sad, used to be shy, but i quickly found out mefites are generally more understanding in person. unless, of course, you are some wallflower who cries out "go on with your own life, leave me alone" at a mefi meetup! you better leave your cares behind about working, whether it be at the us treasury or schlemeel, schlemazel, hasenfeffer inc. just make the most of this beautiful day with the other mefites who have gathered together in one spot. you may even find love that will be together forever for good at a mefi meetup. obviously, this is not a given as all love requires that you two be the luckiest dreamers who never quit dreaming.

as matters of courtesy, if you sign up to a mefi meetup we're expecting you to show up. yet, there are always people who say they will show and don't, it seems that you can't be sure of anything anymore. luckily, the people who flake out are usually offset by those who are gonna make it after all. if you are the first arrival at the place, do make sure to turn on the light.
posted by the aloha at 11:57 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can I use this opportunity to post the most awesome lip sync to Growing Pains ever?
posted by ALongDecember at 12:31 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The made-up themesong competition reminded me of Deadly Avenger's Straight To Video compilation. But instead of making up new songs to imaginary shows, most of the tracks are new songs inspired by existing movies.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:00 PM on April 30, 2009


Mary Tyler Moore locations in Minneapolis, for those who want to play along.

With a few inaccuracies -- the Kowalski's store in the link would have been a Red Owl thirty years ago.
posted by gimonca at 8:42 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


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