Tv Themes
October 22, 2003 3:23 PM   Subscribe

Memorable TV themes A short but interesting rumination. Blissfully it mentions composers W. Snuffy Walden who along with Mike Post writes the best in the business. I haven't seen thirtysomething in years but I know Walden's tie-in CD inside out. What's your favourite TV theme?
posted by feelinglistless (55 comments total)
I was very taken with the score for Band of Brothers, the HBO series...
posted by tomcosgrave at 3:44 PM on October 22, 2003

Themesonline is a great resource for TV themes (and more), including my all-time favourite: Hawaii 5-0.

"There would be no 'Addams Family' feature film or no 'Mission: Impossible' feature films if the shows from which the movies were spun off hadn't had recognizable and popular television themes," Burlingame said.

Hardly a compelling argument for catchy TV themes ;)
posted by filmgoerjuan at 3:45 PM on October 22, 2003

Here we are, face to face, a couple of...

Sometimes the world looks perfect, nothing to rearrange...

You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have...

Show me that smile again...

Maybe the world is blind, or just a little unkind, don't know...

I bet we've been together for a million years...

Come and knock on our door...
posted by linux at 3:50 PM on October 22, 2003

The Munsters. Everywhere I go, I hear the Munsters theme song. Not the whole thing. Just the opening riffs. Every fucking day. All fucking day. I whistle it unconsciously as I walk down the halls. I mutter it to myself while I cook pasta. [singing]It takes over, the rhythm of my speech, and makes me, sound like an idiot....[/singing]
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:55 PM on October 22, 2003

Believe it or not, I'm walking on air,
never thought i could feel so
or any Norman Lear show (Jeffersons, Maude, All in the Family) or One Day at a Time : >

I can't think of single current theme song that stays with me, except for spongebob.

and on preview, what linux said.
posted by amberglow at 3:56 PM on October 22, 2003

Bonanza. Enough said.
posted by rushmc at 4:09 PM on October 22, 2003

I'd include all the great non-lyrical themes, but I don't know how to write music in ASCII (or even in... uh... music).

My friends and I pass the long road trip hours trying to stump each other on theme songs.

Doing Knightrider is a challenge.
posted by linux at 4:19 PM on October 22, 2003

I'm with jon. If I could find that theme for my cell phone ringer, i'd do it in a heartbeat.

Bonanza also rules.
posted by nath at 4:20 PM on October 22, 2003

All In the Family, definitely. Archie and Edith at the piano.
Second place goes to its cousin, Family Guy. Peter and Lois at the piano.

I think the first one I really remember noticing was the theme from Twin Peaks, though.
posted by emelenjr at 4:23 PM on October 22, 2003

Doctor Who
Speed Racer
The Prisoner
The Avengers
Cowboy Bebop
The Price is Right
Hawaii 5-O
Mission: Impossible
Star Blazers
and probably about a half dozen others I can't think of at the moment
posted by davros42 at 4:32 PM on October 22, 2003

The runners-up:

1. Punky Brewster
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
3. A-Team
4. Perfect Strangers
5. The Bill Cosby Show (1969-1971, check it out on themesonline)
6. Dr. Who
7. The Price Is Right

The clear winner:

Night Court.
posted by rxrfrx at 4:33 PM on October 22, 2003

Jonny Quest, that's the one I knew I was forgetting.
posted by davros42 at 4:38 PM on October 22, 2003

Honorable Mentions:

.....(why isn't this show in more reruns?)


...(a great closing theme with the most unintelligible lyrics of all time)


...(possibly the most underrated show of the 70's)

I am so much a product of my 70's tykedom..

and, of course... Sadly, that last is a memorial tribute...
posted by jonmc at 5:09 PM on October 22, 2003

Love. Exciting and new. Come aboard. We're expecting you...

In addition to the above listed non-lyrical classics:

Falcon Crest
North & South I
Magnum, PI
The Rockford Files
Black Sheep Squadron
posted by linux at 5:12 PM on October 22, 2003

Barney Miller. Hated the show as a kid. Couldn't get the theme song outta my head, though. The Flinstones had a catchy tune, too.
posted by sharpener at 5:21 PM on October 22, 2003

oh yeah! What's Happening!!! Hey hey hey and thanks for reminding me, jon. We should include Fat Albert too. : >

I've heard that it's much harder to sell hour-long dramas for syndication than comedies, so White Shadow may never be seen...I'd love to see St. Elsewhere again.
posted by amberglow at 5:23 PM on October 22, 2003

Barney Miller. Hated the show as a kid.

What were you, a little tiny communist? That show gave us the glory that is Jack Soo and Abe Vigoda.

Amber: Fat Albert, possibly the coolest being to ever appear on TV. Good call.
posted by jonmc at 5:24 PM on October 22, 2003

Bonanza. Enough said.

Bonanza in German. More than enough said.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:33 PM on October 22, 2003

Oh fudge, April Winchell says that isn't kosher.

Go to, multimedia, and search for bonanza.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:34 PM on October 22, 2003

The Bill Cosby Show

I drove my parents nuts trying to "sing" this one.....

"Whooo, Lord....gonna get me some raggots and rolls and rizzamyers, ha ha ha.....hkky burr!"

They don't write 'em like that anymore.
posted by Oriole Adams at 5:37 PM on October 22, 2003

When I was a kid, I always liked the Taxi theme. I can't be the only one.
posted by funkbrain at 5:50 PM on October 22, 2003

Barney Miller. Hated the show as a kid.

What were you, a little tiny communist? That show gave us the glory that is Jack Soo and Abe Vigoda.

I said as a kid. Cripes, I was only 6 or 7 years old. My dad would watch it and, being a young 'un, most of it was over my head. Loved watching reruns when I was in high school.
posted by sharpener at 5:58 PM on October 22, 2003

Well, thank goodness. High school saved you from life as a fucking Bolshevik.
posted by jonmc at 6:06 PM on October 22, 2003

I don't know about my favourite, but the one that I notice a lot is the Lost in Space theme. Every time the Simpsons come on.
posted by dg at 6:21 PM on October 22, 2003

Just in case you haven't read them before, here's the story behind the lyrics to the Star Trek theme. Yes, it works better as "poo-WOOOOOOO-woo, wuh-woo, woo-wooooooo..."
posted by yhbc at 6:43 PM on October 22, 2003

The other day I was walking around singing The Addams Family theme for some reason. So it must be memorable. According to Rhino Reocrds, the Top 40 TV themes are these. I think they should have included "Suicide Is Painless" from M*A*S*H (although that may be considered a movie theme, not TV), and the great Sanford & Son theme by Quincy Jones. A nice collection, though, with John Sebastian, Jose Feliciano, Henry Mancini, Waylon Jennings, and Flatt & Scruggs, among others.

If you listen to Spinner Radio's TV Tunes channel, you can hear these things all day long.
posted by LeLiLo at 6:56 PM on October 22, 2003

For a killer version of the I Love Lucy theme, check out the Jam Miami CD.
posted by LeLiLo at 6:59 PM on October 22, 2003

The theme from S.W.A.T has my vote, closely followed by Hawaii 5-0
posted by L. Ron McKenzie at 7:00 PM on October 22, 2003

I'm surprised nobody's mentioned the theme from Peter Gunn.
posted by TimeFactor at 7:45 PM on October 22, 2003

1. CHiPs
2. A-Team
3. Boston Public
4. Hill St Blues
5. Law & Order

The game show themes are great, especially from the Carter years.
posted by PrinceValium at 8:32 PM on October 22, 2003

This page of Canadian TV theme songs is 404, but the links still work: Littlest Hobo, Beachcombers, Mr Dressup, Polka Dot Door, etc.
posted by todd at 9:15 PM on October 22, 2003

I always liked the Taxi theme. I can't be the only one.

I think that song was on one of Bob James's albums before it was used as a theme for the show, so it might not count.
posted by kindall at 9:56 PM on October 22, 2003

Chuck D and G-Wiz wrote the thrilling Dark Angel theme.

Best opening credits for any TV show, in my opinion.
posted by emf at 10:03 PM on October 22, 2003

Man, many boring bus tours spent playing the TV theme show game.

Incidentally. Rob Reiner is one of the all-time champions of TV-theme-songery, if I may coagulate so ugly a word.

My Favorite Martian
I Dream of Genie (Both Themes!)
Lost in Space (Both Themes!)
Johnny Quest, (nothing better)
Mannix (roX0rs!)
Cheers (Regrettable, yet unforgettable)
And the closing theme of Dobie Gillis is smooth jazzy vocal goodness at its best.
posted by umberto at 10:23 PM on October 22, 2003

A few gems still unmentioned

Amazing Stories
Battlestar Galactica
Buck Rogers in the 24th Century (including cheesy song at end credits)
Charlie's Angels
The Fall Guy
Kids in the Hall
LA Law
Perry Mason
Remington Steele
Tale Spin
Trapper John, MD
Wild, Wild West
Wonder Woman
posted by linux at 11:02 PM on October 22, 2003

I'm with jonmc on Sanford & Son. In my opinion, the entire top 5 belongs to Sanford & Son because it's far and away the cooles, grooviest TV theme ever. Also, and I have field tested this theory, humming the theme to Sanford & Son increases your basketball shooting percentage by at least 20%.

Down at number 6, we have UFO.
posted by Ty Webb at 11:28 PM on October 22, 2003

I remember a show called Medical Center that had a really weird theme. Don't ever remember watching teh show, but theme sure stuck in my head.

I also remember seeing that Mancini fellow's name a lot, as a wee disciple at the blue glow altar.

Branded, if nothing else for all it's tremendous permutations sung faithfully by fourth grade boys.

If I had to pick though it would be all the themes from that genre that gave us Underdog, Go-Go Gophers, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Tennessee Tuxedo, Fractured Fairy Tales, The World of Commander McBragg, etc., etc. Mad geniuses, all.
posted by dglynn at 11:33 PM on October 22, 2003

the themes from The Incredible Hulk and Night Gallery
posted by shoos at 11:52 PM on October 22, 2003

Doctor Who (personal fave)
Bonanza (historical fave)
The Twilight Zone (did'ja know? fave)
Cheers (sentimental fave)
Law & Order (most adaptable fave)
Jeopardy (most overused fave)

And my awards for "most captures the decade":
50's: I Love Lucy
60's: I Dream of Jeannie
70's: All in the Family
80's: Miami Vice
90's: Beverly Hills, 90210

To be honest, the 90's were an awful bunch to choose from, mainly due to the dominance of radio-hits theme songs and teen-appeal. Friends could just as easily be swapped.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:25 AM on October 23, 2003

First, I second rxrfrx's list. Except I would replace Night Court with Twin Peaks, and add:

The Simpsons
Golden Girls (which, if you haven't sung it karaoke, you haven't lived)
Nickelodeon's Roundhouse
posted by grrarrgh00 at 5:27 AM on October 23, 2003

Ah, Mission: Impossible. That 5/4 groove over the visual of a perfectly good reel-to-reel tape recorder burning up...good stuff. (Destroying data was so much more cinematic in the analog days.)

Also, lelilo, re: I Love Lucy -- I happen to have that theme song on an old 78 and the flip side has the same song, but with Desi singing lyrics:

I love Lucy and she loves me
We're as happy as we can be
We have our troubles, but then
How we love making up again!

Ooh la la!!!!!!
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 5:31 AM on October 23, 2003

Whoops, google trumps memory yet again.
We have our troubles
Sometimes we quarrel but then
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 5:35 AM on October 23, 2003

Gigantor and Lidsville and HR Pufnstuf too (oh, and the old Spiderman theme--spiderman, spiderman, does whatever a spider can....)
posted by amberglow at 5:41 AM on October 23, 2003

I'm partial to theme songs that are contained within other shows...

Lemming, Lemming, Lemming of the BDA....
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:21 AM on October 23, 2003

Uh, Ty-coolest, grooviest theme EVER is from The Mod Squad, actually (what time signature is that? 5/6?). Followed by The Streets of San Francisco (When the bass kicks in?- Pure BAD-ASS)
And I'd like to add Space 1999 (First Season)
I used to play the theme from The State at window-shattering volume. Ghad-that ruled!
Also, I should mention The Jetsons, because it is a complex and amazing piece of music and The Courtship of
Eddie's Father-'cause it makes me smile.
posted by black8 at 8:10 AM on October 23, 2003

Dukes of Hazzard. Waylon Jennings' finest hour.
posted by COBRA! at 8:20 AM on October 23, 2003

Oh, and I forgot King of the Hill, by the ever quirky Refreshments.

And I'll second the Kids in the Hall theme, too.
posted by dglynn at 8:27 AM on October 23, 2003

Sledge Hammer. Pure listening enjoyment.
posted by beatnik808 at 9:41 AM on October 23, 2003

Perry Mason
Rockford Files
Twin Peaks

They all bring back moods, feelings, moments in time like hearing the song that you and your girlfriend always danced to at the junior hight school dances does.

Good times, Good times
posted by drinkmaildave at 10:27 AM on October 23, 2003

Surprised no one has mentioned Northern Exposure yet. (Who woulda thunk bongos, bass guitar, accordion, and harmonica could make a great theme?)

I can't think of single current theme song that stays with me, except for spongebob.

Yep, current shows seem to be well below par on average...hard to think of any good ones. I'd have to say the best current ones are Survivor (for themes without lyrics) and Malcolm in the Middle (for those with... "Yes, no, maybe, I don't know, could you repeat the question?")
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:34 AM on October 23, 2003

Barretta! Barretta!

I like to sing the non lyrical Survivor theme as - "Oh we oh we oh we oh we oh e dip dip dip" really loud whenever anyone has the temerity to bring the show up in conversation. That scares 'em.
posted by rainbaby at 4:00 PM on October 23, 2003

I can't believe I'm contributing to this thread, but it's been a harsh week and I feel like being a moron:

Hill Street Blues: Mike Post's signature instrumental theme.

Incredible Hulk: "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry" - I love both the intro and outro music to this show so much, I'm afraid to see the movie. Does it suck?

(tie) Barney Miller intro/WKRP outro: one an instrumental bass solo, the other a vocal with no lyrics.

Animaniacs: Actually not just the main theme- also include "Pinky & The Brain" (to prove their mousy worth, they'll overthrow the Earth!) and Chicken Boo.

The Rockford Files: My little brother and I stayed up late on school nights to groove on that theme before bedtime.

Sadly, though, "CSI: Miami", "Charmed", "That 70's Show", and even "Malcolm in the Middle" just freak me out a little- even "Masterpiece Theater" just seems wrong.

sunny day-
sweepin' the
clouds away-
on my way
to where the
is sweet...

posted by obloquy at 10:10 PM on October 23, 2003

The Rockford Files: My little brother and I stayed up late on school nights to groove on that theme before bedtime.

You reminded me: my older brother and I were allowed to stay up only until Doris Day's Que Sera was over. (her theme song--i think the show was on too late or over our heads--probably format 4) We would go to sleep with that in our heads.
posted by amberglow at 5:08 AM on October 24, 2003

Excellent thread, people, thanks to you all. Thought I'd better submit my list...

Buffy: The Vampire Slayer
My So-Called Life
Doctor Who (original Delia Derbyshire mix)
Northern Exposure
Spring and Fall
Quantum Leap
Joking Apart
Grange Hill (Dunit-dun-noir)
Red Dwarf (It's cold outside, their's no kind of atmospere...)
This Life
posted by feelinglistless at 4:36 PM on October 24, 2003

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