Monday, January 23, 2006

These are a few of my favourite (TV) themes

Over at http://kenlevine.blogspot.com sitcom scriptwriting legend Ken Levine has been extolling the virtues of great TV theme tunes - and bemoaning the lack of them on recent shows. He argues they provide instant recognition, can help establish the theme of the show and even become crossover hits (and marketing tools as a consequence). All good points. Of course, it's also worth noting that Ken was a significant writer on Frasier, one of the first shows to turn the opening sequence into a blipvert.

Here is Ken's list of his favourite top 10 TV themes (in no particular order):
MASH; PETER GUN; CHEERS; WELCOME BACK KOTTER; DICK VAN DYKE SHOW; MIAMI VICE; DREW CAREY SHOW; MR. LUCKY; MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW; TOP CAT

I love the theme for Peter Gunn but have never seen the show that goes with it. Sadly, I've never seen an episode of The (original) Dick Van Dyke Show, only The New Dick Van Dyke Show [TV show titles - they just don't make them like they used to, eh?]. And who or what the hell was Mr. Lucky? Otherwise, all top choices and several of those would have been on my list too. We've been watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show on DVD as a palette cleanser between TV dramas on DVD lately. I'd love to know who was the old woman in the headscarf who gives Mary the evil eye at the end of the title sequence, as Mary flings a knitted wool hat in the air [can't say I blame her, that hat does nothing for her].

Anyway, just for fun, here's my list of top 10 favourites TV themes in alphabetical order, illustrated by DVD covers [where I could find them]:
THE AVENGERS: Bombastic, groovy and dripping with cool. A classic theme for a classic show, this one can sustain almost any attempt to rearrange it.
BARNEY MILLER: I loved this US cop sitcom and it's them is a gem: starts off cool but builds into a big funk-o-tronic groove-fest. Must buy this on DVD one of these days.
DOCTOR WHO: Come on, you just knew this had to be on the list, didn't you? Scared the bojangles out of me when I was a nipper. Creepy, spooky, like no sound you've ever heard before. Perfect summation of a great programme.
THE FLINTSTONES: Everybody sing along! Flitnstones, meet the Flintstones, they're the modern stone-age family! From the town of Bedrock, they're are... oh, you know the rest.
HAWAII 5-0: One of those themes you can start humming and everybody instinctively knows it, even if they've never watched a whole episode of the show. Best appearance: as the American national anthem in 'The Dish'.
INSPECTOR MORSE: Another inevitable inclusion, especially since I've been listening to it non-stop during revisions of the Morse reference book. Oozes class and generated a Top 5 album in the UK.
THE MOD SQUAD: Imagine if the Doors and the Monkees got together to write a TV theme for a cop show - this would be the result. This show doesn't seem to have been released on DVD, its prospects no doubt sunk by the bomb that was the 1999 Mod Squad movie. Shame, as The Mod Squad also had a cracking title sequence too.
THE PROFESSIONALS: Like Shaft, only white. Full of the obligatory 70s porn funk factor and wah-wah guitar all law and order shows from that decade got issued with.
TIMESLIP: Another sci-fi theme that made the blood run cold. Sapphire & Steel's them owes not a little to this doom-laden slice of scaremongering.
WONDER WOMAN: In her satin tights, fighting for her rights and the old red, white and bluuuuuue! Lynda Carter kickstarted puberty for quite a few teenage het boys. Oh yes.
THE WORLD AT WAR: Like Timeslip, but the doom-warning is even more poignant here as you know what you're about to watch is true. Again, married with a powerful title sequence.

Anybody else want to nominate 10 great TV theme tunes?

5 comments:

Jim Swallow said...

In no particular order:
Street Hawk - love those twangy Tangerine Dream synths.
Star Blazers - "We're off to outer space. We're leaving mother Earth. To save the human race..."
Battlestar Galactica (1978) - epic, operatic stuff.
Battlestar Galactica (2003) - celtic-y and dramatic.
Magnum P.I. - very 80's.
Firefly - its a little bit country, and you can sing along.
Cowboy Bebop (aka 'Tank') - cool anime acid jazz riffs.
Space 1999 (first season) - classic Barry Gray bombast.
Star Fleet - Eddie Van Halen & Bryan May. 'nuff said.
JAG - loud and flag-wavy.

There are more, but I'd be here all day...

Rob Spalding said...

Red Dwarf - everyone can sing along, and they do.
Do the CSI's count? Love those The Who tunes they use, especially New York with Baba-O-Reilly.
Neon Genesis Evangelion - anime, but originally aired as a TV show in Japan.
The League of Gentlemen.
Dogtanian - I can still be caught singing it while drunk.
The X Files - first one to really get me, and still great.
Angel - always preferred it's violin and metalish sound to Buffy's young punkish attitude.
The Young Ones - because, that's why.
Farscape - weird, alien and original, just like the show.
Steptoe and Son - never really got on with the actual show, but liked the tune.

In a non-TV extra - The Goon Show.

Tom Smith said...

10 - The Rockford Files
9 - Blue Peter
8 - Cheers
7 - Thunderbirds
6 - Stingray
5 - Jamie and his magic torch
4 - Star Trek
3 - Airwolf
2 - Knight Rider
1 - The A Team

Graham Kibble-White said...

Get ye to: http://www.tv.cream.org/specialassignments/themes/chart.htm

Anonymous said...

Battlestar Galactica (old series)
Spiderman Cartoon Theme from 60/70's
Wonder Woman
Joe 90
Rawhide!
Please Sir!
Man in a Suitcase
Jason King
Doctor Who
Animal Magic

- in no order, and I'm not sure what that list says about me!
Dave Candlish