I got to thinking about TV theme music today. Most networks dramatically reduced the length of opening credits years ago, because of studies that showed they gave the audience more of a chance to change channels. But I miss the longer, more generous openings from years past. I decided I’d give you a countdown of my favorite instrumental TV theme songs, followed by some vocal TV theme songs. I’m doing this by the seat of my pants, so it’s certainly possible that I’m missing something. Of course, it’s also impossible to separate your feelings towards the theme from your feelings towards the show. There may be some quickly-cancelled show with a great theme song, but it just wouldn’t come to mind when one sits down to make a list like this. Feel free to disagree and put your own choices or rankings in the comments.
Mike Post theme songs always have a bridge to them. Sometimes it works; sometimes it just seems arbitrary. Here, the bridge works perfectly. The main theme speaks of danger, while the bridge – during which our protagonist and the two men who often save his life are introduced – is a nicely heroic counterpoint.
4) “Doctor Who”
How can you not include this? I went for the classic version, not the arrangement from the current revival.
3) “The Equalizer”
By Stewart Copeland of The Police and Animal Logic. Completely sets the stage for the show.
2) “Hawaii Five-O”
A lot of people would put this at the top of the list, and justifiably so. And it’s very, very close.
1) “Perry Mason”
Evocative, instantly memorable. Perfect. I think it’s just a tiny bit more timeless than the Hawaii Five-O theme, although if you ask me tomorrow I might tell you just the opposite.
Vocal theme songs are a little different matter – they tend to be from comedies. I’m not going to try to rank these.
“It’s Garry Shandling’s Show”
Can you say “meta”?
“Mystery Science Theater 3000”
They had to change the lyrics every time the cast changed. This is the version from my personal favorite era of the show.
Al Jarreau. ‘Nuff said.
“The Big Bang Theory”
By the Barenaked Ladies. I have the full version of this song on my MP3 playlist.
“Phineas and Ferb”
By Bowling For Soup, who – come to think of it – aren’t that different from Barenaked Ladies.
There you go. Have at it in the comments.