10 BEST TV THEME SONGS OF ALL TIME
TV themes don’t matter like they used to. Nobody watches Game of Thrones because they hear the theme song playing from the TV room and realize it’s their favorite time of week again. The future of the TV theme song is unclear, but its past is undeniable
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name… let’s take a look back at ten classic themes from when we watched TV on a television. Be sure and add your favorites–and the dozens we’ve left out–in the comments.
M*A*S*H was a weird show with an even weirder theme song. Imagine the meeting where this got green lit: a sitcom set in a field hospital in the Korean War with a laugh track. The theme ‘suicide is painless’ was written by the director’s son, Robert Altman, age 14 when he wrote it. The lyrics were too dark to go on the air.
Bill Evans covered the M*A*S*H theme on Live in Buenos Aires.
9. THE SOPRANOS
This opening sequence makes you feel cool just watching it–reminds me of ‘little green bag’ in Reservoir Dogs. We might not have realized it when the show premiered in 1999, but this is the soundtrack of a revolution in television: the Sopranos is the godfather of great writing on TV.
While we’re at it, we could add just about everything on HBO and Showtime. From ‘Little Boxes’ over on Weeds, to Tom Wait’s theme for the Wire, and even that weird ‘huh’ thing on Oz, the premium channels know how to score.
8. FULL HOUSE
I predict a revival of this one in our so-ironic-we’re-sincere climate. We’re still wondering ‘whatever happened to predictability.’ Things have only gotten less predictable since Full house was on the air. Now More than ever, we need to be reminded that ‘everywhere you look, there’s a hand (there’s a heart) to hold on to.’
There’s a lot going on in this one, you can see why South Park suggested that the show might contain subliminal marching orders from the Japanese government.
‘To catch them is my real test, to train them is my cause…’
‘You teach me and I’ll teach you…’
and of course
‘Gotta cath’m all!’
Let’s get this out of the way… Growing up in Boston, obese flyover yokels were always asking me directions to the name-sake tourist trap. So strong is my aversion, that I hadn’t listened to the song all the way through before I wrote this post. Turns out the lyrics are cheesy-bombastic and five kinds of wonderful:
“Roll out of bed, Mr. Coffee’s dead, the morning’s looking bright
And your shrink ran off to Europe and didn’t even write
And your husband wants to be a girl”
Asheru lives up to his credentials as hip hop artist and educator with these lyrics. Hard truth and real talk about liquor store check-cashing and ‘inner city blues,’ it’s no wonder Boondocks ran just 55 episodes. #I’mjustsayin’
4. THREE’S COMPANY
Kitch premise-as-theme-song greatness. There’s real generosity in using a theme song to get a new viewer up to speed on the gist of the show. Nowadays series come with their own initiation rites and secret handshakes among fans.
How does it go? “Doug Doug Doug Doug Doug Doug Doug Doug Doug Doug…Doug…Doug”? This one was all about managing expectations, on a show that never tried to be anything it’s not. I miss those days.
2. FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR
Fresh Prince gives not just the premise, but the whole backstory in it’s theme song. This is either your first time hearing rap or a hilarious retrospective on Will Smith, depending on when you were born.
1. MR. ROGERS
Just like the show itself, the music box and piano intro is a little slow but mesmerizing. That sound means you’re safe now, in a place where it’s okay to talk about your feelings–kind of big deal if you were a child with a lot of them. Respect.
BONUS: TOO MANY COOKS
In the Best eleven minutes of Internet all year, ‘Too Many Cooks’ Lampoons the whole theme song genre. Look out for Lars Von Tier’s cameo.