I know, I know. This is another YouTube fest. But that way you guys get to hear those awesome tunes I have selected to be the 30 best television show theme songs ever written.
Before we start, some ground rules should be established.
Firstly, only original material. That means that there will not be any theme songs that’ve been in earlier use somewhere else. So no Massive Attack’s ’Teardrop’ for House, Frank Sinatra’s ’Love and Marriage’ for Married With Children or John Williams’ adapted Star Wars theme in Clone Wars.
Secondly, I’m rating these themes based on the song material alone, so the visual quality of the intro themes will not factor into any decision. In few cases (and in the end anecdotes) I will point out to the visual images, though, but only to highlight the musical brilliance of the theme itself.
Thirdly, I will combine live action TV themes with animated ones, because I really can’t see the difference if a theme is written for either of them. If the shit is good, then the shit is good.
Enough adult talk, let’s start the countdown!
30. Jay Livingston & Ray Evans – BONANZA
This theme is well known and parodied often. Hollywood veterans Livingston and Evans wrote this simple theme for a show that was (in my opinion) hugely overshadowed by its brilliant theme song. The show wasn’t awful or anything, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that the theme was just that good. It’s light-hearted, adventurous and full of that good ol’ western spirit, and it’s brilliant for what it is.
Best Part: That guitar melody is something that every aspiring guitar hero needs to (and probably can) learn.
29. Edwin Astley – THE SAINT
The sixties was a golden age for secret agents and spooks in television. A lot of great shows were created, and a lot of excellent themes accompanied them. Roger Moore’s star-making role as Simon Templar in The Saint was so iconinc that it garnerd him the much-coveted role of James Bond. But The Saint had something more going on than just Moore. It also had Edwin Astley’s theme song. While the first version of the theme was good:
…The second version was even better:
It was a brilliant stroke to change those guitars to female chants and flutes. With that simple change the theme became unforgettable. That theme deserved its halo.
Best Part in the Intro: That wireframe logo guy. You sir, are a well designed icon.
28. Mike Post & Pete Carpenter: THE A-TEAM
Mike Post had a killer streak in the eighties. That guy wrote good themes like others made breakfast (I really should work on my analogies). This was one of his best themes. Like the characters in the show, the theme also has a militaristic background, but is still fun and adventurous. Mike Post understood the shows he wrote music for really well. Not many claim the same.
Best Part in the Intro: Those blaring horns.
27. James Q. Rich: THE BENNY HILL SHOW
Wow, talk about a theme that encapsulates the entire genre and the country it came from. Rich’s ’Yakety Sax’ is a song that is juxtaposed to British humor acutally more than any other song or even a form of media. No other song can evoke such genre-owning abilities like Yakety Sax. If you ever picture people chasing each other while the picture is sped, what song plays in your head? Yakety Sax. Not only is it genre-defining, it’s also defgines a whole filming technique. That is transcending as fuck.
Best Part in the Intro: That wacky sax. That wacky…yakety sax.
26. James Newton Howard – ER
Talk about a guy, who understands the show that he’s working with. An acclaimed film composer James Newton Howard did such a good job here. Like the show, the theme is hectic, fast paced and sterile. but it also has real emotion, a sense of urgency, success and drama embedded into the song. Just like the show itself. Like I said, good job, James Newton Howard.
Best Part in the Intro: Eric LaSalle punching the Invisible Man in the nuts.
25. Carl Johnson – GARGOYLES
I never watched this show as kid. But hearing that highly operatic theme song makes me wish I did. This show clearly has a Shakespearean undertones in it and the theme song accentuates this. I really didn’t think that Disney had it in them.
Best Part in the Intro: The idea that somebody should’ve switched these guys with the gargoyles in Hunchback of Notre Dame. That would’ve been epic.
24. Dennis C. Brown & Chuck Lorre – TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
What can I say? This rocks and you know it. Pure eighties bliss.
Best Part in the Intro: It’s nice to know that Michelangelo is a party dude and that Donatello does machines…you don’t mean…does machines?
23. Neal Hefti – BATMAN
”Nana nana nana nana na… BATMAN!”
You hear that chant once and you cannot unlearn it. This campy and colorful TV show from the sixties has one of the grooviest theme songs ever made. And I think one of the reasons this catched on pretty quick was the fact that this theme song has a relatively small learning curve in order to master the lyrics. I mean it’s got a few nanas here and there, and occasional Batmans thrown in the mix. Oh god, now it’s stuck in my head!
Best Part in the Intro: Batman smiling. Christian Bale as B-Man should try that.
22.Richard Stone & Tom Ruegger – PINKY AND THE BRAIN
This has one of the best and memorable lyrics of almost any show I’ve heard, and it doesn’t hurt that the overall production value is ridiculously high with this. I have high doubt that they could replicate such grandeur in modern days.
Best Part in the Intro: You get the lyrics onscreen and you almost don’t even register them.
21. Dennis McCarthy – V: THE FINAL BATTLE
Well, this was a hard decision. I had memories that ’V’ the television show had a good intro music. As I did research for this article, I took a listen to the theme song of the song, and I got this:
Hey, that’s not it. That wasn’tt it at all. That theme was stupid. Have my recollections been wrong all this time. I remember that the show had more of a foreboding element to it. I did some research, and I finally found it. The theme song was from a miniseries called V: The Final Battle. First I hesitated for a moment to include this song here, because hey, it’s a miniseries, and they shouldn’t count. But it was a part of a TV show, albeit a very short-lived one, so I felt urged to place it here. Why? Because this theme song has some big cojones. Here, take a listen:
It’s minimalistic approach was the correct one. This show promises some epic Alien vs. Human turf wars. Love it to death. For an acquired taste.
Best Part in the Intro: That red V. I mean, what else is there?
Go check the next batch of songs: 20-11