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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


Top Ten Day - My favorite television theme songs

I've been trying to get back onto a regular schedule here at the blog, instead of posting so haphazardly (I know I don't take months off like some people, but still), and one thing I'd like to do is get back to doing Top Ten posts, even though I stopped because I was having trouble coming up with subjects. Then I was watching The Rockford Files last week and was reminded about how cool the theme song was. An lo, another Top Ten list presented itself! So here, in alphabetical order, are my ten favorite television theme songs (you'll notice that most are older shows, because shows don't really do theme songs anymore):

1. The A-Team (1983-1987). I just love the faux-hard rock thing going on in this theme song, along with the hard-as-nails intro of the team: "If you can find them, maybe you can hire ... the A-Team" and then the bullets shooting up the screen before the music kicks in. It's a great song to get you in the mood for some ass-kicking, which is what the A-Team was all about!
(This is the theme song with no images, just a black screen. Sorry!)

2. Cheers (1982-1993). The theme song for the greatest sitcom ever makes you wish there was a bar like "Cheers" as much as the show did. That's not a bad feat.

2.5. Frasier (1993-2004). I was a bit hesitant to include this, because the beginning of the show never had a theme, but I always liked Kelsey Grammer's odd blues riff over the end credits, where he sings about tossed salads and scrambled eggs. Given the subtext between Frasier and Niles, I always wondered if it was some gay thing I was missing. So I decided to lump it in with Cheers so I could cheat and put 11 songs on the Top Ten. Forgive me!
(The theme song is in the middle of this brief video, which is very, very weird.)

3. The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1985). Man, what a great theme song. How can you not love Waylon Jennings drawling about the "good old boys" and how "someday the mountain might get 'em but the law never will"? It fit the show perfectly, and played over the fun credits helped.

5. The Greatest American Hero (1981-1983). I love this show, and although the theme song is kind of cheesy in an early-Eighties way, it still works well with the general cheesiness of the show itself (that doesn't detract from my love for it, of course). Of course, George Costanza's answering machine message has helped keep this tune alive long after the show's demise.

6. Hawaii Five-O (1968-1980). I actually have not seen very much of Hawaii Five-O, as it was on before I was born and while I was very young. But who doesn't know the kick-ass theme song, with some excellent opening credits as well!

6. The Love Boat (1977-1986). My mother used to watch this show religiously on Saturday night, so I saw a lot of the episodes from 1979-1983 or so, when I was too young to do much on weekend nights. I don't really like the show, although it was goofy enough to be entertaining, but the theme song is awesome. It's such a great, sweeping, dynamic burst of goofiness that you can't help but sing along. It promised hedonism, which is what the show was all about, but in a classy way. Top marks for that!
(Check out the guest stars for this episode. Anne Baxter is in this one! From All About Eve to a guest appearance on The Love Boat. Oh, the precipice is steep in Hollywood!)

7. Magnum, P. I. (1980-1988). That guitar rocks, is all I'm saying. Plus, we get to see Tom Selleck being cool. Was there a cooler guy in entertainment in the 1980s? I think not. Don Johnson? Please. Harrison Ford? No way. Bruce Willis? Not even.
(Check out this early version of the theme song. Man, I'm glad they changed it!)

(Here's the theme we all know and love.)

8. Moonlighting (1985-1989). The show itself went from classic to crap in what seemed like the blink of an eye, but I always liked the old-fashioned, sweeping love song that introduced it (sung wonderfully by Al Jarreau). It was classy, cosmopolitan, and a bit wistful - which is what the show was for the first couple seasons.

9. The Rockford Files (1974-1980). Duh. As the inspiration for this post, you knew it had to be on here! I always loved the messages Jim got on his telephone, and then the rolling drums announced the keyboards, and we got the cool scenes of Jim doing his thing and a nifty harmonica. A classic. (For some reason, the person who posted this on YouTube doesn't want to allow it on other sites, but you can hit up the link to take a trip down memory lane.)

10. WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-1982). "Baby, if you ever wondered, wondered whatever became of me ..." Sing along with me! I just love theme songs that explain the entire situation of the show AND happen to be a catchy tune. It's not the main reason why this show is a classic, but it's not an unimportant one!
(Here's another video with no images, just the song. Another shame - I can't find the opening credits! Of course, this is the complete song, so that might balance it out a bit.)

There are a lot more that I would consider for honorable mentions, from the 1960s sitcoms (Gilligan's Island, The Beverly Hillbillies, I Dream of Jeannie) to the pop culture staying power of Batman, to the 1970s sitcoms like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Barney Miller (but NOT All in the Family, the theme of which is like the rest of the show - overrated), to the brooding keyboard-drenched Miami Vice, to some cartoon themes, like The Transformers (plus more I'm sure I've forgotten). I miss television theme songs. The CSI shows using old rock songs don't really count. I want to say The Big Bang Theory, that new show on CBS, uses a theme song by They Might Be Giants (it certainly sounds like them), which is pretty cool. Maybe the pendulum will swing back in the future!

What are your favorite television theme songs?

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Blogger Roger Owen Green said...

I'll think about it and post about it. But your #2, 6, 8-10 and Miami Vice are in the Top 20.And you're right that using old Who songs don't count. But I never could deal with the Greatest American Hero, I'm afraid.

4/1/08 8:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd replace Dukes of Hazard with
Hill Street Blues. Steve Post rocks!

4/1/08 9:11 AM  
Blogger Tom the Dog said...

I love this post! I too miss the era of classic TV themes, and rue this era of either co-opting pre-existing songs (though I do love hearing The Who on those CSI shows), or skipping a theme and credits altogether. When a new show these days actually has an original theme song -- and it's actually GOOD -- it's a treasure. Like Big Bang Theory (whose song is by Barenaked Ladies -- close!), or Malcolm in the Middle (which indeed was by TMBG). If a show can even manage some original instrumental music for the opening credits, I'm impressed (as with 30 Rock's jazzy opening).

You hit a few of my favorites above, like Magnum P.I., or Dukes of Hazzard (it's the ringtone for my best friend on my cell). And I was crazy for The Greatest American Hero when I was a kid! And Cheers, of course, is without question a classic.

A few you missed that I might put up there are Johnny Mandel's "Suicide Is Painless," taken straight from the movie for the TV show M*A*S*H. (It's much better with the lyrics, though.) Or, my favorite kiddie show theme, Land of the Lost. (Which had two different songs for opening and closing credits -- not many shows do that! WKRP's one of the few I can think of off the top of my head, or Frasier, which always had that very brief and very light jazz instrumental over the opening title card, as well as Kelsey's closing song. Hmmm... now I really want to find out how many other shows have different opening and closing themes. Oh! Gilligan's Island! That's another, even if it only uses different lyrics over the exact same music.) And a new favorite of mine is from Metalocalypse. And another is from Corner Gas!

Man, you really touched a nerve with me. I might have to steal my own post out of this.

4/1/08 4:05 PM  
Blogger Woody! said...

I think you pretty much hit the bestest ones. Off the top of my head, I'd suggest Knight Rider and I believe Mr. Dave Campbell would add Airwolf, too.

For cartoons, I'd add King of the Hill and I still remember Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends to this very day. Good stuff.

4/1/08 9:37 PM  
Blogger Roger Owen Green said...

Tom- All in the Family had distinctively different songs (Those Were The Days and Remembering You).

5/1/08 7:26 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Darn it, I forgot about The Land of the Lost. Yeah, that would probably make the list ...

"Suicide is Painless" IS pretty good, but I'm not sure if it would make the cut. And I like the Knight Rider theme, Woody, but I thought about it and decided it didn't make my personal top ten.

5/1/08 11:41 PM  
Blogger Ashley said...

I like the bass in the Knight Rider theme. I was pleased when I heard it mixed into a Panjabi MC track.

There is a show on the BBC these days, Hotel Babylon, which I love because it hearkens back to the Love Boat and Fantasy Island. That show's theme song reminds me of one of those 80s theme songs. I really like it.

6/1/08 1:35 PM  
Blogger Roger Owen Green said...

FYI - my reply post is up/

8/1/08 8:34 AM  
Blogger Ahistoricality said...

I own a few pieces of tv theme music: Hill Street Blues (which had Greatest American Hero on the B-side, which I loved, but it's going to be going through my head for days now) and Miami Vice.

Oh, and the Star Trek: Next Generation theme, but only because it's the same as the theme from the first movie.

I loved MASH, but I never cared for the theme song: It's great in context, in the movie, but without the words, it's not that exciting.

17/1/08 10:51 PM  

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