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TV theme songs -- a lost art

Discussion in 'TV Shows' started by Brian Perry, Jul 25, 2001.

  1. Brian Perry

    Brian Perry Screenwriter

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    I was thinking about some of the great TV theme songs of yesteryear, and was wondering why it seems that no show created over the past ten years has had a decent, memorable one. (I don't count The Simpsons, which is older than ten years.) I came up with a couple of theories:
    1. Like other "pop" music, TV themes have steadily gone into the crapper over the past decade. Just an overall lack of creativity and catchy melodies.
    2. If theory #1 is false, and one believes that today's popular music is as good as ever, then perhaps the reason TV themes stink nowadays is because no one wants to waste a good song on a TV show (especially if the show may not last more than a year).
    Isn't it odd that TV themes, which used to frequently appear on top-40 charts, haven't come close to commercial success in many years (at least to my knowledge -- please correct me if I'm wrong). I believe Hawaii Five-O hit #1, or close to it. The Cheers theme is one of the last I can think of that was worthy of a release. Which of course, leads to another reason for lack of commercial success; the waning popularity of singles.
    Will TV themes ever make a comeback, or was Gilligan's Island as good as it will ever get?
    [Edited last by Brian Perry on July 25, 2001 at 11:48 PM]
     
  2. Henry C

    Henry C Stunt Coordinator

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    I read that companies don't want to have themes because it cost too much money. They want to save money on creation of a theme. But I think that a memorable theme helps the popularity of the show. I know that Gilligan's Island would not be the same show without that theme. It is quite a shame that this art will be lost to the bottom line.
    Some of my personal favs:
    A-team (not really a theme song, but still)
    Cheers
    Happy Days
    Henry
     
  3. Patrick_S

    Patrick_S Premium
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    I agree that many producers probably consider a long theme song to be a waste of money.
    I also think another reason why theme songs have gotten shorter, especially for half hour sitcoms is that they are probably considered time wasters.
    If you can save thirty seconds or more you can get in another commercial which of course means more money.
    Along with theme songs at the beginning of shows look at what has happened to the end of shows. In the past there was exit music with credits. Now with sitcoms you generally get an additional scene that follows the plot of the show. I'm certain the most fans would consider this a bonus but I generally feel that if the scene is important why isn't it in the show to begin with?
    One last thing, shorter theme songs are also important to syndication again especially in 30-minute sitcoms. Look at Cheers and MASH, their theme songs are really cut down in order to allow for additional commercials.
    In the end it seems to all boil down to money, of course in life what doesn't? [​IMG]
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  4. Danny Tse

    Danny Tse Producer

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    I've heard that the reason that TV theme songs are no longer in vogue is that when the theme song is played, the opportunity is presented to the audience to change channels.
    Personal favorites:
    Miami Vice
    Magnum PI
    Three's Company
     
  5. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    Buffy and Angel have great opening theme songs
    Granted there are no lyrics [​IMG]
    All-musical Buffy in November, filming now! Whoopee!
     
  6. Adam Tyner

    Adam Tyner Screenwriter

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    I very much agree with Buffy.
    Also, if you count cartoons, Earthworm Jim has one of my favorite theme songs ever. That's pretty close to the ten year mark, though, I think...
    Some of the really bad theme songs are endearing, particularly Cleopatra 2525.
    ------------------
    My DVD list | My personal site
    [Edited last by Adam Tyner on July 26, 2001 at 07:23 AM]
     
  7. Darren H

    Darren H Second Unit

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    Love it or hate it, the theme song to Friends [clap, clap, clap, clap] is less than ten years old and became a hit song for The Rembrandt's (I think).
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    "I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity." -- g.W.b.
     
  8. alan halvorson

    alan halvorson Screenwriter

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    Boy, you fellows just aren't old enough. I recently acquired the Honeymooners LD box sets and one of the great things about it is its theme song, which I get to hear before each of the 39 episodes - worlds better than anything I've heard for years. Then there's Peter Gunn, the Outer Limits, I Spy and the king of them all, Victory at Sea. Plus so many more. The thing is, back in those days, they used orchestras and composers. Any orchestra played themes around today? Can't recall any.
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    They're coming to take me away, ha-haaa!!
    They're coming to take me away, ho-ho, hee-hee, ha-haaa To the funny farm. Where life is beautiful all the time and I'll be happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats and they're coming to take me away, ha-haaa!!!!!
    - Napoleon XIV
    [Edited last by alan halvorson on July 26, 2001 at 08:07 AM]
     
  9. Trace Downing

    Trace Downing Supporting Actor

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    Yes, the Friends song is the Rembrandts.
    I don't know if it went number 1, but it was WAAAAYYY over played in '96, when the show first took off. So, it must've been up there on the charts.
    So sick of that song now! [​IMG]
     
  10. Brian Perry

    Brian Perry Screenwriter

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    I didn't count the Friends theme because I thought it was not composed specifically for the show, but I could be wrong.
     
  11. Chris Hicks

    Chris Hicks Stunt Coordinator

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    I always liked the theme from the final season of Viper. And Millennium was also pretty decent, gotta love that double drum beat. I also agree that Buffy & Angel are good.
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  12. Rey L

    Rey L Stunt Coordinator

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    The Friends theme "I'll be There for You" was composed specifically for the show. As a matter of fact, The Rembrandts album that featured the song (LP) was held up from release by the record company to include it. The Rembrandts had to not only write the rest of the song (the version on the show was the entire song originally), but return to the studio to record it all over again.
    On the early copies of the cd, the song isn't even listed. It shows up as a "hidden track".
    Just some useful trivia for you... [​IMG]
     
  13. Dave Hensley

    Dave Hensley Auditioning

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    Actually, I think some of the HBO ones are pretty good, including Sopranos, Sex and the City, and Six Feet Under.
     
  14. Josh Dial

    Josh Dial Screenwriter

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    A3's Woke Up This Morning is a great song, almost as good as the series [​IMG]
    The Rembrandts "LP" album is actually damn fine, with the friends theme a weak part of it. I can see why the two guys wanted it left off the album.
    Air Wolf, though way past 10 years old had a great theme song, that's made its way into the clubs as bar music.
    One of my personal favourites is the Law & Order theme, though it has no lyrics.
    cheers!
    Josh
     
  15. Tom Meyer

    Tom Meyer Second Unit

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    though I don't think they were composed specifically for the show, "The Drew Carey Show" always has had long, imaginative song & dance numbers at the start. "Frasier" also has that "hey baby I hear the blues a callin' ..." thing that Kelsey Grammer sings.
     
  16. Ike

    Ike Screenwriter

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    I really like, though I'm not sure if it was created originally for the show, the theme to The Kids in the Hall. Just absolutely perfect, along with the weird musical bits at the spots where commercials go.
    And, Mystery Science Theater 3000's theme is great. "I'll send him cheesy movies, the worst I can find. (La-la-la)" Just the right amount of basic setup of the plot, along with campy, cheap humour.
     
  17. Adam Tyner

    Adam Tyner Screenwriter

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    Ike: If you enjoy the theme for Kids In The Hall, be sure to pick up Savvy Show Stoppers by Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet. The theme, Having An Average Weekend was released on 7" in '85 (I think), predating the series by several years. I haven't heard any of their other albums, but Savvy Show Stoppers is excellent and very much worth a purchase. A couple of the other songs will sound familiar as well, turning up in various forms on the show. Just bear in mind that, as the Shadowy Men were so fond of proclaiming before their demise not too terribly long ago, they're not a f*#^ing surf band. [​IMG]
    You should also give Man or Astroman?'s cover of the MST3K Love Theme a listen, which is available on on Destroy All Astromen!!, and a live rendition was captured on on Live Transmissions From Uranus.
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    My DVD list | My personal site
    [Edited last by Adam Tyner on July 26, 2001 at 03:06 PM]
     
  18. MickeS

    MickeS Producer

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    I can't believe nobody has mentioned The X-Files. That theme is one of the best themes ever, and it was, at least in Sweden, somewhat of a hit.
    /Mike
     
  19. pitchman

    pitchman Screenwriter

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  20. Mark Kalzer

    Mark Kalzer Second Unit

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    The X-Files has an incredible theme, really gets you in the mood. I never skip past it, even on DVD. (Actually, it sounds best on DVD!) However, I do prefer the original recording of it from Season 1 & 2, instead of the modified version that started in Season 3. Just compare the two and you'll see what I mean. Still love them!
     

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