Feb 26, 2007

Greatest Television Theme Songs of All Time

Greatest televsion theme songs of all time, best TV themes (Toledo, OH) Most of the music produced for American television is pretty forgettable, but I think that there have been some compositions that deserve praise and a short blog post on a slow news day when my head hurts.

Here, then, is my list of the Top Ten Television Theme Songs of all time. My criteria are simple: 1) The song must have been an original composition for a show (not previously released, like R.E.M.'s "Stand" for Get A Life); and 2) The song must have some value as music.

On with the list:

10. "Where Everybody Knows Your Name," Cheers. Yeah, it's sappy, and I find it annoying, but can you name another song that can better represent the value of a neighborhood bar?

9. "Bonanza," Bonanza. You hear this song and you are instantly transported back 150 years on the prairie.

8. "Rawhide," Rawhide. Ditto, but gets bumped ahead because it got covered in The Blues Brothers.

7. "Batman," Batman. Be sure to check out the cover version by The Who.

6. "The Andy Griffith Show," The Andy Griffith Show. Whistling songs can be pretty grating, but there's something wholesome and timeless about this theme song.

5. "The Addams Family," The Addams Family. Not only is this one fun to sing, but it has a harpsichord. Bonus points for using historymike's favorite early modern instrument.

4. "Sanford and Son," Sanford and Son. This is a cool slice of 1970s funk, and it was composed by Quincy Jones. What could be coooler than that?

3. "Peter Gunn Theme," Peter Gunn. The gritty piano riff alone pushes this one up the charts. Having Henry Mancini as composer is also a bonus.

2. "Hawaii Five-0," Hawaii Five-0. This surf-driven instrumental - made famous by the Ventures - is irresistible, and McGarret's catch-phrase of "Book 'em, Dan-o" would not be the same without the theme song.

1. "Welcome Back," Welcome Back, Kotter. One of the few TV theme songs that is also just a great piece of music. John Sebastian is an underappreciated genius, and it was good that this single topped the charts (it was also the #2 single of 1976).

And now I sit back and take requests and brickbats for the songs I overlooked or panned in this list.


Anonymous said...

WHAT? No Mission: Impossible? Meh.


Anonymous said...

Don't forget some classics penned by Mike Post....
Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, L.A. Law, Law and Order, Magnum, P.I., The Rockford Files and The A-Team

Chili said...

You could do a top ten for instrumental TV themes alone.

You include Peter Gunn, but neglect Mission Impossible, Perry Mason, Rockford Files, Get Smart, etc.

As for original song with lyrics, no top ten can truly exist without Gilligan's Island. Everyone on earth over the age of 40 knows the words.
You mentioned Welcome Back, the lyrics of which I recall are pretty much summed up by the title.

historymike said...

Honorable mention to the MI theme, JD. I left it off because I can only think of Tom Cruise when I hear it now.

historymike said...

Yeah, I think Mike Post should get an honorable mention inclusion for being so darned prolific, Anonymous. I especially like the Rockford Files and Hill Street Blues themes.

historymike said...

Ah, Gilligan's Island.

In ninth grade my history teacher, the late Mr. Michael Conklin of Bishop Borgess High School, made one of our exams nothing more than writing down the lyrics to Gilligan's Island.

It was a reward for something we did, the details of which escape me.

Mr. Conklin was an incredible human being, and he died unexpectedly in his 40s in 1979. On the first day of class, as we nervous ninth graders came in, he stood on his desk and roared:


We also spent a class period dissecting the Steve Martin song "King Tut" for historical inaccuracies.

Good times...

Chili said...

It's funny what we recall of our high school teachers.

While most fade into the fog and sort of congeal there, one into the other, I fondly recall my Geometry teacher.

A large Southern dame, she wore sleeveless shirts in the middle of winter and bought her perfume in bulk. But she had a wisdom I will not soon forget.

The adage I will hopefully take to my grave is simply this.

"To make a mistake is part of being human. To make the same mistake twice is sheer stupidity." It helps if you inflect a bit of southern drawl as you say it.

Found your site today. I will be back frequently.

Thanks Mike.

historymike said...

Thanks for the kudos, chili. I added you to my blogroll; I'm surprised I missed your fine site earlier.

kooz said...

I agree with the Sanford and Son being in the top ten...I would also suggest The Jeffersons..."Movin on Up!"

Anonymous said...

I love the Gilligan story - thanks for sharing it.

You guys missed another Mike Post theme song - "Believe it or Not" from Greatest American Hero.

I agree with anonymous1 - the A-Team theme song would have to make a list of instrumentals.

klkatz said...

Though a bit annoying.. i think you'd have to include The Brady Bunch on this list.

Here are some of my favorites that you excluded:

The Fall Guy
Good Times
Facts of Life
What's Happenin' (instrumental)

Anonymous said...

NO Golden Girls?
NO The Love Boat?
NO Dallas?
NO The Knight Rider?
NO Baywatch?
NO A Different World?
NO L.A. Law?
NO Facts of Life?

MP said...

Cheers for the inclusion of Welcome Back, Kotter.

Jeers for forgetting Law and Order!

Honorable Mention (at least in my book):
-I Dream of Jeannie
-The Simpsons
-Gummi Bears (a Saturday morning '80s cartoon, yes, but TOO catchy all the same)
-Family Guy (but only for TRYING to make a funny and unique theme song in an era when the theme song is fizzling out)

-Sepp said...

8.Get Smart
7.The Jetsons
5.Rockford files
4.Different strokes
3.Mission imposible
2.All in the family
1.Sanford and son...Quincey Jones!

microdot said...

And then we go back, way back....
Honeymooners theme
I love Lucy
Why do I start thinking of Pinky and the Brain when I read about Bush and Cheney?
It's About Time...do you even remember that stoopind show?
Beverly Hillbillies by Flatt and Scruggs
I Will Always Love You...Dolly Parton Show Version(that's when I thought that America should just forget about presidents and appoint Ms. Parton as queen and there would be world peace automaticaly!)
Munsters Theme...if there ever was a theme evocative of its time...I hear the music and think of the Rat Fink, George Barris and Kustom Kar Kulture!
Bat Masterson....
Hey Hey We're The Monkees!
I was in a punk band that covered Monster Mash...but that wasn't a TV theme song...........

The Screaming Nutcase said...

Mike Post...he's so damn prolific, my wife and I have had discussions (settled on IMDB) about whether he was actually a person, or the name of a company. :)