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So Up On Your Feet Somewhere There’s Music Playing

March 16, 2010

Maybe it’s because I’m careening headfirst towards glasses on a bedazzled chain and metallic gold Keds, but they don’t make TV themes the way they used to. *cue creaking porch swing* With the exception of The Sopranos and Sex and the City I can’t even recall the themes to current shows I watch. Okay, maybe The Simpsons.

Before I run down the list I have to give a shout out to two of my favorite TV musical compositions. A The Price is Right music cue better known as Dig We Must – or the post Showcase Showdown music and the cue that plays at the start of the last commercial break before the Showcase round and the announcer says – in as neutral a tone as possible – “Contestants not appearing on stage…” Not only do they go home unhappy, they also go saddled with a lifetime supply of crap they don’t need.

Hawaii Five-0

The song is beyond fantastic, but it’s those killer and gratuitous zooms making this theme memorable. It’s like Tony Scott’s and Sandy Frank’s cameras had babies! Everything I know about aviation I learned from repeated viewings of that intro! Whenever I hear it I immediately think of a shaky cam barreling toward Jack Lord and the calm way he turns around and gives face. James MacArthur, on the other hand, runs for the camera like the diva he was rumored to be. But the last scene shuts it down. So much so my sister and I couldn’t wait to sing out, “AND KAM FONG AS CHIN HO!!!” like it was a manifesto!

“Woke Up This Morning” – The Sopranos

Where do we start? Booty shaker? Check. Gospel choir fade out? Check. Cute guy big pimpin? Check. Rare is the theme song that actually requires me to choreograph a dance number – Perry Mason being another one. I go all Gypsy Lee Rose on that bad boy – but this phat jam demands all manner of body rocking and booty popping for Gandolfini. Whenever I have the misfortune of raging the NJ Turnpike as soon as I get my ticket, I bump this shit like I’m Tony coming home from a hard day of organized criming.

One Day at a Time

Nothing like a good faux old timey/gospel sounding theme sound. You can’t help but get your church lady clap on! Testify!

Maude

Zomg, that 70s organ intro is killing me. Do not get me started on the brilliance of Donny Hathaway’s vocal performance. You keep your eye on the sparrow, Sammy D, and we’ll stick to Hathaway. So much goodness here. The galloping organ, the gospel choir trail off and the staccato rap by Hathaway to name a few. Also, I totally love opening my front door all Maude style. And then there’s…Snarks! Only Bea Arthur can swing open the door with all the subtlety of Auntie Mame, yet at the same time effectively convey utter surprise at finding a camera right there (also like Auntie Mame).

Thirtysomething

This is what plays in my head whenever trapped listening to or reading liberal white ally types engaging in chow chowery. Sorry, can’t hear you. The cheesy dreamcatcher pan flute is drowning out your blathering. It’s like the “self ascribed ally” theme song, as far as I’m concerned.

St. Elsewhere

This is hands down, one of my favorite themes. The music is like some Casio Craptaculum left over from the filming of Educating Rita. I swear my mom had some bad jazz comp with this theme and the theme to Seinfeld on it. The accompanying visuals to the theme are just like the moment before you die! Where you see Denzel, Howie Mandel with hair, Ed Bagley Jr, David Morse when he wasn’t playing assclowns, Mr. Feeny and every old ass white guy who ever peddled OTC pain relievers flash before your eyes. At least I’m sure that’s one of the flashes I’ll have.

Barney Miller

If there is a nastier bassline in TVland I haven’t come across it. This is the king of theme songs. If ever possessed with the desire to learn to play bass, I would only want to learn this and maybe Brick House…chicka bow chicka bow wow chicka bow chicka bow wow. Anyway, this theme song is sublime. It’s currently my ringtone, though I never turn on my ringer.

M*A*S*H

There are always moments in life that shatter the deeply held beliefs of the past and shift paradigms. My life is neatly divided into two parts: the time before realizing the theme to M*A*S*H had lyrics and now. Fumbling through the piano bench when I was supposed to be practicing the theme to Fame, I discovered TV’s GREATEST THEMES and revealed a truth I assumed nobody realized but me. If friends were over I would engage them in a little sing-a-long, “Everyone sing…SUICIDE IS PAINLESS. IT BRINGS ON MANY CHANGES…now just the ladies…you too, Nana!” I guess maybe that was an early warning of my tendency towards misanthropy.

Moonlighting

If Sydney Pollack were a song, he’d be this theme sung by Al Jarreau. I felt sophisticated and fancy because I learned the lyrics and listened to this song while enjoying a nightcap of apple juice in a wine glass. I figured this was the sort of thing grown ups had in their collection – sandwiched between Steely Dan and Nana Mouskouri.

Dallas

I separate the world into two groups:
1. Those who used to pretend to ride a horse or clop around the room like a Clydesdale while listening to this theme.
2. Those who didn’t.

My bestie was one of two people I ever met who said, “What do you mean used to?” Ray Ray was the other person.

I just shouldn’t know people not open to this. It’s better for both of us. They’re worse than people who don’t do the Private Eyes clap.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. March 16, 2010 7:45 am

    This is so many flavors of win. I came for the theme songs but stayed for the commentary. After reading this I did a quick YouTube search of TV intros and it’s like my entire homework-avoiding adolescent life passed before my eyes.

    I still can’t resist the finger-snapping Addams Family theme. And I always smile at the horns that start the appropriately cheesy Vegas lounge-lizard arrangement of the Love Boat opening.

    In honor of Peter Graves I can’t help mentioning Mission Impossible which had the only TV opening I would will myself not to blink through. Watching that show was like finding the Highlights hidden pictures.

    And then there’s the whole “we’re gonna do it/make it” genre typified by Laverne and Shirley and Mary Tyler Moore.

    Wonderful post, Snarky’s!

  2. evmaroon permalink
    March 16, 2010 9:33 am

    Oh my God you had me in hysterics at Thirtysomething. I’d totally have missed the pub night trivia question on “which former top ten series featured a pan flute in its theme?”

    And DAMN, but Mark Harmon was young in St. Elsewhere. I refuse to talk about that show because the entire narrative cops out in the last episode as some random kid’s dream. Did they shoot all the writers before coming up with that crap?

    What are your thoughts on just ripping off some band’s work to use as the theme—and by ripping off I mean, of course, paying for rights and license and such. Bones’ theme is from The Crystal Method and House’s theme is a Massive Attack song, which, by the way, also has lyrics, but as they have nothing to do with medicine, don’t really make any sense for the show.

    Great post and tour through the ages—now I have to put some Barney Miller and Maude in my Netflix queue.

  3. March 16, 2010 10:00 am

    Ev, I don’t know about Snarky’s but I’m totally with you regarding the cop-out of using an existing song as a theme. Maybe I feel this way because I grew up in the heyday of TV, when theme songs specifically made for the shows frequently turned into hit singles. That’s why I was thrilled to find out that Boston Legal opens with a tune written by Danny Lux titled… “Boston Legal Theme.”

  4. March 16, 2010 11:00 am

    (man jazz vocalizing) OUTLAW!!!

    What are your thoughts on just ripping off some band’s work to use as the theme—and by ripping off I mean, of course, paying for rights and license and such. Bones’ theme is from The Crystal Method and House’s theme is a Massive Attack song, which, by the way, also has lyrics, but as they have nothing to do with medicine, don’t really make any sense for the show

    I HATE IT. I mean I’d much rather someone break out the Casio and put a weight on the “handclaps” feature than just go through their CD collection for some song they think would make their show seem cooler than it is.

    Also, Ev, you might dig It’s Tommy’s snowglobe and we’re all just living in it. I actually researched and wrote a paper, which was oddly in support of the thesis “WE ARE ALL IN TOMMY’S SNOWGLOBE”. That said, I’ve only seen that ep once. My mom treated that the way other parents treated pr0n and violence.

  5. March 16, 2010 11:16 am

    By request, here’s the Boston Legal theme… the Hands Espinson version:

  6. March 16, 2010 11:39 am

    @Redlami This was my favorite version of BL theme. I love that he did the “all right” parts! This is the absolute best of the most recent TV theme songs.

    “Amen”

    They should have called that show, “Three momos, a lesbo and a fruit fly”. I guess that would be too long. Just saying.

  7. March 16, 2010 12:30 pm

    From now on I shall call my happy dance the “Schneider Shimmy”. as seen at 0:27 in the One Day at a Time clip.

  8. evmaroon permalink
    March 16, 2010 12:49 pm

    When I was a teenager, I really liked 227’s theme:

  9. March 16, 2010 12:53 pm

    OMG, YES. “There ain’t no place, chile!”

    A karoake fave of mine:

  10. evmaroon permalink
    March 16, 2010 1:31 pm

    Yes, the Fall Guy! I wasn’t a regular viewer, but the theme brought back memories nonetheless.
    And how could I forget to mention my favorite theme of all time? I only wish it were longer. I could only find a part of an episode, since the theme is like, 10 seconds.

    And love within a love post for the themes to The Great Space Coaster, The Electric Company, and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, because a very little me really loved how catchy they were.

  11. March 16, 2010 2:26 pm

    OMG THE BLOODHOUND GAME. This was amazing.

    for you, ev!

    Best version of the intro.

  12. September 22, 2010 1:46 pm

    I KNEW there had to have been a TV theme song post on Fry Butter. How did I miss commenting on this? Maybe I was drunk that day.

    Well, it’s never too late:

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