CNN has an article today on the death of the Television Theme Song. In this article they note how programs have moved from regular theme songs to barely anything. This got me thinking…
Theme songs for television programs seemed to come in various categories:
- Expository. These theme songs told you all the necessary back-story. Good examples of these are the themes from The Nanny, Gilligan’s Isle, Charlie’s Angels (the voiceover), Fresh Prince, Soap, Different Strokes, Bonanza (when they had the lyrics), Sponge Bob Square Pants.
- Mood-Setting. These provided no story, but set the mood of the show. Often, they had no words at all. Examples of these would include the action-adventure setting beat of Lost in Space, the whmsical theme to The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, the theme to Lou Grant.
- Haftorah. These had songs that echoed the show without being expository. Examples would include the themes to CSI:, CSI: Miami, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Saved by the Bell, Cheers, Family Ties.
- Signature. These are shows where the theme song became a clear signature of the show. They range from classics like Leave it to Beaver, The Andy Griffith Show, Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, Taxi.
- Movie Themes. These are themes based on the underlying movie. Examples include M*A*S*H, Room 222, Survivor.
- Background. These are shows where the music served only to play underneath introductions of the cast. Examples include Cosby, The Tony Randall Show, Charmed.
Of course, many shows today have barely any theme at all. I’ve heard nary a snippit for Ugly Betty, Studio 60, or Heroes.
I have a number of favorite themes. I love the Smothers Brothers theme, the theme to Lost in Space, the theme to Dallas, the theme to Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Bonanza, and many more. There are themes that I hated, including the original Star Trek theme, Newhart, Baretta, Love American Style, The Love Boat, We’ve Got Each Other. What are your favorite TV themes? Which ones did you detest? Should they be retained? Do they serve a purpose?