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TV theme songs - a missed opportunity

Friday, July 15, 2011 - 01:53 PM

The TV landscape has changed so much in recent years that it even sounds different.   You rarely hear TV shows that start with an “explainer” song – you know, like The Brady Bunch or Gilligan’s Island.  Unless you watch cartoons. 

Spongebob Squarepants is a classic explainer (by the time the episode starts you know he’s a sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea), and Family Guy is essentially All In The Family on crystal meth, right down to its “whatever happened to the good old days” theme song.    

But for live action shows, we get a mix of pre-existing songs, often edited (House, for example, uses only the instrumental opening and closing notes of the great “Teardrops” by Massive Attack), or specifically-composed instrumental clips that have grown increasingly shorter.  The Office theme, by Jay Ferguson (who had a minor hit back in the late 70s called “Thunder Island”), is a typical drive-by burst of music.

What we have not heard recently is the sort of instrumental theme music that made both the Peter Gunn theme in the 60s, and Hawaii Five-0 in the 70s, into genuine hit songs – arguably even bigger hits than their TV shows.  In fact, I bet both of those shows got a big boost from the attention given to their theme songs.  Friends was maybe the last show to have done this, with “I’ll Be There For You” by the Rembrandts.  In a fragmented media landscape where every show needs all the help it can get, and where bands are desperate for TV airplay, it seems to me that someone is missing out on a real opportunity here.   

Or maybe I’m just not watching enough TV.  Are there shows with memorable theme songs out there now?   Leave a comment.    

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