Published on August 25th, 2012 | by Daniel0
The 5 Greatest TV Theme Tunes of All Time
For any TV show to become truly legendary it needs a whole host of qualities. Elements such as brilliant writing, great direction, memorable characters, dramatic plot twists and believable acting are all important, but, for a show to be afforded a place on the entertainment pantheon, it needs to start delivering the goods before the first line of each episode has even been uttered.
In short, it needs have an epic theme tune, a piece of music that will, within the space of a couple of bars, act as a Pavlovian trigger, cueing the audience’s anticipation for another fantastic half hour of escapism. Here’s a look at 5 pieces of music that do just that;
Suicide is Painless- M.A.S.H.
Given the show’s setting, it’s only natural that M.A.S.H would have a slightly darker theme tune than your average comedy. That said, ‘Suicide is Painless’ really is a maudlin number, featuring a world-weary melody that weaves its way around lyrics ruminating on the potential benefits of taking voluntary leave of this mortal coil (to paraphrase Hamlet, as do the words of the song- “is it to be or not to be?/I replied ‘Oh why ask me?’”).
Despite the fact that the show (wisely) only used an instrumental version in its opening and closing scenes, the full song was a hit in its own right, especially in the UK where it went to number one and was subsequently covered by the successful rock group, The Manic Street Preachers.
Highlight: The melodic surge leading out of the verse into the chorus.
I’ll Be There for You- Friends
The 90’s were an optimistic time, and ‘Friends’ is the show that perhaps best captured the mood of the decade. As such, the theme tune couldn’t be more perfect. The sunny melody, giddy hand claps and laughing-in-the-face-of-adversity lyrics act as the perfect foil for a series detailing the trials and tribulations of blustering your way through the myriad hurdles of adulthood. Unsurprisingly, The Rembrandts, the band responsible for the track, owe quite a large portion of their following to the show.
Highlight: The handclaps at 0:10. How can anyone resist joining in?
Miami Vice Theme- Miami Vice
Possibly the only thing in the world that screams 80s louder than the garments in the Miami Vice wardrobe is the show’s theme tune. The piece was the last instrumental to top the Billboard Hot 100, way back in 1985, which is testament to its quality. Of course, the tune, which was composed by the Czech musician Jan Hammer, is such a perfect accompaniment to the visual montage that plays during the opening credits of each episode that it really doesn’t need words.
Highlight: The weird electric floor tom sounds that come in at various points. Couldn’t be more of its time- the sonic equivalent of carbon dating.
Hill Street Blues Theme- Hill Street Blues
Themes for police shows seem to be something of a musical genre unto themselves, with most of them sharing a similar sort of feel (generally trying to match the piercing drama of a siren’s sudden wailing.) Hill Street Blues’ theme, however, goes for a much more laid back approach, with a piano led slice of easy listening that perfectly introduces the well loved show. A different sort of theme tune for a different sort of police drama.
Highlight- That first hit of brass at 0.14…smooth
Where Everybody Knows Your Name- Cheers
If a theme song’s job is to effectively sum up the feel of a show, then Cheers’ ‘Where Everybody Knows Your Name’ should rightly be recognized as the champion in its field. In fact, it’s a miracle that the show enjoyed such high ratings, given how much those opening piano notes make you want to head down to your local bar and shoot the breeze with your pals. Luckily for the producers, people were happy enough to this vicariously.
Highlight- The line ‘and your husband wants to be a girl’ at 1:19…bummer.
Will Kerr is a blogger with a passion for TV, film and music (and any combination of the three.) From the highlights of the week’s TV Guide, to the latest chart entries, if it involves moving images and/or sound, he’ll cover it.