The Food and Wine Hedonist

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What Happened to the Great Television Theme Song?

As you read this, we are currently relocating Hedonist Headquarters from our small, quaint shanty to a slightly larger quaint shanty.  Let me summarize how we feel about the whole process – moving SUCKS.  Sure it’s nice to have a fresh start, but all the packing and deciding what stays, gets moved, or gets donated (either to a charity or dumpster) is really exhausting.  Then there’s the actual schlepping.  We hired movers, but it’s still hell.

As always, music has helped me keep my sanity and fueled our late night packing.  One song that kept going through my mind was one of the greatest television theme songs of all time:

The Jeffersons

television

It got me thinking whether there are really good theme songs currently on television.  Admittedly, I don’t watch a whole lot of TV, but it’s easy enough to see that the current theme song landscape is a pretty sad state of affairs.  Usually, all you get is an instrumental track over a montage of images from the show.  But there are many shows that don’t even have that. Two of the greatest shows in recent history were Lost and 24.   There was no music at all – just the show logo on the screen.  Even Glee, a show that’s all about music, only has a 3-second jingle.

Going back a little further, I can think of a few shows that had actual songs with vocals.  Gilmore Girls used Carole King’s “Where You Lead” and Party of Five featured the BoDeans’ “Closer to Free.”  And who can forget this one:

Friends

 music

But I doubt those songs were written specifically for the show.  And they could’ve been used on any other sitcom and no one could tell the difference.  It used to be that theme songs gave you background into what the show’s about.  Like this:

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,

A tale of a fateful trip

That started from this tropic port

Aboard this tiny ship.

The mate was a mighty sailing man,

The skipper brave and sure.

Five passengers set sail that day

For a three hour tour, a three hour tour.

– from Gilligan’s Island

or how about this one:

… Till the one day when the lady met this fellow

And they knew it was much more than a hunch,

That this group would somehow form a family.

That’s the way we all became the Brady Bunch.

– from The Brady Bunch (duh)

 culture

Now, it’s nothing…  I understand that it costs money to pay someone to write it and perform it, plus the whole hassle of royalties.  But that’s nothing compared to what’s being spent these days on actors’ salaries, sets, and special effects.  I think that a great theme song will help a show get popular and get in syndication.  At very least, the song will go viral and people will be interested in what the show is.  But what do I know, I’m just a food and drink blogger.

Here are some of my favorite old-school theme songs:

Welcome Back, Kotter

 television

Love Boat

 old school tv

Chico and the Man

music

Three’s Company

 music

What were some of your favorite theme songs?  Are there any really good theme songs out now that I don’t know about?

music

70s tv

(Cover photo of Love Boat Theme from fontsinuse.com)

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About thefoodandwinehedonist

I don't know everything about the world of food and wine, but I'm not going to let a small detail like that stop me from blogging about it.

32 comments on “What Happened to the Great Television Theme Song?

  1. Sadly my friend, it has nothing to do with royalties… TiVo and attention deficit killed the extended intro. It’s all about content, content, content…get’m hooked lest they click away. Many shows don’t even run the title slide now until 5-7 minutes in, or just prior to the first ad slot.

    Now, speaking of classic theme songs, I love your list. Do you remember the base line to Barney Miller? Brilliant

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      June 17, 2013

      Man, that was a great theme song and so was the one for the show’s spinoff – Fish. And u know how I feel about jazz. One more – Sanford & Son!!

  2. Duff's Wines
    June 17, 2013

    The Beverly Hillbilly’s and, not sure if Mary Tyler Moore was custom made but it sure fit. I bet it s the attention deficit issue as Gastro Boy suggests. But, it couldn’t hurt to have a memorable lead in that everyone hums on the way to work. And Sandford might be my favourite.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      June 19, 2013

      Yeah, Hillbilly’s is another classic example of telling you exactly what the show is all about. And Addams Family, too!

  3. wildbluewonder
    June 17, 2013

    Welcome Back, Kotter is an awesome theme song. And I do love that Bodeans song.

    Can’t forget Turk’s awesome lyrics to the instrumental Sanford & Son theme:

  4. gegebearbear
    June 17, 2013

    Great post! Jill

  5. Shirley Marquez
    June 17, 2013

    Another big change is that the number of commercials has increased dramatically over the years. Back in the 60s, a 60 minute prime time show ran around 52 minutes; there were 8 minutes of breaks. Currently a typical show runs around 43 minutes with 17 minutes of breaks; more than double! (And to add to that, most shows now run promos for other programs during the closing credits.) With the content pared so drastically, something had to give.

  6. Shirley Marquez
    June 17, 2013

    All In The Family was another good song (Those Were The Days) for a good show. The Greatest American Hero wasn’t a good show but it had a memorable song.

    Some of the instrumentals were also good. I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Hill Street Blues, Miami Vice…

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      June 19, 2013

      Forgot about Greatest AMerican Hero… agreed – bad show, great song. Another instrumental that came to mind was Andy Griffith!

  7. the drunken cyclist
    June 17, 2013

    Clearly, you did not grow up in Detroit since this was the greatest theme of all time:

    • Shirley Marquez
      June 17, 2013

      “This video does not exist” is the greatest theme song of all time? Looks like you need to check the link.

      • the drunken cyclist
        June 17, 2013

        Works for me….

      • the drunken cyclist
        June 17, 2013

        Here is the url (remove the spaces after the colon and before the “.com”): http: //www.youtube .com/watch?feature=player_embedded&list=PLq6WePh2cSE49Lo2pG8gQdwAbFtSZjgPm&v=rCMiABY-sQw

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      June 19, 2013

      Holy CRAP!! How did I never hear about this show? Awesome… Were you one of the token white guys in the background?

  8. domingosaurus
    June 17, 2013

    You got my own personal favorite with Welcome Back Kotter! Also love the original Hawaii Five O theme.

    Danny Elfman made a couple good contributions with The Simpsons, Tales from the Crypt, and the ill fated single season The Flash.

    And for sheer iconic staying power, I would have to throw in The Twilight Zone.

  9. Socialkenny
    June 18, 2013

    Those theme songs seems a bit too old for me (sorry for the dig).

    The theme songs I loved though were from the 90’s (which I’d blogged about not long ago). These make me nostalgic as hell:

    Full House

    Blossom

    USA High

    Living Single

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      June 19, 2013

      No prob, the whole internet knows I’m old… I remember all those, except USA High. Don’t remember that at all. Tho I gotta say, you don’t strike me as the Blossom type!

      • Socialkenny
        June 19, 2013

        Lol yep I am the Blossom, Full House and Dougie Houser type. Wonder Years was great too!

        USA High was very short-lived in mid to late 90’s on USA network.

  10. Laura Beth
    June 19, 2013

    Mary Tyler Moore or Laverne and Shirley are amongst my personal favorites. And Happy Days does its best.

    • Laura Beth
      June 19, 2013

      And Hey Dude wasn’t directly connected, but still incredible…”better watch out for those man-eating jackrabbits”

      • thefoodandwinehedonist
        June 19, 2013

        MTM and L&S are definitely great, great songs. I never heard of Hey Dude. When was it on?

      • Laura Beth
        June 19, 2013

        WordPress wasn’t letting me reply directly to your comment below, so I’ll do it here. Hey Dude was about teens working on a ranch in Arizona, and the show aired between 89 and 91 and the last time I saw a rerun was in 99. The girl employees were from upstate Michigan and often wore designer clothes to work. How they got hired, I’ll never know!

  11. Go Jules Go
    June 19, 2013

    Ooooh good luck with the move! Are you getting a kitchen upgrade with the new place? (Not that you needed one – I have no idea what you had before.)

    I think you already know one of my favorite TV theme songs, ha! But my all-time favorite is probably from Cheers.

    • Go Jules Go
      June 19, 2013

      And, of course, Full House is pretty great, too.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      June 19, 2013

      That would be Growing Pains, right?!?! Alas, more space in the kitchen but definitely equpment downgrade. I had the old one completely pimped out. This house was built for a senior citizen couple that both passed away. So they didn’t invest too much in appliances. And since they barely cooked, I’ll unfortunately have to wait a long time before they break and I can replace them. Unless, there’s an “accident” that happens…

  12. Hill Street Blues, St Elsewhere, Dynasty, Knots Landing, Dallas….OK I’ll stop.
    Thanks for the visit down memory lane. OH! Alice too. And One Day at a Time! OK I’ll really stop now.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      June 20, 2013

      Alice had a terrific one – “there’s a new girl in town, and she’s feeling GOOD…” One day’s was also good. The others were excellent, but were all instrumental.

  13. PinotNinja
    June 20, 2013

    Ugh — moving is the worse! I have sworn up and down that I will never move again even though my house is definitely on the tiny side.

    As for theme songs, I often find myself singing the theme song to New Girl and then hybridizing it to fit my current situation. The “punchline” of the song is the phrase “It’s Jess!” which I apply to all sort of situations, singing things like “It’s wine!”

  14. hot rodd todd
    June 20, 2013

    A agree with my boy Socialkenny with the shows he picked especially the 1 with Kevin Arnold guy. The theme was memorable.

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This entry was posted on June 17, 2013 by in Music, Television.
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