I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing that gets me revved up to watch a show like a terrific opening theme.  Sadly, many shows today elect to do without, which I think is a shame.  After all, I can’t imagine any of the following iconic t.v. shows without their equally iconic t.v. themes…

10. Hawaii Five-O

To be honest, I never watched the original series and have never watched the modern version either, but I’ve always loved the killer theme with its awesome drum and timpani ramp up giving way to the trumpets that carry the day.

9. Dr. Who

Another show I’ve watched fitfully over the years, this one with a theme deliciously weird and wondrous.  Its original test tone-generated electronic sound so unique that it has survived through the themes many variations.

8. Mission Impossible

The intro credit sequence of the lit fuse burning before a backdrop of quick cut action sequences accompanied by the ultra-cool theme actually made me not want to watch the show because I knew that there was no way it could equal the excitement generated by that signature opening.

7. Curb Your Enthusiasm

Whereas the other themes were exhilarating  and dramatic, this one is comic, almost Chaplainesque, and instantly puts me in the mood. When those french horns start us off, I’m already amused.

6. Batman

It’s a pretty simple tune with easy-to-remember lyrics (“Batman!” sung eleven times) but its got a great bass and brass rhythm that holds the promise of action, adventure, and colorful costumed villains.

5. Spiderman

The lyrics here were a little trickier but that didn’t stop me from singing this jazzy theme – check that – hasn’t stopped me from singing this jazzy theme aloud whenever it comes on t.v.

4. Boardwalk Empire

I like this series a lot and while there are other shows I may enjoy a little more, their respective themes don’t come close to measuring up. The pleasant guitar solo and images of a day at the beach slowly giving way to a darker, raunchier riff as the storm clouds move in and the tide sweeps in the bootlegged booze = perfection.  I defy you to watch this show and NOT want to drink whisky.

3. Dallas

Oil wells, sprawling freeways, Texas Stadium, and reflective skyscrapers of silver and gold – everything I needed to know about Dallas was summed up in this opening sequence marked by split screen shots, sweeping vistas, and a positively stirring theme.

2. Stargate SG-1

Nothing so instantly sparks my pride like the opening theme to Stargate: SG-1.  As dynamic and inspired as the show it represents.

1. The Sopranos

I don’t think any opening theme in the history of television has done a better job of setting the mood and instantly building anticipation.  A little bluesy, a little hip-hop, a little techno, and a whole lot of attitude.

52 thoughts on “December 7, 2013: My Top 10 Favorite T.V. Themes!

  1. Hands down for me is the opening theme for Stargate Atlantis. I get a bit misty eyed now when I hear it, it evokes so much potential, wonder and adventure.

  2. another problem with the themes these days is there’s rarely a proper opening to TV shows any more. you may get one for the first season or so, especially if they have to have one of the characters explain the premise (castle is one example).

    anyway, there are a few that i like;

    macgyver
    magnum p.i.
    the greatest american hero
    friends
    most anything by mike post & pete carpenter or just post by himself.

    the original star trek had a great theme, as did 3 out of the 4 following series (ENT had the worst, the end theme was was better.

    batman: the animated series had a great theme, which was the movie theme.

    another animated series, batman beyond had a great theme.

  3. Ah, the Stargate theme, but can you still sing the lyrics ? 🙂

    That always amused me when you did that on the commentary with Peter DeLuise

    And will the next post be about be the worst? I’m voting for Enterprise……

  4. I love the old Batman theme. I have a Neil Hefti cd with those songs on it.

    A few days ago I showed my daughter several intros to old tv shows. – I was explaining how the theme songs often explained what the show was about Gilligan’s Island , the Brady Bunch, Green Acres, Land of the Lost, HR Puffenstuff, etc. As an only child she seemed intrigued by the Brady Bunch concept.

    Anyone remember ” I’ts about time , it’s about space…”

    Offhand I don’t know my favorite theme but ” Jack of All Trades ” was extremely catchy. I remember having it stuck in my head.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VNsjjYRgjc

    In the stocking stuffer section of Target, I found the Lego set. STARGATE SG-1 JACK ONEILL ON ABYDOS .My husband is huge fan of the show. He turned me onto it. Every day he and my daughter play another episode of Lego wars. She has all the cool weapons and beasts. The Stargate will give him the advantage he needs, at least to runaway.

  5. GAME OF THRONES – Auditory and Visual. What’s not to love? And, if you watch carefully, a *hint* of what’s come…

    THE VIKINGS – Short, but catchy…

    THE BORGIAS – Really, these days, just about anything from TREVOR MORRIS is worth listening to!

  6. Batman and Spider-Man, yes! The most iconic for me have to include The X-Files and The West Wing. Maybe Baywatch? On a personal nostalgia level, Flintstones, Jetsons, The Gilmore Girls, Saved By The Bell, So Weird, and Are you Afraid of the Dark? stand out.

    And while The X-Files is my favorite for a combination of iconic and nostalgia, aesthetically, my favorite would probably have to be Carnivale.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CYMXoX-b0o

    I do miss the days of clever and catchy title sequences, though, when Netflix binging, it is nice not to have fast forward through them.

  7. It’s hard to argue with those – they’re all great. I too long for the days when the start of TV was itself an important part of the experience – it was like the overture to an opera, building anticipation and excitement.

    I have a few personal favourites. SG1’s and SGA’s opening of course, and really anything by Joel Goldsmith, (or his father’s equally excellent Star Trek work. Almost anything by Mike Post in the 80’s (and his name was everywhere!) and I always loved the Golden Girls theme song, even though I don’t believe it was originally written for that.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFl7r2dUmTA

    But, my favourite of all time is probably the opening and closing theme of “The Littlest Hobo”, a kid’s show from away back and cheesy as heck, but I still love the song (and, to be honest, the show). In fact, sometimes I feel it could be the theme song for my life.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mt_rkavXeAc

    “The whole word is my home…”

  8. Also, now you’ve got me going through old Youtube clips of shows I used to love! There goes the morning. Also, whatever happened to good television?

  9. My childhood is full of theme songs…. Adams Family, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, Flintstones, Green Acres, Beverly Hillbillies…. gotta go hit YouTube and drift along.

  10. Can’t pin down one as my absolute favourite theme, and I love all of the ones you listed, but would add The Jeffersons, The Andy Griffith Show (and one more that just slipped out of my memory banks, flopped on the floor and ran away) as extremely catchy, and Star Trek: Voyager because it’s sweepingly dramatic.

    Didn’t you do a post on this once before or is this deja vu all over again? 🙂

  11. My #1 most favorite TV show theme of all time is… Miami Vice. The music along with the accompanying montage was awesome! And of course the one I loved to whistle along with… The X-Files (and The Andy Griffith Show). Stargate Atlantis’ theme was so awesome too. So dramatic and powerful. Then I loved all the TV shows theme songs that told the story and set the stage for the show: Gilligan’s Island, Beverly Hillbillies, All in the Family, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Brady Bunch. Several years ago when I heard they were going to stop doing theme songs, I thought “what the hell?” The show’s theme song was sometimes more memorable than the show.

  12. Dear Father Joseph O’Mallossey…I hate to disagree with you ( 😆 ), but…

    EVERYONE knows that the Hawaii 5-O theme is the best theme song of all time. Firstly, it was like the first music video ever made. Secondly, with only 3 channels to choose from, practically everyone in the nation watched the show and knew the theme (unlike show such as Sopranos and BE which some of us have never seen due to not having premium cable and wouldn’t know the theme even if we fell over it). Even today, with the resurrection of Five-0, the theme still lives on in a recognizable form. Play just three notes and most people will still quickly be able to identify the song and the show.

    (And yes, I know you asked for our favorites, and not ‘The Best’, but I’m feeling a bit frisky this morn and wanted to pick a fight. 😀 )

    As far as my other choices, I would say that Mission Impossible comes in a close second, followed by (in no particular order since I’m in a rush) the themes to All in the Family, M*A*S*H*, The Jeffersons, SG Atlantis, Monk, Psych, Magnum PI, Miami Vice, and several more (including a few you mentioned, like Doctor Who, Batman, and Spider-Man ), but I’m in too big a rush to think of them right now.

    das

  13. Dudley Simpson’s evocative Blake’s 7 theme! It would be on my list every time 🙂

  14. Great topic! People never talk TV themes anymore. Have to put Stargate: Atlantis near the top, along with Battle of the Planets,TJ Hooker, Airwolf, The Equalizer, Transformers Prime, Justice League (Season 1), Voyager, Buck Rogers, and Miami Vice..

  15. Joe, I agree with all of your TV theme choices except Boardwalk Empire and The Sopranos. I don’t have premium TV channels so have not seen these shows. I also like the Green Acres & Beverly Hillbillies themes and Get Smart and Gilligan’s Island themes. Yes, I was once seriously into TV comedies. The Big Bang Theory theme is also good, (by Bare Naked Ladies band).

    How are the furry kids these days? Are you still considering adopting another pup?

    2cats, Basil & Stash cats

  16. Joe, I see your Mission Impossible and raise you I Spy. I think I Spy came first and both shows previewed that night’s airing espisode during the opening theme music. And I agree – very exciting. I’d come running from anywhere to not miss that part.

  17. You’re absolutely right about an opening theme song. There are so many good ones that stand out in my memory from childhood. I loved all the ones you could sing along with, like the Gilligan’s Island Theme. I can still break out in song with those. Now, I can appreciate the instrumental pieces, like Fringe. I believe most of the Sci-fi shows have great opening music.

    Did anyone see Mike Dopud on “Love it Or List it Too” last night? I was flipping through and recognized him. He has a beautiful house and family. Lucky guy! He decided to “Love it”.

    Our power was off for hours this morning. It’s back on and life can return to normal. It’s amazing how much one can miss electricity. There was no hot water, the router wasn’t up for my tablet, and I couldn’t turn on the light. I’m terribly spoiled.

  18. I agree with archersangelabout post & carpenter: they did great opening themes! The A-Team! How can you not love that one? Some of my favorites, just in general, are M.A.S.H., Stargate, Dr. Who, Hawaii 5-0, Charmed (“How Soon is Now?”), The Jeffersons (now I’ve got that one stuck in my head – thanks, das), Greatest American Hero (oh, good, now that has replaced Movin’ on up in my brain). Ponytail named some good ones, too.

    But my all-time favorite theme is from the Saturday night scary movie broadcast Creature Features, They used Henry Mancini’s “Experiment in Terror”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UJ0SSHlarc
    Most excellent!

  19. Oh, oh! How could I forget? Ponytail, I’ll see your “I Spy” and raise you Secret Agent! I really do love I Spy. Haven’t thought of that one in years.

  20. Why does everything about Curb Your Enthusiasm have to be so clever down to the finest detail? It’s annoying.

  21. I don’t care for the music in Futurama and The Simpsons, but I love their intros for the visuals. I’ll even pause them just to look at them.

    The Andy Griffith Show and The Beverly Hillbillies. I do love those. I don’t make a habit of approving of stereotypes, but somehow they just happened to nail down some characters in my family in The Beverly Hillbillies. By far-fetched happenstance, I’m sure.

  22. I can’t argue with any of those, and I’ll add The Bob Newhart Show theme to the list.

  23. The Jetsons or Lost in Space anyone?

    And Joe, did you watch the Ravens – Viking game? Wow, a cliffhanger right to the end!

    @PBMom and Tam Dixon:

    Thanks! I passed that on to David, who in typical teenager fashion said, “Okay”. Don’t take it personally though; the only thing he gets excited about right now is a Ravens win, and in his defense, he was on the NFL home page watching the scores of the games today, so he was a little distracted.

  24. Also… Buffy theme, Firefly, Avatar: The Legend of Aang, Charmed and the music used in Supernatural to reflect on the series events.

  25. there were a few that others mentioned that i forgot (don’t know how) such as MASH, quantum leap (post did that, i think) & the golden girls.

    i don’t think anyone mentioned dragnet which is pretty iconic, IMHO. speaking of iconic, the perry mason theme is as well.

    the cosby show in the ’80s had some good ones, if i recall they changed it a few times.

    i agree with RichS, if we’re voting for the worst, i’m going with enterprise. BTW, i read somewhere that the end theme (that they call archer’s theme) is really a instrumental version of the opening theme. whether it is or not, it’s loads better than the opening theme, IMHO.

  26. A quick survey of the family also brought up Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Angel, and the original Warehouse 13 and Sanctuary theme songs.

  27. G’day

    Some great theme songs listed by everyone.

    Magnum PI
    Golden Girls
    Get Smart
    Brady Bunch
    Dr Who (not the new one…shudders)
    Stargate SG-1 (of course)
    Star Trek TNG (Space, the final frontier…tingling sensations already)

    @ Jeff W – Cheescake looks great. Well done to David.

  28. stargate sg1
    swat
    emergency
    the odd couple
    one day at a time
    that girl
    the facts of life
    baretta
    mash
    police woman
    the streets of san francisco
    the rookies
    the love boat
    buck rogers
    matt houston
    vegas
    here come the brides
    the avengers
    lost in space
    hart to hart
    knots landing
    falcon crest
    baywatch

    and more i can’t remember right now. :p

  29. @JeffW – Oh, yeah, the Firefly theme. That was awesome. The meaning in the words was my favorite part.

  30. Six Feet Under, Dexter, The X-Files, The Tudors, True Blood, Game of Thrones, Rawhide, Firefly, Hill Street Blues, Thirtysomething, Peter Gunn, St.Elsewhere, The Twilight Zone. Did I mention Serenity?

    For the kids: Animaniacs, Rugrats, Pinky and the Brain, Reading Rainbow, Inspector Gadget, Tiny Toon Adventures.

    HATE The Masters of Sex theme.

  31. Oh gee, how could I have left out The Time Tunnel?! (the original) Music by John Williams, I believe.

  32. @ Sparrowhawk – My I Spy hand is better than your Secret Agent. Therefore, I call you. 😉

  33. I love The Edge’s theme for The Batman cartoon, so cool and moody. I love the themes for SGA, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Mission Impossible remains awesome; when Cruise says “light the fuse” in Ghost Protocol and the theme plays it is so good that I always rewind to see it again.

  34. Music? Television? Two of my favorite things…and I too miss the use of theme songs on TV.

    The Five I concur with:

    Hawaii Five-O…iconic. Plus, I’ll always remember my high school class, senior year, singing it in the lunchroom while “paddling” one of the lunch tables across the room (pushed from behind by th burliest guy in our grade…). Well. Maybe you had to be there.

    Doctor Who. It’s my ring tone. Need I say more?

    Mission Impossible. Even now I’ll sit through the crappy Tom Cruise movies just to hear them play that theme at the end.

    Stargate SG-1. It sends shivers of excitement down my spine, no matter how many times I hear it. I never skip past it when I watch my DVDs.

    Dallas. It’s so 80s. It’s so epic. It’s so…Dallas.

    My Other Five:

    Star Trek: The Original Series. My first sci fi show. All I need to hear is the opening phrase and my heart beats a little faster.

    Star Trek: The Next Generation. I didn’t think anything could improve on the original…but yeah. Both the show and it’s theme had me before the opening credits even finished. Still does.

    The Addams Family. Instantly recognizable. It’s Pavlovian: you *have* to snap your fingers. And what other TV theme song has the word “ooky” in it???

    The Twilight Zone. I don’t know if it technically counts as a theme song, but it’s endured decades beyond the show itself.

    Stargate Atlantis. I was actually an SGA fan first. There’s something in Joel’s theme that is achingly haunting yet irresistably beckoning. It made me want to walk though that Stargate with Weir and Company every time I heard it. And I like to think that somewhere in the Pegasus galaxy it’s still reverberating.

    Stella

  35. It’s a little dry but, I love The Highlanders Opening. I love SGA’s as well. One of my most favorite has got to be Farscapes’. It is so strange and eery and sexy all piled up under a sci-fi action tone. Well, thats how it feels to me anyways. I hate it that nowadays your lucky to even see a 3 second opener with a few dah, dah, dahs’ lol I would sike myself up thinking “oh well they done that to give me more showtime”……but the sad truth is this, “it’s for more damn commercials”. As if there isn’t enough of them. I think 15 minutes of commercials every damn hour is overkill. I know it pays the bills but sheesh, do we really have to see something 3 or 4 times every hour? lol Most of the time, it makes me want to make sure “Not” to go near that product. lol If it’s costing me my show time, it’s an enemy of the state…..my state of mind, that is. I’m a little off the wall but, hey, atleast i’m me and that’ll never change, no matter how many money sucking gimmicks i see on tv.

  36. Oh, one i cannot stand is “The Days of Our Lives”!!!! That drives me nuts.
    I have to say that of the short openers I have to say that “Supernaturals'” opener theme is perfect for the supernatural show it potrays. Oh and one i forgot till now….I’m really embarrassed to say this but, One all time favorite is “Knight RIders”. It would always get me pumped up for the show everytime. lol

  37. Hi Joe, a long time lurker here who finally decided to come out. I’d like to send you an e-mail, can you maybe share one of your (or Cookie Monster’s) addresses? It’s okay if you can’t. Thanks 🙂

  38. Magnum, p.i. is the shiznit. Like nearly as good as Hawaii 5-0.

    I also LOVE the Johnny Quest theme. Never watched the show, but the theme kicks ass. I think that’s the best of all the cartoon theme songs.

    And while I, like many above, love The Jeffersons theme, even better than that was Sanford & Son. Definitely the best sitcom theme ever written.

  39. I like your choice of SG1 theme, remember it has lyrics too! I would put Hogan’s Heros theme on my list. Farscape is very distinct with its dissidence. But some of your list I have never seen as they are on cable.

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