I was sorting through some old CDs and ran across an interesting one. A collection of TV Theme songs from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. I figured it stopped there because there just weren’t that many later shows that had their own themes. That’s changing. And I think that’s for the better.
There are many shows from the early days of TV that had theme songs recognizable still today – and by many who never saw the show associated with the music. Put ten people in a room and play them the theme from I Love Lucy or The Andy Griffith Show and at least 9 will be humming along. Make it The Beverly Hillbillies or Gilligan’s Island and those same nine will be singing along and probably joined by the tenth. Don’t forget the cop shows and other dramas. You might not be able to name the show but you know when you are hearing the themes from The Rockford Files, Hill Street Blues, or Rawhide (yes, the song that kept the Blues Brothers from death by flying bottles in the cowboy bar started as a TV show theme song).
Then it became fashionable to exclude the theme. Maybe composers wanted too much for a custom song that possibly may be forever be associated with a flop as well as it could be hit. Perhaps it wasn’t worth the time and money to pay for a song “off the shelf.” More likely, it was 30 seconds that could be sold for advertising rather than use as a background to run opening credits against.
Still shows looked for some identity and found it in one or two chords. Check out the “themes” for Lost, Two Broke Girls, or the entire Law and Order franchise. Fortunately somebody saw the folly in this. Television is supposed to be entertaining and that pleasure is enhanced by a catchy tune. (I’m sure somebody somewhere sometime did research on that. If not, feel free to attribute it to me if you’re ever in a spot that needs justification for pleasure enhancement.) We’re now getting to hear some real music with our TV again. Shows like Orange is the New Black, Mike and Molly, and Modern Family have real songs again even if some are borrowed from other genre.
And once again when we’re trying to come up with contemporary trivia to occupy non-drinking time at the bar we have TV themes returning to the mix. We may have to update our references though. The most popular theme song nobody knows by its real name will soon, if not already, no longer be “Suicide is Painless” but “History is Everything.” Extra points if you can sing all three verses and the bridge.
That’s what I think. Really. How ‘bout you?