This weeks Friday Five theme comes as a suggestion from a reader (my friend, Kyle Hoover). In the spirit of that, if any readers would like to submit Friday Five list ideas, please do! Just send along an email or shout at me on Twitter (all that can be found in our Contact section!)
This is a actually a really hard topic for me, because I truly love TV theme songs. I know WAY too many by heart (seriously, it’s a little creepy). I feel like the theme song really saw its hey-day in the 80s and early to mid 90s. Nowadays, there isn’t the same wonderfully cheesy, but well-crafted theme songs that we used to hear. Sure, there are good ones, but I want the ones that you can start singing in a bar and the crowd will join in with you (this happened to me once – It was the Growing Pains theme and it was amazing).
And you know what…there are just too many good ones. I save the top 10 list for occasions where it’s really necessary, and today is one of those days.
So, here it is, my Top
5 10 list of best TV theme songs. (Also, I really had to refrain from putting like 5 different 90s Nick shows on here, because MAN they were all so good.)
10. Six Feet Under (Thomas Newman)
This is my all-time favorite TV show, so it has to be on this list. It was composed by the 11-time Oscar Nominated Thomas Newman (whose work includes American Beauty) which explains why it’s so perfect and beautiful. The show was melancholy, chilling, uplifting and interesting, all of which I feel is captured in this theme. Paired with all the imagery, it was a brilliant opening.
9. Weeds (Malvina Reynolds)
“Little Boxes, on the hillside. Little Boxes made of ticky-tacky.” All things considered, this is one of my favorite opening sequences, because it’s so perfect for the show. Season 1 was simply just the Malvina Reynolds version (which is great), but then creator Jenji Kohan, in an inspired move, kept the song in the next couple seasons, but just had different artists and bands come in and sing it. It was great, and made watching the opening credits just as exciting each week as the show was. There’s not much to be said at how badly this show got mucked up in the later seasons, but at least we’ll always have those Little Boxes.
8. Ducktales (Mark Mueller)
My love for this cartoon theme song knows no bounds. I watched a lot of Ducktales. In fact, I still own the DVD of “Ducktales: Treasure of the Lost Lamp”, their first feature film. Occasionally I get the feeling that this theme song is actually BETTER than the show itself.
Ok, I”m cheating a little here, but I couldn’t choose between these two because they are so good. And Pinky & the Brain is a spin-off of Animaniacs, so it’s not a total cheat. I was completely obsessed with Pinky & the Brain when I was 12. I recorded the theme off the TV and played it on my walkman while I rollerbladed all the time (90s!! Holla!). I know I annoyed a lot of people by singing it a lot. I harp on this often, but the era I grew up in was really the best time for kids television. We had the best cartoons, the best kids network and the best theme songs to sing over and over. Animaniacs was one of those rare cartoons that was smart enough for adults to appreciate it, but silly enough that the kids would love it. There were a lot of jokes I know I didn’t get and re-watching it now I can appreciate how truly brilliant it was. Helloooooo Nurse!
6. Batman (Neal Hefti)
Nowadays, when most people think of Batman, they think of Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan. Or maybe they think of Michael Keaton, or Val Kilmer. Not me, however, because Batman will forever be Adam West in my mind. They played reruns of this show on Nick at Nite and during the day on a channel I can’t remember because it was too long ago…but I couldn’t get enough of it. I taped it onto VHS tapes all the time. I went up to L.A. with my Dad one time when I was very little, probably 6 or 7, and we saw Adam West at a restaurant. I whispered to my Dad that Batman was sitting at the table near us and he took me over and introduced me to him, calling him Adam West, of course. I looked up at him, and said with earnest, “His name is Batman”. Although this theme is short and simple, it is a staple of pop culture and basically every person every knows it.
5. The X-Files (Mark Snow)
No theme song can illicit the same kind of fear in me as this one did back in the 90s. I loved this show, but it totally freaked me out all the time. It was a great way to set the mood for a show that was scary all by itself, without the help of creepy theme music. Mark Snow also did a few remixes of this song, which I’ve heard at clubs before, which messed with my mind a little bit.
4. The Adventure of Pete & Pete (Polaris)
If I was going to put any Nickelodeon show on here, it had to be this one. Not only my favorite 90s Nick show, but one of – dare I say, THE BEST – kids show of my time. All in all, “Hey Sandy” is just a really great song, but it obviously has nostalgic powers if you were a fan of the show. But it embodies the shows quirkiness and how it was actually pretty deeply rooted in a hip music scene, especially post-grunge. I was lucky enough to get to attend The Adventure of Pete & Pete reunion a while ago, and Polaris performed there. It was magical.
3. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (Will Smith & Quincy Jones III)
Anybody around my age (29) who is worth their weight in salt had better know ALL the lyrics to this jam. This theme song is one of the storytelling songs, the “let me tell you exactly what this show is all about”, like Gilligans Island or The Brady Bunch. But this song has had some pretty serious staying power. Will Smith went on to do a lot of big and memorable things since that show, but this song will probably be his greatest legacy.
2. Cheers (Gary Portnoy)
This usually ends up at number 1 on most people’s list (with good reason). The song is subtle and simple, but unforgettable. The little piano at the beginning instantly transports you to that bar in Boston, with all the familiar faces. And even though the theme feels more like a regular song than a theme for a TV show, there are subtle alludes to the shows premise and characters. We all want to go “where everybody knows our name” and Norm, one of the main characters, has just that at Cheers. And I have to include it, because my Dad was on the show!
1. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? (Rockapella)
I love all things Carmen Sandiego, and this was my favorite game show as a kid (well, one of them. I watched A LOT of game shows). Everything about this show was damn amazing, but having the greatest acapella group as their “house band” made it that much better. This theme song is so good, so singable, and never fails to make me smile. Nate and I had the absolutely awesome privilege of seeing Rockapella last year and they sang this song, and we geeked out like you wouldn’t believe. Do it Rockapella!
I couldn’t put them all on the list, but I have to give a shout out to the cartoon theme songs of the 80s and 90s, because they were straight killing it for years: Darkwing Duck, Alvin & The Chipmunks, Tiny Toons, Fraggle Rock(technically not a toon, but close enough), Captain Planet, Disney’s Gummi Bears, Inspector Gadget, The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Freakazoid, X-Men, Ren & Stimpy, and the list goes on.