As a fervent viewer of television, one thing I love to discuss is the TV theme songs. A great show can be made better (or sometimes worse) because of a great theme. With that, we continue with Week 2 of our series of Top TV themes – this time, themes with vocals.
In this case, there must be at least three unique words present in the lyrics of the song (sorry, Batman and The Simpsons). Also, it must be from a scripted or semi-scripted show (not like reality shows have great themes anyway, except for maybe Survivor). (Just a note, BTW – I added the network the show was on for its original run, and did the same for Week 1.)
Before we get to our Top 5, though, here’s a primer on TV themes, sung by none other than Josh Groban at the Emmy Awards two years ago:
And on that melodious note, here’s the number 5 pick…
5. Friends, NBC (“I’ll Be There For You” by the Rembrandts)
There are very few TV themes that hit the top of the Billboard Top 100 charts. There are equally very few themes that make that band a one-hit wonder. “I’ll Be There For You” is right up there as one of them. A catchy tune that is as synonymous to Friends in its 10-year tenure as its “supersized” episodes and “Must-See TV,” it is more than just evocative of the show – it is evocative of television of the 1990s.
T4. The Jeffersons, CBS (“Movin’ On Up” by Ja’net DuBois) & The Big Bang Theory, CBS (by the Barenaked Ladies)
A great TV theme song, as mentioned in Week 1 of this series, can be a sounding-board for the themes of the show. For these two CBS shows(I simply couldn’t choose one as fourth and one as third, and kept flip-flopping, so I decided to make it a tie), they both had theme songs like this. The Jeffersons’s theme, written by DuBois (of Good Times, a fellow CBS show, fame) and Jeff Barry, is basically a laundry-list of what won’t happen to George and Wheezie in their new East Side apartment, and represents the crux of the show -a successful African-American’s family in an area at that point not hospitable to African-Americans. (A bit of trivia about The Jeffersons – it never had a formal series finale, and Sherman Helmsley found out about the cancellation by reading the paper!)
For The Big Bang Theory, on the other hand, the theme song describes how far humanity has come as a species – perfect for a show all about geek and non-geek relations.
2. Cheers, NBC (“Theme from Cheers (Where Everybody Knows Your Name)” by Gary Portnoy)
I don’t think there’s ever been a better confluence of theme song and opening video than Cheers. It’s basically a history of drinking set to music. And, much like the show, it’s got an optimistic feel – a ‘life’s not going well, but grab a stool and drink with a few friends,’ collegial motif. And for that, it grabs #2 on the list.
But it’s not as great, and not nearly as effective, a TV theme as our #1 choice, which is…
1. Gilligan’s Island, CBS (“The Ballad of Gilligan’s Isle,” written by Sherwood Schwartz and George Wyle)
This theme is a great one because it sums up the show in exactly 60 seconds. You don’t have to know a single thing about the show – you can get the information you missed out on from the opening theme. As an antithesis to this, here’s the full theme from the ABC people-stuck-on-an-island-and-try-to-get-off-of-it drama, LOST:
That show’s got so many twists and turns, and you don’t know a damn thing about it from the theme except for the fact that they are lost. They could be lost anywhere – they could have just missed their bus! (Okay, so it tells you a bit more about that.) But you wouldn’t have to be in the dark if you had this theme instead!
Join me next week as we continue our Top 5 TV Themes, with the Top 5 Themes for Sports on TV.